By Muhammad Ajah
The Senate Committee Chairman on Foreign and Domestic Debts, Shehu Sani, once made a shocking revelation when he declared that at least $200 billion looted from Nigeria’s treasury in the last 20 years have been stashed in the United Arab Emirates alone by former public officers and their agents/fronts. “I am not talking about estates and bonds and other securities bought with Nigeria’s stolen money”, he had told newsmen. Nigeria has signed a Mutual Legal Assistance with the UAE, identified by the federal administration as a safe haven for former corrupt public officials. Nigerians deserve to know the development resulting from the good initiative to repatriate back Nigeria’s stolen wealth squirreled away at the UAE.
The Apex Bank in the UAE once directed its commercial banks to freeze all accounts belonging to Nigerians especially the politicians.On that note, it was reported that thousands of Nigerians with bank accounts in Dubai received noticesthat their bank accounts have been closed in an effort to prevent moneylaundering, especially from Nigerian politicians who hide under the pretext of paying school fees for their children to smuggle millions of dollars into the country. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has a duty to Nigerians on this one.
Furthermore, it was once reported that the World Bank released a list of Nigerian looters. This is in addition to revelations by the President through his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, that Nigerians hide monies meant to develop the nation in foreign countries, in a bid to avoid paying tax. There can still be a beam of light on the list of looters released by the pioneer EFCC chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, in 2007. But Reno Omokri, a former aide to former President Jonathan announced his own list of “real looters”, apparently referring to the actual beneficiaries of fuel subsidy, those corrupt politicians found on Wikileaks, those involved in the bribery scandal involving the South African telecom giant, MTN, and revelations by Senator Shehu Sani, that the looted funds recovered by the incumbent administration have been ‘re-looted’.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) corroborated the reports. A 112-pages report recently launched at the Citi-Height Hotels in Lagos and titled: “Letting the Big Fish Swim: How Those Accused of High-Level Corruption are Getting away with their Crimes and Profiting from Nigeria’s Legacy of Impunity”, presented to the media by senior lecturer of law, litigation and professional ethics at the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, Dr. Esa Onoja, revealed that while the main anti-corruption agencies secured more than 1500 non-high profile convictions between 2000-2017, they could only muster 10 high profile convictions between the periods in question. According to the report, “In the investigation, prosecution and trial of high profile corruption cases in Nigeria, justice is imprisoned by snares contrived by actors in the legal community in aid of looters.”
The report mentioned convicted looters to include ex-Governor of Adamawa State, James Ngilari, former speaker of House Representatives, Salisu Buhari, former CEO of Oceanic Bank, Celicia Ibru, former governors Lucky Igbinedion and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, amongst others, all entered plea agreements with the EFCC; former CEO of Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights activist, Femi Falana, in response to the released lists by the federal government, observed that not a single reference was made to the most corrupt institutions in the country, one of them being the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Most recently, an eye opener revealed how huge sums of money were “arbitrarily and illegally” approved for the Nigerian lawmakers by the Minister of Finance in collusion with the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF). A frontline investigative online media outfit, Premium Times, on 20th April, 2018 under a title: “Minister Adeosun, Saraki, Dogara, Accountant General in N10 billion fraud scandal”, revealed that the money was released to the lawmakers as part of a secret N50 billion approved for the execution of the “so-called constituency projects” discreetly inserted into the budgets of several ministries, agencies and parastatals of the Federal Republic. .
I wish retributions and repentance to the people who made the lists so far released of looters of Nigerian national treasury! Are they to be referred to as first class degree holders in looting? That is Bachelors Degree in Treasury Looting (BA,TL)! And according to the amounts stolen by each individual, they can be classified into BA and BSc, MA, MSc, PhD or Professor of Treasury looting! That is funny, anyway. Now that they are known by Nigerians and the people of the world, methinks the best option for them is to quietly return their loots back to the owners who are Nigerians. The earlier they do so the better for the country they claim to labour to build.
Notwithstanding all the revelations mentioned above, it is a fact that not all Nigerian politicians are corrupt. With such huge salaries and allowances attached to most political offices, it is amply convincing that a lot of Nigerian politicians are contented with their legitimate earnings and do resist the temptations of being corrupt or corrupted.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. Efirstname.lastname@example.org.