The Sun News

Needless controversies over recovered monies

Nigeria is a peculiar country. I am sure that anybody reading this already knows that. We are peculiar because we do things differently from the way others do their thing. What is straight forward in other climes is always done differently in Nigeria. What is simple in other places becomes complex or rocket science in our country. My train of thought on the peculiarity of our country is borne out of the drama, controversies and the needless debates over the ownership of monies sprouting up in different areas in the country. The major culprit in this ridiculous theatre of the absurd is the Economics and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC). Through the anti -graft agency, Nigeria and Nigerians have been fooled with the antics following the discovery or recovery of such monies. How come monies are sprouting up all over the place with nobody laying claims to such huge sum?
EFCC operatives are not spirit or extra-terrestrial beings, so knowledge of money moving from one place to the other cannot be said to come from divine experience. Someone must have informed the agency. So why do we continue to have all these dramas with nobody claiming ownership.
I recall that mid last month, operatives of the anti graft body said it intercepted N49million at the Kaduna airport as it was being ferried out of the airport. The Spokesman of EFCC, Mr Wilson Uwujaren said the money was discovered during a routine baggage screening and the money which was in black colored sacks was unaccompanied
“Upon examination, the bags were found to contain fresh crispy Naira notes of N200 denomination in 20 bundles totaling N40 million and N50 denomination in 180 bundles totaling N9 million with seal purportedly emanating from the Nigeria Security and Minting Plc (NSPM) as seen in the labeled sealed packs”.The EFCC said investigation was still on going to unravel the ownership of the money.  It is over a month now, the EFCC has not come back to tell us whether it has been able to locate the owner of the money.
When agencies of government like EFCC speak like in the above, one tends to ask whether they see all of us as unthinking “mumu”? How long would it take to unravel the ownership of the money?  I would not want to assume that such a simple investigation is beyond the scope of the agency. Even with my reportorial experience, it would be a piece of cake to unravel the conundrum. The airport is a public place with Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Camera strategically placed around. What about the vehicle that took the money to the airport of departure, was it not captured on camera? So if it was captured, why would it be difficult to trace the ownership of the vehicle? The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has a database of all registered vehicles in the country with the address of the owner of such vehicles. How did the bags containing the money get to where it was being screened, did it walk on its own to get there? Of course not? So if EFCC is saying the money was unaccompanied, then it was just trying to play on our intelligence. It was the same thing with the money that was discovered in a lagos shopping mall, over N400million in one of the shops that had not been opened for nearly two years. A call put to the purported owner of the shop was unanswered leading to the door of the shop being forced open. No information has come out to let us know whether the money has been traced to anybody. Who gave the information to the EFCC without information concerning the ownership?  Why is it that EFCC would create a media frenzy over their findings and would keep quiet thereafter, allowing speculations to flourish until Nigerians grow tired and move on to something else.
The latest in the drama on recovered monies was the N13billion found in a flat in Osborne, Ikoyi. Broken down, the money was in different denominations- $43.4million, £27,000 and N23million). For days, the humongous amount created different feelings among Nigerians.
Apart from the controversy created by the usual report that the agency could not ascertain the ownership of the money as the flat where it was found was unoccupied, many wondered who would keep such money in a period of economic recession when most Nigerians are wallowing in abject poverty? Without knowing the owners of the money, curses were rained on the heartless culprit who kept our collective patrimony in an unoccupied apartment.
Many names were mentioned as likely owners of the money, while a state governor equally laid claims at a point.  The drama eventually played out when the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) owned up that the money belong to it. So the EFCC did not know this and did not conduct any investigation before breaking into the apartment? What if the money had been legitimate (though doubtful)?  Would this not have created problem for the agency? NIA was quoted as saying  agency that the apartment the money was found was one of its safe houses while the money in question was meant for a covert, security operations allegedly approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
But in spite of the explanations, there are really many gaps that have been left unfilled. How come the apartment was not under any surveillance from NIA itself and how come the raid happened without the knowledge of the NIA? How true is the story flying around that Folashade Oke, wife of the DG of NIA, Ayodele Oke was the one who allegedly deposited the funds in the apartment? For how long was the money kept in the apartment?  These are some of the issues that the investigating team must find answers.
Most importantly, the EFCC should be reined in in order to spare us the drama that has always trailed their investigations. One expects the agency to be circumspect and be a lot more diligent in its investigations instead of taking the haphazard route of incomplete investigation to the media. Like the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Kukah said, Nigerians should be spared the drama of the EFCC.
It is painful in itself that monies that would have helped in the development of the nation are being cornered by individuals,  EFCC should not compound our woes with its drama. There should be diligent investigation, leading to successful prosecution. It is only then Nigerians will acknowledge the fact of the EFCC’s efficiency in the fight against corruption.


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