20 April 2017

Nigeria: Still On the 'Bastard' Loot At Osborne Towers

opinion

Just as many Nigerians were preparing for Easter, not a few were expecting something quiet. On Wednesday 12 April, 2017 news began to filter in that some money were found in a flat allegedly belonging to former Bauchi state Governor and People's Democratic Party National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu'azu. When the news came in, I ruminated over a lot of issues concerning the "recovered" loot, a phenomenal in the range of $50 million!

First, I came to the conclusion that Nigeria is not one of those countries to be classified as being in "recession". For a while, I have avoided using the word "recession" because I know Nigeria does not fit into the category of economies that are receding, if it truly is. Those who use it to describe the Nigerian situation, in my opinion, either do not know the meaning of recession or are just being mischievous. A nation where $50 million cash is hidden in private apartments cannot be in "recession". I insist Nigeria is NOT in a recession but wallowing in the effect of the damage caused by untamed Corruption!

Second, while doing my research for my MSc (Political Science) last year, I came across a country named Tuvalu. Tuvalu is one of the former British colonies in the Pacific. It gained independence from in 1978. That is not even the interesting part, Tuvalu's total GDP is USD $38 million according to World Bank/IMF data (2013). This figure is far less than the USD $50 million found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at Osborne Towers, Ikoyi last week ALONE. Yet, somehow, some people what us to believe the nation is in recession!

Third, and about the most dramatic part, is who owns the money? This question should have been easy to answer, but like many other things surrounding the fight against corruption, it is politicized.

Things would have been easier had we been a nation of record keepers. But since we are below poor in record keeping, the controversial money became an orphan or better still, a bastard. Everyone started denying ownership of the tantalizing sum like an unwanted pregnancy. Soon, the money became "ownerless". Like faeces, no one wants it anymore after it passes out of the anus. Trust politicians, accusations and counter-accusations soon turn partisan, effectively beginning a new phase of the drama.

Suddenly, Femi Fani-Kayode, former President Goodluck Jonathan's campaign spokesman, came out with an unsubstantiated claim on Twitter that the money and the flat in which the money found belonged to Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transport. The political media went into frenzy and President Buhari's opponents could hope again. The house belonged to Amaechi's girlfriend and ace broadcaster, Mo Abudu. The money was used to finance the 2015 president election, they added.

One doesn't need to be too intelligent to see the emerging patterns. After Fani-Kayode played his part, one Lere Olayinka the special assistant to Governor Ayo Fayose on new media, also joined in the excitement making unsubstantiated claims to justify the lousy Fani-Kayose's claim even though both presented no evidence whatsoever.

After then, Amaechi's archrival, Nyelsome Wike, Governor of Rivers state took his turn. The money belonged to the Rivers state Government since it was stolen by Amaechi who was governor of the state during the 2015 presidential elections. The money must be returned to the state.

The claims by these persons came when the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), an executive body tasked with overseeing foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations, has claimed ownership of the money stating that it was approved by former President Jonathan for some unnamed "covert operations." I guess it was at this point the anti-corruption agencies went beyond their mandates. They have touched the "anointed" of Buhari's opponents. How dare they touch their "Hero". They must do all they can to protect their "Hero" come what may, even if it means coming out with obvious lies. Even if Amaechi will sue them for libel for N500 million each, they will be ready to pay so long as there are fools like them who believe them. Who cares?

On the role of the NIA in the whole matter, if I were President Buhari the Director-General of the NIA, Ayo Oke (who was appointed originally by President Jonathan in 2013) should by now be answering some serious questions as to how such huge sum of money supposedly meant for "covert operations" should be in a private apartment. If the money was approved two years ago by the former administration for a nameless "covert operation", why was I not briefed as the new President? I will also want to know which "covert operation" has taken over two years to execute and with such amount of money, IN CASH!

My position on the "bastard" money found is quite clear. To expand the discussion further, I will ask the following questions: Why is it difficult to get the owner of the building or flat? Who bought (?) the flats from Adamu Muazu who claimed he developed and sold the property? Can we say the property belong to ex-governor Amechi said he is not the owner of the flat or the money and has even sued his accusers for libel and slander? Should we just take it on the face value that the property belongs to Amaechi just because characters like Fani-Kayode, Lere Olayinka and Wike made an allegation and WITHOUT EVIDENCE?

The best clue to this puzzle is to find the owner of the property which I think Adamu Mu'azu and his estate agents can answer. But from what I know about estate agents, they are a dubious and shady set of people. Maybe an investigation like this can expose the shady deals in the profession.

Waheed Adigun wrote this piece from Lagos.

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