27 Jul 2015

There Is Pus In Nigeria’s Purse - by Fola Ojo

Spin doctors who aren’t fond of President Muhammadu Buhari may slant it one way; unrepentant loathers of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan even out of power may spin it another; but there is something wrong with the fundamentals of Nigeria’s economy that remains swathed up in putrefaction and putrescence, and no one yet seems able to rectify and debug.

There is pus in the nation’s purse. The pockmark has given birth to a virulent virus which is slowly killing our economy. Anxiety level among the citizenry is daily driven up. We haemorrhage daily because the country is in the jarring jaws of corruption, and we have become like sheep without a shepherd.

We have always had an idea about the spread of stench in government; but President Buhari’s trip to Washington which ended Wednesday further revealed the viscousity of the pus in Nigeria’s purse. Buhari did not go cap-in-hand asking the Americans for a handout; he was there, among other reasons, asking that our stolen loot over these many years be repatriated back home pro bono publico. Nobody is sure how much of the blood money is stashed in closets and corners of banking institutions all around the world; we are just sure it is a behemoth! In the United States of America alone, it is put at $150bn.

I am not making an inclusive reference to the $700,000 that was the value of the mansion of a former South-South governor who is greatly revered by our former President; I make no reference to this same former governor’s $400,000 investment account recovered on behalf of Nigeria in the Northeastern part of the US some years ago. I allude not to the $480m Abacha loot later ordered forfeited to the US by a court in the country. I make no allusion to the $458m in thieving profits hidden by the former Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha, and his conspirators in different countries.

There are fresh loot over the last six years or so now tracked down. Some former governors, some former senators, their wives, their children, and their conduits may become culprits. The President just told us that some ministers of the Federal Republic in the last dispensation regularly illegally sold one million barrels of crude oil per day. As of today, Nigeria is still losing 250,000 barrels of oil per day because those who should hunt down thieves have become thieves that must now be hunted down. Our treasury is like a perforated basket leaking cash into private pockets of public servants and their accomplice hoodlums all across the nation.

In June 2014, it was reported that Liechtenstein returned $227m to Nigeria; Switzerland has previously returned to Nigeria more than $700m that Abacha hid in Swiss accounts. The United Kingdom Government reportedly returned 1.2 million pounds out of the eight million pounds confiscated from a former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, and an additional 80 million pounds confiscated from him and his associates. Nobody is sure what became of all the recovered loot. Recovered loot in the hands of discovered looters remain unrecovered loot.

Who said Nigeria is broke? The country is buoyant, instead! Not with the whopping N41.6tn revenue generated from crude oil proceeds and taxes, as well as duties between fiscal years 2011 and 2014. Nigeria is far from broke. Not with the potential N12tn per year that will come from the nation’s maritime industry alone. What comes in monthly into the nation’s coffers is enough to tackle Nigeria’s challenges for 10 generations to come. But there is pus in the nation’s purse because the corrupt in high places among us are committed to nothing else but corruption. Stolen funds in the hands of a few Nigerians may as well be double the annual income of the Nigerian nation. Why must a nation so blessed manifest such signs and symptoms of a nation accursed?

In Nigeria, the Law of gravity has been suspended. Whatever goes up here only keeps going up and never comes down. At the advent of democratic rule in 1999, the US dollar was sold for N21.89; on May 29, 2015, it was N199. Last week Monday, one US dollar sold for N245. Exchange rate keeps going up, and corruption is the underlining menace and the pus in our nation’s purse.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo told us in May that Nigeria’s local and international debts are now pegged at about $60bn. Servicing the monstrous albatross will cost us N1bn. But I learnt that 60 Nigerians who are illegally holding on to the country’s treasure may be able to pay off the $60bn in less than 60 days if the noose is put around their necks to cough up what they have stolen. That noose stage is where we are now.

A renowned economist told me that even if one barrel of oil is sold for $25 in Nigeria, and our population is 250 million, the accruing revenue should still be able to sustain the country comfortably. But half of what we realise as revenue is not reported but wriggles its way into pockets of powerful looters.

You have not heard the last of the Sambo Dasuki-style of shaking. By the time the wind of scrutiny and indictment blows all around, there will be gnashing of teeth. Between now and the end of August, culprits and masterminds of orgies of pillage will be named and be made to face the music. When the untold story of the last six years is fully told about Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Boko Haram insurgency funds, Nigerian Port Authority, Customs, and much more, ears will tingle.

Bit by bit, a historical crackdown has begun on the corrupt and corruption and it will spare no man. The President just fired a warning missile across the Atlantic to members of his party, the All Progressives Congress, who intend to use the governing party as an umbrella for corruption and looting. He told Americans in unequivocal terms that whatever form of justice is good for thieving non-APC members will be applicable to his own buddies too in the APC. This is not about party politics, it is about Nigeria.

This President’s wave will also visit the Nigerian civil service. Many of its members are volunteer teachers of thieving tricks to politicians and motherboards of entrenched depravity. Nigerian civil service is a silo of profligacy; a sleazy and skanky assemblage of men and women groomed as petrifying principalities unleashing doom on the Nigerian economy.

The President can jail all politicians in Nigeria today; but one deftly and dexterously corrupt civil servant left behind the desk is a human academy that breeds more corrupt politicians. Many of them have manuals in their heads from where they spew out tutorials on how to plunder without leaving tracks behind. They are writers of money-milking memos, disbursers of stolen loot, and connoisseurs in how to circumvent existing rules and laws.

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