How They Make It in Nigeria

They almost spoilt our Easter fun with the thriller of Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos. In these hard times when most Nigerians have barely something to eat – no one talks of “square” meals anymore – a gang of thieves had hidden almost N15billion ($50million) in one flat in an edifice built with stolen money also. The primary suspect claimed the money was for some “covert operations” approved by former President Jonathan.

Indeed it was for covert operations, but not operations needed for the safety and security of Nigerians. The easiest way to steal public fund in Nigeria is to tie it to “security”, for security votes are not accounted for. All that is required is the signature of the relevant approving authority. Little wonder governors and presidents love “security vote” a lot! Almost all the billions – and more recently trillions – of naira wasted every four years in the name of general election come from security votes.

The irony is that there is no security anywhere. The more money is voted for security, the more the security situation deteriorates. I’ve learned that some security agents, who are paid by taxpayers, sometimes provoke insecurity or crises so they could get whatever they wanted.

Whether the loot is later discovered or not, blood money never leaves its consumers healthy. Twenty-four hours after the news of the Osborne find broke, a key person suspected to have had a huge stake in the money suffered “massive heart attacks” and died. To cover up the real source of the money, some attack dogs went to work: fingers were pointed at the wrong directions.

Only a few days ago did the picture become clearer. Some have now admitted that as much as N68billion was approved and carted away, in February 2015, for the “covert operations”. So the N15billion found was just a leftover. The EFCC may never find the remaining N53billion.One man recently told Buhari that he must kill all politicians if he’s serious about fighting corruption. How right he was!

Yet, a large chunk of the remaining N53billion is visible in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Enugu and a few other cities. All those empty houses, especially in Asokoro, are proceeds of corruption. The global anti-laundering system has prevented some from transferring their loot abroad. At home, the BVN requested by banks is exposing more thieves. So they now resort to hiding dollars and pounds in cemeteries, on farms and in septic tanks.

Whoever is seeking the killers of Nigeria shouldn’t go too far. No economic strategy will work in a nation that is looted so callously. The power problem won’t be solved. Nothing would work. The naira’s value will keep depreciating because the demand for dollars will always be high. Few are interested in doing the hard work necessary for building a nation. In Nigeria’s case, it’s a tragedy because these thieves and loafers occupy the topmost positions. Hard work can only land someone in penury.

The mafia that has held Nigeria hostage from independence knows that no honest citizen can mount the saddle of leadership. He can’t meet the requirements of INEC and his political party alone — he needs to pay N20million to be eligible to run for an office and N27million to get his party’s nomination form. During the primaries, he has to share dollars and pounds among party delegates. No sane person would spend his legitimate income that way, even if he had so much money.

Thus, the field has been left open to charlatans, thieves and robbers who pretend to love “the people” more than they love themselves. And once they get into office, looting becomes the name of the game. For the post of president, for instance, the winner is supposed to earn no more than N20million for all of four years – and that’s the same person who purchased his party’s nomination form with N27million.

Appointments to boards and commissions are done with a view to getting those who would fund the ruling party at elections. At fundraisers, you see nothing but funds stolen from the public till. All that a head of an agency needs to do to raise N500million overnight is to award a fictitious contract or two. Overnight, the vouchers are raised, the “work” is completed and inspected, and the “contractor” is paid in full. The NNPC and its subsidiaries, the Central Bank, FIRS, NIMASA, NDDC and the like are not called “juicy” agencies for nothing.

It’s the same trend in state and local governments. Where the security vote fails to yield billions, it is supplemented with fictitious contracts. That’s why, in the official records of several local governments, 90% of access roads has been tarred and cottage hospitals have been filled with essential medicines. After a year or two, a lucky local government chairman goes to Abuja to buy a N120million mansion. A governor purchases several worth N30billion before dashing off to London or Dubai to pay for mansions in raw dollars.

The whole story of Nigeria could therefore be written simply as a tale of mindless looting of the public treasury. I’ve sworn to never be part of the story, even if I’m tempted to be.

Does one need N1billion in one lifetime? I don’t think so. And what about N2billion, N5billion, N10billion…? How does one hope to spend and enjoy billions in this short life? The average lifespan of a Nigerian is about 50.

Greed has led to the devastation of many. Man’s Maker must have foreseen the wickedness of his creature when He created death. But the fools have refused to learn the lesson that death teaches. Many of today’s billionaires are without heirs. Yes, the billions have been accumulated, but his children are wasting it and even destroying themselves with it. Some are drug addicts; some cannot live with husbands.

So, what makes the billionaire father happy? It can’t be food or drinks. He may be diabetic, hypertensive or both. The doctor says he should avoid pounded yam, meat, eggs, alcoholic drinks, beverages and certain fruit. She has to burn fats at the gym – or do tummy-tuck like a Nigerian lady who lost her life in the process.

A dead billionaire is not more valuable than a dead dog. The millions and billions of naira and dollars would be mocking him because he would no longer spend even a dime. The deposits in European and American banks could be lost forever. And what could be more shameful than losing most of the acquired or stolen assets to erstwhile enemies after one’s death?

That is the moral in the saying I used to tell: “The bravest soldier is the one who saved his life.” Those that embezzle funds meant for the protection of this and future generations will, in the end, discover that they are not wise after all.


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