PERENNIAL presidential friends, public supporters of launchings and newer arrivals who preferred to dissolve in anonymity, shelled out over N58 billion in one night for the Terror Victims’ Fund. The performance exceeded the President’s expectations by N8 billion.
We shall reserve our praises until the pledges are redeemed and the fund is committed to the comfort of victims of terror. We have solid grounds for our scepticism about the event.
On 8 November 2012, a similar gathering raised N11.35 billion for victims of Nigeria’s worst flooding in more than half a century. More than 20 months after, most donors have not paid. Last year, the Presidential Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Committee threatened to name them after a June 30 deadline. The committee had asked them to “respect themselves and maintain their honour and integrity”, by redeeming their pledges. Nothing happened. The committee failed to name them, covering their crime.
It is possible that some of the fraudsters, who masqueraded as philanthropists at the November 2012 fund raising, turned up at the latest dinner and promised money they have no plans to pay.
President Goodluck Jonathan was effusive with praises for the pledgers. It was a total replay of his ebullience at the 2012 event. He made no mention of the botched relief fund for flood victims, though those who should account for it were present.
We do not know what the President promised the diners this time. He promised tax incentives to the November 2012 “philanthropists”.
The committee made a public complaint that without contributing their pledges, some of the pretenders cashed the presidential incentives, a criminal offence that should have been punished under appropriate laws. They were not punished.
Unfortunately, the matter appears rested. The management of the resources for flood victims is over-due for investigation. Default in pledges is only a part of it. Some victims in Adamawa State complained that they got only N200 each from the State.
It is time we started treating criminals in high places with the ignominy they deserve. It would not be adequate to receive their pledges whenever they pay. How did they get away with the criminality involved in benefitting from incentives for which they did not qualify? Why the silence over the fraud? Is the President unaware of the crime?
Those who received tax incentives without paying their pledges should be punished for fraud. It is not late for the committee to publish a statement of accounts of the 2012 donations and their beneficiaries.
If they do not, it would be only a matter of time before more lamentations trail the Terror Victims’ Fund. Stringent measures, including sanctions, are necessary to deter shameless fraudsters in high places.