Home Maritime Digest MONEY FLYING IN THE WIND WHILE NIGERIANS DIE OF HUNGER

MONEY FLYING IN THE WIND WHILE NIGERIANS DIE OF HUNGER

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Thomas Kudakkachira wrote many years ago that, “There are those who are never satisfied with any amount of wealth. And thus they will never be able to enjoy peace. They will be clamouring for more and more.” At the conclusion of his analysis, he opined thus “Only a contented heart can enjoy true peace.” And in similar breath, Benjamin Franklin stated that, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one empty. If it satisfies one’s wants, it doubles and triples that want another way.” These words no doubt explains the recent episodes of huge sums of money sometimes lacking ownership, being unearthed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through the whistle blowing policy of the President Buhari led Government. Amongst many other things, this shows the extent to which corruption and corrupt practices has eaten deep into the fabrics of Nigerian Politics and public offices, a situation where a few selected few amass so much wealth through illicit practices such as bribery, diversion of funds, illegal contracts, money laundering and diverse economic sabotage even to the very top echelon of powers over the years which no doubt all led the country to its present predicament cum economic recession.

When the President Mohammadu Buhari and VP Yemi Osinbajo led government, unabatedly maintained their vow to fight corruption over what it termed as the Nation’s biggest problem, eyebrows were raised in some quarters, where the fight against corruption was seen mainly as a smokescreen to actually witch-hunt political opponents and to carry out personal vendettas against perceived enemies. If the initial corrupt charges brought up against earlier alleged offenders had in any way casted any doubt in the minds of the populace as to the veracity of the government intentions towards fighting corruption, the whistle blowing policy and the extent of its dragnet and caliber of catch thus far would surely be kicking these doubts out of their minds. The total sums of these monies being found and the places where they are being found is enough to send shock waves through the length and breadth of the entire country. For a country that was termed as broke during the Obasanjo regime and that has had to go through a prolonged economic crisis that perhaps can be termed as the worst in its history to suddenly wake up to the realization that a few individuals have been responsible all these years for dragging a population of over 160million people into the current economic quagmire and confusion, through siphoning public funds, reckless spending, mismanagement, and other bad practices will surely have saturated the whole atmosphere with an air of disgust and disappointment.

The first news that sparked off these whole chain reaction was that of Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in whose possession the EFCC discovered  $9.8 Million and 74,000 Pounds. According to the EFCC, the total loot was estimated to be around $9, 772, 800. The EFCC reported that, a special operation conducted by its operatives on February 3, 2017, on a building belonging to Yakubu in Kaduna, yielded the staggering sum and another £74,000 in cash. The huge cash was hidden in a fire proof safe.

The surprise raid of the facility followed an intelligence report received about suspected proceeds of crime hidden in the slums of Sabon Tasha area of Kaduna. Sabon Tasha is a poverty stricken area of the capital.  On arrival at the facility, the caretaker of the house, one Bitrus Yakubu, a younger brother to Andrew Yakubu, disclosed that both the house and the safe where the money was found belong to his brother, reported the EFCC.

The former GMD in assertion did not reject ownership of the said money but according to reports claimed were given to him as gifts, an assertion which no doubt bares on anyone to either accept or question.

As if that was not enough, the EFCC again intercepted a huge sum of money at the Kaduna airport. According to reports, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) intercepted bags containing N49 million cash at Kaduna Airport. The anti-graft agency made the interception on Tuesday, March 14 at the airport. It will be recalled that the Kaduna Airport became the diversion point for flights scheduled for Abuja Airport due to the repair work which was scheduled for six weeks. Although no owner was named in connection with the said cash, there is suspicion that it is related to illegal activities.

In similar fashion, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Lagos Office, in the evening of Friday, April 7, 2017 uncovered yet another large sum of suspected laundered money to the tune of N448,850,000 (Four hundred and forty-eight million, eight hundred and fifty thousand naira) in a shop at LEGICO Shopping Plaza, Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos. The money stashed in several Ghana-Must-Go bags was in N500 and N1000 denominations, hidden in a shop awaiting conversion into foreign currency.  According to www.vanguardngr.com, Acting on a tip-off by a concerned whistleblower, operatives of the Commission swooped on the shopping complex and sought the identity of the owners of two shops, LS 64 and LS 67 which were under lock and key.
 
