Trillion Level Looters – A Looter Continua!, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
Is anyone still in doubt that Nigeria is a criminal enterprise? Former Central Bank Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo has explained in plain English how the custodians of our money, those with whom our fiduciary responsibilities were vested became extraordinary looters and thieves. In just one of three-part series, he showed how they fleece Nigeria and take the nation to the cleaners. In four years, yes, four years, trillions of Naira went missing and receipts from oil vanished from the treasury of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the federation’s account. Soludo’s account showed how a variegated coalition of scammers, scoundrels, leeches and thieves held the levers of the nation’s finances and looted with so much impunity like never before.
I once wrote on this platform that leadership is an amalgam of many attributes put to play for a greater good. Of all the attributes of leadership, character is the most important. President Goodluck Jonathan is Nigeria’s first president with a Ph.D. (So he claims). His certification in vocational scholarship will help future Nigerian students of psychology understand that leadership is not defined by education or skills and abilities but by character. His spectacular failure in governance is not for his lack of education but a patent lack of character. The unbridled corruption, stealing and rank incompetence under his watch is not about what he did but more about who he is? His ongoing failure is not about lack of technical or managerial abilities. His story is about character failure of the systemic kind.
Jonathan’s tenure will go down in Nigerian history as the regime of the looters. Under his watch, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) became a joke. The commission was effectively defanged and left to run after petty thieves, pickpockets and swindlers while the heist majors roam the streets unhindered. In the same vein, under the EFCC pitiful cousin the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), who has never laid any real claim to its function, corruption in public life assumed a new resourcefulness and dimension. It became a given with the ICPC to be engaged in eye service while having a corrupt feast of its own.
In every facet of governance, Mr. Jonathan never for once failed to show his craftsmanship of shallowness. Thieving Ministers are kept on their jobs, those who are great at swindling hapless citizens like Abba Moro of the Interior Ministry did so with impunity and at a great cost of lost lives. Public office holders like Police Commissioner Mbu offered protection for common thugs for being able to pronounce Patience Jonathan. In just four years, it became clear that the license needed to loot is power. Power has become the weapon that facilitate looting in Nigeria. The NNPC, the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Program (SURE-P) and the Niger Delta Development Commission became treasure pots to facilitate easy looting. The nation became hostage to subsidy thieves and their oil subsidy program, the NNPC fat cats on oil lifting contract scams, gluttonous budgetary allocations for food and other inanities like pet animals for the state house, massive entourage on foreign tours and other deliberate leaks created for fronts, errand boys and implementers of high-end scams.
Stealing in Nigeria used to be in millions, later, it became billions and now all we hear is trillion, trillion. According to Prof. Soludo, “Oil theft has reduced oil output from the average 2.3 – 2.4 million barrels per day (mpd) to 1.95mpd (meaning that at least 350,000 to 450,000 barrels per day are being ‘stolen’. On the average of 400,000 per day and the oil prices over the past four years, it comes to about $60 billion ‘stolen’ in just four years. In today’s exchange rate, that is about N12.6 trillion.” That is oil theft alone! We now understand why Babangida said he is a saint compared to the present crop of Abuja plunderers. Was it not a mere $12b gulf war windfall that he couldn’t account for? How many 12 can you find in 60? These people are five times “the thief of Babangida?”. Add to that is the $20 billion that vanished without a trace from the NNPC – another N4 trillion. How about the trillions fake subsidy distributed to friends of government? The trillions creamed off Nigerians on diesel and kerosene is another story. What happened to the taxes collected by The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)? The stealing has become a jamboree of a looter continua! The regime of steal and loot.
Nigerians are hungry, sick and fed up. While the looters of Abuja revel in their stolen wealth, malnutrition and disease are ravaging the poor. Many school age children are out of school. A lot of people cannot afford primary medical care. The list of preventable diseases killing Nigerians in thousands every day is criminal. Environmental degradation is there too. Oil theft has left a large swath of the coast laying under a toxic blanket of oil and no one cares. Nigeria for reasons of corruption imports almost all of its fuel needs, selling its oil for peanuts based on royalties the oil majors. It then turns around to buying back the gasoline, diesel and kerosene made from its oil for hundreds of dollars a barrel. The country has been shafted. A few years after the celebrated debt repayment, Nigeria is back cap in hand seeking the same predatory loans it ran away from. Under the banner of democracy, our home grown kleptocrats cannot provide a day of uninterrupted electricity to the people. Everybody has become mini government, providing for themselves everything the governments should provide its citizens. The little infrastructure there is, comes under severe pressure and decays by the day. The coordinating minister for the economy; Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has proven yet again that most Nigerians are foxes waiting to rule the chicken coop when given the chance. She has superintended over the worst plunder of this nation. Under Jonathan, looting is state sanctioned activity. They have no care that the country is facing a cauldron of terror that has laid claim at the entire Northeast. Even the army is profiting from terror, looting every kobo budgeted to fight terror.
As we approach the historic elections of 2015, we can admit that looting and theft has left a once proud and self-sufficient people on the brink of collapse. Where is moral leadership? How much money does a man need? A looter continua!
Bamidele maintains a weekly column on Politics and Socioeconomic issues every Tuesday. She is a member of Premium Times Editorial Board.