From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt Hundreds of youths in Rivers State yesterday, staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, condemning the activities of some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command. Protesting on the platform of Niger Delta Non-Violence Youth Leaders Assembly (NDNYLA), they marched through some major streets in…
The farcical story that NIA, the external version of Nigeria’s secret police, has claimed ownership of the large haul of $43.4m, £27,800 and N23.2m, is total heresy, flapdoodle, bunkum, baloney, hogwash, poppycock and balderdash. Let this government and its minions and myrmidons credit Nigerians with some modicum of sense and capacity to reason, even with their valiant attempts to cow, browbeat and intimidate all opposition elements, critical segments and plural voices in their so-called anti-corruption war. At least, not even the terror halo cast on our individual and collective psyche has dulled our analytical minds that enable us decipher matters in their correct perspective.
The entire theatricality and Baba Sala’s “Alawada Kerikeri” bofoonery and histrionics being exhibited by the EFCC and NIA ought to be reserved for some circus show at the National theatre, Lagos, Oxford Street or Traffagal Square, London, where comedians and humour merchants entertain. The whole anti-corruption fight has been too much of noise, and no substance. It has been unduly partisan, selective, full of vendetta, witchhunt, media trial, sentiments and outright lies. It is, in the words of William Shakespeare, in Macbeth, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. The emergent facts do not show NIA’s ownership of the “discovered” sums, but a grand cover-up of a serving minister. It is so sad that all these national diversions are simply geared towards highlighting and emphasising the omnipotence and indispensability of just one man, as Executive Chairman of the EFCC. We should build strong institutions, not strong men. Before Ibrahim Magu, there was a Nuhu Ribadu; there was a Mrs. Farida Waziri; and there was an Ibrahim Lamorde. After Magu, there would still be another EFCC Executive Chairman. As the cliché goes, “soldiers go, soldiers come, but barracks remain”. When PMB went abroad for 49 days on medical vacation, heavens did not fall, as the VP, Prof Yemi Osibanjo, held forte. Positions are ephemeral. How many Nigerians actually know that it is the EFCC (Establishment) Act, LFN, NO I, 2004, that gave life and oxygen to the EFCC, and not the bandied Section 171 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, which was promulgated five years before the EFCC came into being? Section 171 (2) of the Constitution never envisaged EFCC nostradamusly. The term “Heads of Extra Ministerial Department” (EMDs), used in section 171 (2) is a technical term, which does not cover statutory Agencies, Corporation or Commissions established by law (such as EFCC, NNPC, etc.) EMDs only operate within government bureaucracy established administratively, just like ministers, to perform specific or cross-cutting functions. An EMD, such as Ecological Funds Office, is usually placed under the presidency, rather than under a minister.
How many Nigerians know that the Executive Chairman of the EFCC could be, not just a police officer, but by section 2 (1) (a) (ii) of the EFCC Act, “any serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or equivalent”, who possesses “not less than 15 years cognate experience”? This means that the EFCC’s Executive Chairman can emerge from the Army, Navy, Air-force, Police, Prisons, Immigration, Customs, FRSC, Civil Defence, Fire Brigade, Traffic Police, etc., in so far as such a person is a “serving or retired member of any government security or law enforcement agency not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police or its equivalent and possesses not less than 15 years cognate experience”. So, EFCC should simply not equate Magu, nor should Magu simply approximate, EFCC. If we understand this, then we will stop the present embarrassment to the country, where the country’s only headlines are about corruption, corruption and corruption. No responsible investor would come and do business in our country where corruption is held aloft as a banner of nobility and advertisement. It is simply counter-productive. All these so-called humongous “recoveries” of orphaned monies are simply geared towards showcasing the ineffable efficiency, unparalled effectiveness and matchless proficiency of Magu. No need!
In the USA, wherefrom we borrowed our presidentialism, the equivalent agency (the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), works silently behind the scene, only seen, but never heard, except where it becomes absolutely necessary. But, here in Nigeria, the EFCC engages in grotesque media trial, highfalutin and shocking “discoveries” of orphaned monies, whose destinations after the media hype is never known. Where are all the alleged recoveries of vast sums, attached properties, etc., so far made by the EFCC, kept and how much are they? Who is using them? When asked this question by the Senate during screening, Magu told a shocked nation he did not know! When asked if he was aware that some Certificates of Occupancy of properties earlier seized by the EFCC were found in the open market being auctioned, he expressed surprise and said he would investigate and get back to the Senate. When asked about what specific questions he was asked by PMB and answers given that made the president clear him after the first rejection, he said he did not have the document containing these with him, as he did not envisage such questions. Good gracious! When asked if he was aware there was corruption within the EFCC itself, he honestly agreed, but said EFCC was addressing it. So, the question is, who will police the police? Which guard will guard the guard?
The anti-graft war has been turned into a sham, a farce and huge joke, designed to enlist mob hysteria and “lynch-them” mentality. People are tried and convicted of corruption on the pages of newspapers, only to be exonerated by established courts of law after a proper trial, with the EFCC unable to prove its case: Wabara, Bankole, Hembe, Justice Ademola, Orubebe, etc. Mind-boggling elephantine “ghost sums” have, since 2015, been “discovered” in pit latrines, toilets, septic tanks, airports, cemeteries, forests, abandoned homes, sewage systems; in the hands of housemaids, servants, house boys, inside pots of soup, etc; yet, we do not know where the money is kept. Yet, Nigerians remain hungry and destitute after the media cinema show. In this digital age, EFCC should know that these foreign currencies, which always look mint, are serially numbered. Thus, tracking them to know when and how they arrived the country, by what means, by whom, etc., is not rocket science. The US Secret Service, Treasury Department and Central Banks of USA and Nigeria can easily tell.
