ABACHA LOOT: Unborn tomorrow, dead yesterday

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By Josef Omorotionmwan
STRONG  man, Sani Abacha, had no reason to begin to provide for failure since he was sure that nothing was going to prevent him from transforming himself to the life president of Nigeria. Such a man had no cause to begin to disguise his loots. He was, therefore, an archetype of a Nigerian thief who could steal with impunity.

In local parlance, it is held: “Na dead man sell him wife”.  When Abacha was alive, no one would have dared go near his property, talk less steal it. His was akin to the case of the cloth that the witch is drying in the sun; no one would dare go and remove it. But now that Abacha is dead, people are looting and re-looting his loots with impunity. This should serve as a good notice to grabbers without borders that after they die, all the stupendous accumulations are useless.

Our Finance Minister and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, so called, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, should have known that there is no way of easily wishing away the Abacha loot; at least not in this life time. The mention of the infamous Abacha loot brings bitter memories and the more Madam struggles to extricate herself from culpability, the more she gets deeply immersed in it.

Jonathan hands to late Gen Sani Abacha's widow, Mariam Abacha. Source: Goodluck Jonathan FB wall

Jonathan hands to late Gen Sani Abacha’s widow, Mariam Abacha the centenary award . Source: Goodluck Jonathan FB wall

The issue resonated on Wednesday, February 26, 2014, in Sonala Olumhese’s open letter titled “Dear Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala”. Perhaps unwittingly, Madam has promoted the Abacha loot above all other issues, to the extent that even where Olumhese handed down the most damning verdict on the economy, which Madam coordinates, she was only perturbed by his passing mention of the Abacha loot.

It is clear to us that the treasurer of a political party treasures nothing. Every money that comes already has a given destination. Similarly, the coordinator of a warped economy coordinates nothing. Her position is akin to that of the proverbial man who is put in-charge of counting the Oba’s money.

If government is such that virtually every department has become a cesspool of corruption, then some shadow of doubt must be cast on whosoever is charged with the coordination of that economy. Yet, one cannot easily admit that this erudite scholar, a real PhD in Economics, a former President of the World Bank who has behind her many years of cognate experience, and one who has helped in shaping the economies of many other third world countries, has been promoted above her competence.

All the same, no organisation ever grows much higher than the environment in which it exists. In her posturing as the counter of the Oba’s money, she could be undermined by more powerful colleagues and Ogas who are above questioning, however perfunctorily they may be performing in their equally powerful ministries.

In a coordinated economy, there should be no argument whatsoever on the country’s bank account vis-à-vis how much the NNPC generated and how much was remitted to the federation account. These are figures that should be available at the touch of a computer button, even at midnight.

Sadly, virtually every funding initiative of this administration has been reduced to an avenue for fraud: Just about when you are looking at the volume of the fuel subsidy scam, the multi-billion Naira pension rackets are staring you on the face; as you are looking at those, the NNPC and CBN scams are bursting loose; meanwhile, authorities of the National Teachers Institute, Kaduna, are raising an alarm that they have just got a bank alert over N791 million unsolicited payment; while the Budget Office is claiming that N5 billion has been paid to NAFDAC, the same NAFDAC is saying it only received a paltry sum of N365 million; and the NDLEA says it has not received even one kobo of the N65 million said to have been paid to it. What a rumble in the jungle! Who is still talking about this economy and its coordination?

We have long passed the level of talking of the amount involved in the Abacha loot because even Abacha himself might not have known how much he stole. Nigerians were elated on hearing that part of the loot was being repatriated. Theorists went to work. Some reasoned that since the loot was part of the common wealth, it might be equitable to plough it back into the federation account where it would be redistributed; while others thought that it should be spent on clearly separated projects that would be of historical significance to all, given the symbolism it could connote in ending corruption.

Then came the breaking news that the money had been spent posthaste, in a manner similar to the retirement of a touring advance. “When eventually the money was repatriated in 2005, the Finance Minister told them that the money had been spent in the 2004 National budget and that N65 billion bond was raised to pre-finance projects in anticipation of the repatriated loot” – Unborn tomorrow, dead yesterday!

Listen further to Rev. David Ugolor: “Most of the projects verified began before 2004 and some were completed in that same year… In a particular case, the local government where a project was said to have been carried out did not exist… Contracting firms mismanaged the funds and projects were simply abandoned… Only 28 of the 51 projects were completed…”.

Yet, Iweala has the temerity to continue to maintain that the money was spent in developing the rural areas. Hear this very height of absurdity: “The World Bank had written about this in a 2007/2008 Handbook on Stolen Asset Recovery where the case was cited as a best practice example…”.

In essence, Madam waited to return to Washington, DC, to personally issue her own testimonial – an exercise in the exportation of Nigerian dishonesty! To Nigeria, the Abacha loot provides a Pyrrhic victory. It would have been better to leave the loot where it belongs – in the Abacha family – rather than taking the trouble of repatriating it only to be re-looted by new looters.

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