By Lukman Olabiyi Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed October 16, to rule on whether or not to discharge a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA ), Patrick Akpobolokemi, who was charged with N2.6bn fraud. The court fixed the date Friday after hearing…
In the heat of the arms probe, which we have since come to dub Dasukigate, we heard tales of how currency notes were ‘buried’ inside farms. One General buried his own inside the soak-away in one of his many houses. And only penultimate week, the story of the former GMD of the NNPC broke. Some $9.3 million, plus another 74,000 pounds hidden in fireproof safes inside a nondescript bungalow in one remote Kaduna State village – enough money to turn the entire local government into a mini-Dubai. Of course, I believe the story that the money was a gift. I’m just wondering how much the giver would have milked from the system, to warrant his ‘gifting’ somebody $10 million.
Clearly, we either can’t win this war against corruption. Or, maybe, we haven’t the will to win it.
A few years ago, when a former vice president, who happens to be the most prepared Nigerian to govern this country today, made his pitch for the presidency, we blackmailed him before prospective voters with an the unsubstantiated allegation about his being a ‘thief’ and corrupt. We dumped him and settled for the people who are supposedly not thieves. But 18 years and four presidents after, the thieving has not stopped. Corruption is walking about on two legs, looking all of us straight into the eyes.
But I have a panacea for the corruption racking our land. And it stems from what an aide of President Muhammadu Buhari jokingly said recently. Trying to explain the hunger in the land and why none of their APC interventions seems to be working, the presidential aide confessed: “APC is merely in power, but PDP still has the money”.
Of course, I agree to some extent, except to add that APC is putting up a holier-than-thou façade while abdicating responsibility of managing the economy to a rotten civil service.
So, instead of pretending to be fighting an anti-graft war, which we are not fighting, why don’t we get more practical, especially when we know where the money is?
Isn’t it time we swallowed our pride and begged the PDP people, many of whom are alleged to be housing enough cash to establish a bank each, to forgive our overzealousness with this anti-graft war and open their private vaults, to reflate our economy.
In fact, we’re not asking them to return any stolen money. We just want them to start spending, so that money can begin to circulate in the country. All this hot air the APC is blowing about corruption and recovering of loot does not seem to be helping anybody – neither the government nor the governed. This national starvation is not relenting.
I remember that in one of the South-East Asian countries, we readily cite as good examples of how to grow a country’s economy, the revolutionary president, at some point, granted a blanket amnesty to those who had looted the economy and spirited the money abroad, to bring the money back home, take a generous percentage of the loot, and walk away free.
This idea of watching the president’s body language has been taken too far. Suddenly, you’re having a party and nobody wants to spray you because of Buhari. You organise a book launch and nobody wants to donate, because of Buhari. You’re burying your aged mother and nobody is “dashing” you cows or their cash equivalents. A governor attains a landmark birthday and there are no newspaper adverts, because of Buhari. Haba!
Little-minded people would think these are frivolities, but that’s how money gets to circulate, and keeps the economy moving.
Now, since the Abacha loot episode has exposed the futility of taking looted funds abroad – even to Panama, Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, many looters now opt to keep their loot out of the formal banking system, where it can easily be traced with today’s technology.
So, what am I saying? All the money we are gallivanting all over the world to borrow is buried right here in our farms and septic tanks. Andrew Yakubu’s $9.3million alone translates to well over N5 billion. That is more than the monthly allocation to Osun, Ekiti, Ebonyi and Jigawa States put together. And, I can swear by the left foot of Amadioha that, that is not all we can get out of the former NNPC GMD. Meanwhile, we have not said anything about his boss, the supervising minister. And there are still hundreds of other directors – past and present, all of whom have their own private micro-finance banks in the septic tanks of their undeveloped plots of land. And that’s just NNPC. We’ve not talked about PPPRA, PPMC, NIMASA, the Aviation agencies, the seaports, Customs, and all the other MDAs we often don’t remember exist, but which, year after year, collect and expend budgetary allocations, doing exactly nothing.
How many are we going to uncover? That’s why our country is bursting at its seams with billionaires, who have no industries. That is why our biggest moneybags are those who have once worked in government – and those who never worked in government, but front for those who did.
So, let’s pretend that we don’t know the monies were stolen, let’s just encourage the looters to start spending. Let’s encourage them to build new mansions (and create jobs for engineers, surveyors, estate agents, bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters, tilers, labourers, sand dredgers, cement manufacturers, local manufacturers of iron doors, electric cables, furniture makers, interior decorators, etc.).
Let them set up farms and create another chain of jobs – for feed millers, corn growers, fertilizer companies, labourers, account clerks, marketers, farmhands and graduates of agriculture who now engage in kidnapping and Internet fraud. Let them open new hotels, and the beer brewers would thank them for it. Even the runs-girls would not mind new nite clubs. Like the impotent husband, let us just pretend that we do not know we’re not responsible for our wife’s pregnancy, and just accept the child, which we desperately need.
However, if we insist on recovering all our stolen money through the force of EFCC and ICPC, we’ll still be running in circles till 2023.
…The Bindow example
But, there is also another way to recover stolen state funds without all the razzmatazz that we are seeing on the national level. It is what I prefer to call the Bindow Method.
Bindow, by the way, is the alias by which Adamawa State governor, Sen. Muhammadu Umar Jibrilla, is more known.
A few months ago, I was in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, as part of the Standing Committee meeting of the Funke Egbemode-led Nigerian Guild of Editors.
I must confess, my main attraction to that trip was just the journalistic curiosity to see the North-East, where Boko Haram insurgents had held sway for several years running.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, when I got to Yola, I learnt it had been nearly a whole year since the last Boko Haram bomb exploded in Adamawa. Yes! Adamawa is even calmer than most states we consider safe in other parts of the country. In fact, I learnt that nearly all the people in the IDP camps in Adamawa were from Borno, Bindow having since resettled and reintegrated his own people back to society.
Understandably, my attention in Adamawa soon shifted from Boko Haram to the massive urban renewal and infrastructural development going on there. The roads are particularly impressive. Bindow seems to have that little tinge of anger that is needed to push a society in the right direction, especially in a state that has had its finances serially raped over the years. And that is where the Bindow Method comes in.
Hear him: “I have no time dragging anybody to EFCC and creating all the media buzz. I just present you with the undeniable facts of your financial infractions and ask you how and when you’re returning the money. If you prove stubborn, I have my own courts here. I don’t need to involve EFCC and ICPC. There are enough local laws here to deal with the situation. Before you know it, you’re in jail. And it has always worked.” Bindow says contractors, who collected money for jobs and absconded without doing the job have returned to site. “It’s not my business if they gave anybody kickbacks. They’ve gone to look for the money to do the job we paid for. And when they do the work, we pay them their balance.”
According to him, those whose contracts were over-inflated have come back and renegotiated them downwards, and work is going on.
“That’s how the money for all these comes.”