We appear merely fixated to name, stigmatize and humiliate Nigerians with the paint brush of shame, odium, obloquy and denigration.
Questions, questions, questions
Let us ask some pertinent questions here: How can about N15 billion be found in highbrow 16, Osborne Road, Ikoyi, by no means a back squalid street? How can a foreign arm of the Nigerian secret police, the equivalent of CIA, keep such hard currency in cash at an unguarded apartment, tucked away with many others in a 4-bedroom apartment, in a block of about 19 fully occupied flats and two penthouses? Why not in a separate heavily fortified and fiercely guarded stand-alone building, that has “keep off” carefully imprinted on it? What “covert operations” was the money meant for and who approved it, and in which budget? Who were the whistle blowers that could easily identify that such money was “hidden” specifically in the 4-bedroom flat of Apartment 7B, leaving out the next flat 7A, yet not knowing who kept the money there, or its true ownership? Why was EFCC not pictured or videoed, going into the apartment, before we suddenly saw an arranged “counting” of money? Are there no CCTV in such a highbrow abode inhabited only by high healed wealthy society members? Were all the vaults of the CBN in its Abuja Headquarters, and its 36 states offices, so full and brimming with excess cash that no space was left at all to accommodate the funds of a critical agency of the Federal Government, such as the NIA?
How come keys were found placed at the mouth of one of the safes? Who placed them there? Is it normal that the owner of a safe would carefully place the keys to the safe by its mouth, rather than hide it or take it away? Who actually owns the apartment and money? Is it Rotimi Amaechi, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, NIA, Ambassador Ayodele Oke or Rivers State? Is this really the case of “corruption fighting back”, the pet fall-back comfort zone of the EFCC, or simply a case of incompetence, vendetta, narcissism, make-believe and a desperate attempt to showcase the credibility or matchless performance of one man? Are we not being treated to a combination of Nollywood, Hollywood and Bollywood, all at the same time? Is this not simply a case of Professor Peller’s abracadabra magic, of “the more you look, the less you see”? Is this not a classical case of the government actually covering up its own indicted officials, thereby “fighting” their corruption “with deodorant”, while fighting opposition and other Nigerians’ alleged “corruption with insecticides”, as aptly captured by Senator Shehu Sani? Is this not a classical case of double standards, massive cover-up, and grand deception of Nigerians? Do we now have two sets of laws, one separate for members of the ruling party; and another for the opposition, critical voices and other Nigerians? Are Nigerians not already pained and humiliated enough with deaths, hunger, degradation, marginalisation, disrespect, humiliation, poor infrastructures, poverty, penury and intimidation, to have this constant circus foisted on them?
Only last week, N49m orphaned sum was again “arrested” at Kaduna Airport! Then, suddenly another sum of orphaned N448m was “discovered” in an ownerless shop in Victoria Island. Who owned the plaza? Who sold there? Are there no CCTVs there? Can we see the footages of the CCTVs of all these “recoveries” please? The truth is that all these simulated “arrangee” “discoveries” can only temporarily divert attention from the hunger, squalor, fear, disease, non performance and cluelessness of this government. But, unfortunately, even lies and propaganda have their expiry date. Truth is inexorable, immutable and eternal. The chicken will finally come home to roost.
The drama continues to unfold
Mrs. Esther Nnadi-Ogbue, erstwhile of NNPC, has allegedly threatened fire and brimstones, to blow the loudest whistle ever that will expose some Nigerians in such a way that the country will quake, if EFCC continues to persecute her. I encourage her to do so, rather than allow herself to be used as a guinea pig, a canon fodder.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has stepped forward to claim the humongous sum, saying: “If you recollect in 2015, we said that gas turbines built by former Governor Peter Odili were sold to Sahara Energy, business partners of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, at $319 million. That money was used to sponsor the APC for the 2015 general elections. From the date of sale of the gas turbines to May 29, 2015, the money depleted from $319 million to $204,000. What was stashed at the Ikoyi residence was part of that fund… stories that the money belongs to NIA are fake.”
Wike, went spiritual about “Deux ex machina”, and threatened legal action, if within seven days, the FG had not returned the money, or set up a panel of inquiry, to investigate the incidence.
Stormy petrel and former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has emerged in the fray, stating pointedly on his twitter handle, that the $43 million belongs to Amaechi: “He owns the flat where it was found…NIA is fake news. NIA does not keep cash in ministers’ flats.” Lere Olayinka, the cerebral spokeman for Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, says “Amaechi owns the house”, in an unfolding drama some have already termed the “AMAECHIGATE” or “NIAGATE”.
Former Bauchi State governor and former PDP chairman, Adamu Muazu, while accepting that he initially built the apartments as a property developer, said he sold them through established agents and does not know who the present occupants are. Sahara Reporters finds that one Folashade, alleged spouse of Ambassador Ayodele Oke, the DG of NIA, was frequently seen at Apartment 7B, which, according to one of the whistle blowers, a guard of the apartment “Dash – Dash” (as it has no known owner).
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has denied ever sending bullion vans to ferry money to the apartment. Some more questions here: What will NIA, whose clear statutory responsibilities under section 2 (2) of the National Intelligence Agencies Act, LFN, 2004, simply borders on general maintenance of security and intelligence matters of Nigeria, OUTSIDE NIGERIA (DSS is in charge of internal intelligence matters), be doing with such large sums of money allegedly deposited by the wife of its DG?
Why has the Federal Government, the NIA and the EFCC not spoken officially on such a sensitive national issue that is fast ridiculing whatever is left of Nigeria’s internationally battered image? What “covert operations” will NIA engage in for two years unknown to the president?
Thought for the week
“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.” (Bayard Rustin).