By Ochereome Nnanna
WHEN I first saw the figure on newspaper headlines, I thought the proverbial “printer’s devil” had made a media round as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu recently did. But, of course, though the “printer’s devil” can do and undo, it does not have the power to visit more than one newspaper house and cause them to portray wrong figures on the same issue same day. It has since turned out that media houses quoted the man correctly, from a speech he authored, signed and read by himself.
The man who made this “shockumentary” piece of disclosure is the foremost authority in President Muhammadu Buhari’s war on corruption and recovery of alleged looted public funds. His name is Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN); the Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. His office supervises the activities of the EFCC, and he has the power to specifically ask the anti-graft czar to go after anyone or drop any case concerning anyone.
Last week, Malami addressed the First Annual Conference on Financial Fraud, Cyber Crimes and Cross-Border Crimes which held in Abuja. He told his audience that the EFCC had recovered “över $2 trillion (about N400 trillion at current exchange rates)” looted from the national treasury by criminal gangs and their cohort in public offices. The conversion of the Dollar to Naira values at the current (official)exchange rate was an affirmation that he meant USD, not Zimbawean Dollars, ZWD, (which currently goes for 1ZWD=0.00276319usd!)
Now, anyone can make a mistake. Maybe it was a mistake – a “printer’s devil”? The story is one week old today. No one from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation has called attention to it as a mistake, offered the right figures and apologised to Nigerians. So, I rule it out as a mistake. I take it as the information the AGF intended to feed us with.
Let’s look at that figure very well – two trillion US Dollars. So far (to the best of my knowledge at the time of writing this piece on Thursday, 4th February 2016) only Vanguard newspapers have raised an eyebrow on this figure. Vanguard was able to establish that the total amount of money that Nigeria had earned through its oil wealth from 1958 when the first commercially viable oil well was struck in Oloibiri, (today’s Bayelsa State) is 98 trillion Naira. If you add it to revenue from other sources, the figure still comes to below 110 trillion Naira or just about $500 billion. Since we are talking about “looted” money that has been “recovered” by the EFCC, Malami would have us know that EFCC has recovered more “looted” money than the total sum of revenue that the country has ever earned as revenue!
You see, even the whole of Africa does not have two trillion US Dollars. Africa, with an estimated population of 1.1 billion people, is rated as having a nominal gross domestic product valued at $2.39 trillion.
The truth of the matter is that if Nigeria sees two trillion dollars, it will collapse and faint, as Justice Ovie-Whiskey claimed he would if he saw one million Naira way back in 1983. Only countries like USA, Japan, China and, perhaps, Germany can speak in terms of trillion dollars.
If, indeed, EFCC has recovered such a mountainous heap of money, the implications will be obvious. We would not be talking of “ëmpty treasury” anymore. We will no longer need to borrow a paltry three trillion Naira to fund our 2016 budget. Buhari will have more than enough funds to fund his social security campaign promises and we will not have to bother about the plunging prices of oil in the international market. If EFCC has recovered any amount of money, it is nothing close to what the AGF is bandying. EFCC is sure to deny the figure if put to task. So, my conclusion is that it is either the AGF does not know the meaning of Two Trillion Dollars or he is lying to us.
I find it difficult to accept the first possibility – that Malami does not know the meaning of “Two Trillion Dollars or 400 trillion Naira”. A lawyer of nearly 30 years experience and Senior Advocate of Nigeria? It is impossible!
Do we then settle for the second possibility – that he lies to us? What else could it be, since he has not called to say he made a mistake? If the second option is the intent behind this incredible disclosure, I will not be too surprised, given the track records of the present administration.
Just the other day, Buhari’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, called a world press conference and grandiloquently announced that 55 Nigerians stole N1.34 trillion in eight years. He did not name a single soul or entity to buttress his claim. He merely listed the categories to which the alleged looters belonged. He fed the public with worthless piece of information obviously concocted for its sensational value. It seemed that Lai Mohammed just sat down and compiled figures. Not to be outdone, Malami also sat down and compiled his own. Do these people think all of us are dummies?
It was the same Lai Mohammed who went around telling Nigerians that Boko Haram had become “so degraded that they can no longer launch attacks”. He added that, in fact, Boko Haram had been “technically defeated”. What is “technical defeat”? Is it the same as “technical knockout”? If a boxer is technically knocked out, he has lost the fight and the bout is over. If Boko Haram was technically defeated, how were they able to launch fresh attacks in Adamawa and Borno State, three of which took place in Dalori and Bulabulin Umarari outside Maiduguri and Muna Garage inside Maiduguri, a few kilometres from the 7th Division Headquarters of the Nigerian Army? Buhari technically defeated Boko Haram in December 2015 only to lament in January 2016 that the terrorists were “embarrassing” his government?
The game of the present administration is becoming obvious even to the unwary. They are bringing out all these real and imagined figures and half-truths to completely de-market the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and render it incapable of challenging Buhari when the president bids for a second term in office.
After eight months in power, the tactic is wearing thin, and what it conceals is becoming visible. There is no substitute to visionary leadership, good governance and respect for the rule of law, which the Buhari administration is severely short of. Resorting to dissemination of deceitful information will always boomerang in this age of the Internet.
Those with ears let them hear.
Oyegun mourns the loss of oil states
We have lost very important resource-rich states to the PDP. No matter how crude oil prices have fallen, it is still the most important revenue earner for the country – Dr John Odigie Oyegun, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
You can see why the Directorate of State Services (DSS), EFCC and other state agencies of coercion and harassment were sent to intimidate legal workers, witnesses and INEC officials in Rivers and Akwa Ibom, with the latter invaded by state operatives in search of “ärms” before the Supreme Court came to put everybody back where they belonged.
Thank God for Separation of Powers!
Ochereome Nnanna is a columnist with Vanguard Newspapers