The shops had signage of Bureau de Change. Inquiries about the owner of shop 64 indicated that he had not been seen for a long time, as they claimed the shop had not been opened for businesses for close to two years. Several calls were put to the owner of shop 67, but there was no response.
 
The attention of the plaza’s chairman and some traders were drawn in order to force the shops open. There was no money found in shop 67, but in shop 64 heaps of Ghana-Must-Go bags were found loaded on the floor of the shop. When the bags were unzipped they were found to contain bundles of naira notes totaling N448, 850,000. Traders interviewed at the premises claimed they were not aware that such money was housed inside the shop, as the place hardly opens for business. The Commission is investigating the matter in order to unravel the owner and source of the money.

As people were trying to come to terms with the recurrence of this news, on Wednesday 12th April 2017 reportedly acting on a tip-off, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) found the $43.4 million (about N13.237 billion), N23 million and £27,000 cash at House 16, Osborne Road in Ikoyi, Lagos Island. It says it recovered 43 million Dollars, 23 million Naira and another 27,000 Pounds. This huge discovery came out days after the EFCC operatives also announced the recovery of €547,730 and £21,090 as well as N5,648,500 from a Bureau de Change operator in Balogun Market, Lagos.

The report stated that the anti-graft agency suspected that the cash might have been proceeds of crime kept at the residence to prevent any bank alert. But the identity of the owner of the cash was kept under wraps pending the conclusion of investigations. It was, however, suspected that the cash might have been laundered by politically-exposed persons and former political office holders through fronts. A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We acted on intelligence report that huge cash in an apartment in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.

“A whistle blower who had insider knowledge of how the funds were kept in some locked up rooms in the house alerted the EFCC. “As at the last count, we have recovered about $43.4 million (N13.237 billion at N305 per dollar) N23 million and £27,000. The figures could be higher than what we have counted. “But we engaged the Central Bank of Nigeria to mobilize counting machines to assist in determining the total haul. Certainly, we are acting on some clues on how the money came about. We have a lot of intelligence we are analyzing.” A source within the EFCC said: “This is a major breakthrough for this commission. We will not relent in recovering slush funds.

“The whistle blowing policy has added value to the anti- graft war. Some of those who looted public funds have been avoiding banks. They kept the cash at home and we are on their trail. Imagine what over N11 billion can do in the life of this nation, while the amount traced to private accounts sums up to N4 billion.

About N16 billion has been uncovered by the EFCC in the last few days in Lagos, including the N12,360,814,000 recovered and about N4 billion traced to private accounts”. The source concluded.

Although events continues to unfold, that institutions are coming out to claim ownership of some of these monies, and even challenging their actual amount in contrast to the ones reported by the EFCC and stating some of the uses for which the monies were supposed to be meant for, as far as this report is concern remains a debate for another day. Nigerians in general will be interested to see where this whole debacle leads to, the amount so far in total could be enough to feed an entire country and these were only recovered from a few individuals. What about others or the ones hidden in foreign accounts or as assets? How much more of these is the country set to uncover? At this rate one can only hope not to start finding huge sums of monies appearing in our individual bedrooms. But then is this just another red herring to mask the entire economic situation in the country? Or just another shadow chasing that actually leads to no one being implicated or prosecuted in the end? Or more still, an intensified determination on the part of the EFCC boss to increase the burner on the members of the Senate who are even more determined to never see him continue at the helm of affairs of the Commission? Nigerians are paying keen attention to the leadership of the country at a time like this and would very much welcome a situation where the monies recovered are channeled back into the economy, to help push the nation towards ending the recession and to aid in developmental projects, payment of salaries and pensions and so on. There is no denying the fact that this country has been bled dry by corruption and this has continued to hamper its growth and development, and any action or actions put in place to check, if not completely eradicate this endemic in the system of this country will no doubt be seen as the right step in the right direction.