20 February 2013

Nigeria: Like Pope, Like Publisher


What precipitated a high profile resignation in the Nigerian media industry yesterday? Pope Benedict VI, apparently.

A Nigerian media mogul suddenly and unexpectedly announced yesterday that he was relinquishing his title as editor-in-chief of the newspaper group with effect from March 1. That is, forty eight hours after Pope Benedict's resignation has taken effect. The only difference is that while Benedict VI is relinquishing all his titles as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Jesus of Christ in order to lead a life of prayer and meditation in a monastery, our friend the publisher is relinquishing only one of his two titles. The lesser one, as it were.

The Holy See has said that when the Pope quits, he will retreat to the pontiff's winter residence at Castel Gandolfo on the Alban hills just outside Rome, before he finally moves to a monastery. Meanwhile, a conclave of Cardinals will meet to select a new Pope. The publisher is not yet retreating to the monastery. He will still sit at his desk discharging duties that are no less onerous than they were on February 28. However, we are on the lookout for a conclave of Editors to select the new editor in chief. Just like in the Vatican, we will be looking out for white smoke from the chimney to announce the emergence of a new pope. Beg your pardon, a new editor in chief.

Where is all the money?

Some people have said that money cascades in Nigerian politics faster than water falls off the turbines of Kainji Dam. However, a close look at the Executive Summary of External Auditors' Reports on the Accounts of Political Parties for the Year 2011 as published by INEC last week gives the impression that there is more water in Agadez than there is money in Nigerian politics.

Of the 54 parties that were audited, only ACN had its accounts prepared and audited, albeit by internal auditors. All the others had no audited accounts. It is easy to see why these parties, when they end up controlling governments, think nothing about preparing financial reports and auditing them.

How about the hard money? Alhaji M.D. Yusuf's Movement for Democracy and Justice [MDJ] told the INEC team that it did not generate a kobo in 2011, an election year. Several other parties including BNPP, CPC and DPA apparently had no account books at all; any money generated was probably kept in the pockets of their chairmen.

Of those parties that declared amounts they generated, one gets the impression that a drought has overtaken the political landscape. APGA, which controlled one state government that year, said it generated only N23 million. Labour Party, which also controls a state government, said it generated N129m. CPC said it generated N304m, ANPP [which controlled three states in 2011] said it made N768m while ACN said it generated N676m. What about PDP? The largest party in Africa, which controls the Federal and 23 state governments, said it generated N647 million. [Yawn].

Apart from the parties that generated not a kobo, there were some others that generated money that was hardly enough to fuel a small Suzuki generator. ACD generated N150,000. ADC said it earned N236,000 while Mega Progressive Peoples Party [MPPP] said it earned N300,000. According to MNPP, it also spent N160 million. Who lent to it this money?

PDP too told the INEC auditors that it run up a huge deficit. Having said it earned N647m that year, PDP said it spent N4.3 billion, or more than five times as much. What kind of budget deficit is this, nearly 80% of the budget? Even the United States Treasury is not doing as badly as this party in chocking up budget deficits. How will this black hole in PDP accounts be filled? Enter, fuel subsidy and pension scammers.

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