“Anyone who can’t account for his wealth must be brought to account. Everyone who has served in public office must account for what they own” — Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, in Lagos, April 23, 2016.
If that statement by the VP represents the government’s position on bringing past office holders to account for their misdeeds, it is indeed a welcome development. Many of us were perturbed when the impression was first given that only the Jonathan administration would be probed.
And, despite the revelations that have been made about mindless looting of the national treasury since 2010, it is still a fact that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, embarked on corrupt practices from the first withdrawal ordered by former President Obasanjo in May of 1999. Obasanjo’s administration created the template on which his successors built for corrupt self-enrichment while impoverishing the rest of us.
However, the Federal Government is going about this matter the wrong way. Asking how former public sector office holders acquired their wealth is a tedious approach to solving the problem while at the same time excluding their private sector accomplices. The appropriate scope of Federal Government should not concern itself with how much any individual is worth.
The focus should be on how much the public at all levels of government had lost on account of the transactions undertaken by them deliberately. In other words, we should not bother with their wealth, but our attention should be focused on how much we lost as a result of their mis-governance. At any rate, it is much easier to determine when, how and how much we have been robbed that to determine how much they are worth – especially with much of the stolen wealth kept in secret accounts abroad.
Two examples will illustrate the point. A few weeks ago, we published on these pages the details of the Abacha loot handed over to Obasanjo by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, including N8.3bn cash which was kept in the custody of Abacha’s National Security Adviser, Alhaji Ismaila Gworza. Altogether over N100bn of Abacha loot remains unaccounted for by the Obasanjo administration as shown by a repeat of that article published a few weeks ago. Do we need to know how much Obasanjo is worth to ask for the account?
Similarly, the atrocities committed by Obasanjo’s government with regard to the looting of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund, PDTF, are well documented. Nigerians don’t need to know how much OBJ is worth to ask for their money. The way government wants to go about recovering our commonwealth from those who took more their own share would end up being counter-productive and time consuming. What we need to know is quote clear. What happened to some funds whose existence is well-documented. Permit me to reproduce the OBJ case as a model.
From last week, readers would remember that Abacha held 30 per cent of the shares in the same refinery. So, 40 per cent of the shares of that refinery were forfeited to Nigeria in 1999 and handed over to Obasanjo. In addition to properties, Ismaila Gwarzo was also caught with tons of Nigeria’s money which were again handed to Obasanjo’s government. These include the following sums: N2,000,000, N139,051,033, authorization to collect $2,000,000 from Mr Gilbert Chagoury, N8,363,164,000 [that is N8.3bn+] and N247,903,491.
Altogether, even before Obasanjo got into Aso Rock, at least N30-50bn Abacha loot was waiting for him and till today he has not accounted for them. Unfortunately for Nigerians, those were not the only Abacha loot for which Obasanjo had not accounted. There are many more than can be listed here. Let us now list some of the Abacha loot collected when Malam Nuhu Ribadu was Chairman of the EFCC and he shamelessly made himself an accomplice to the disappearance of those funds. Please bear in mind when reading that the amounts to be quotes represent Abacha loot collected between 2004 and 2007 ONLY. Then, you would understand why Obasanjo loves Nuhu Ribadu who was a compromised bulldog. He never investigated what happened to those funds.
Permit me at this point to acknowledge the contribution of Sonala Olumhense, now back with PUNCH in providing some of these figures. The entire list of Abacha loot recoveries will appear in volume two of PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED. However, it will be necessary to bring in three other highly placed, formerly well-respected officials of that administration whose roles might not have been patriotic – Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mrs Nenadi Usman and Professor Charles Soludo – Ministers of Finance and Governor of Central Bank respectively. Those three will need to tell us what happened to the loot recovered. For Okonjo-Iweala and Usman, their involvement in Jonathan’s mess represents the second time they would serve Nigeria badly by collaborating with presidents.
In August 2004 the Swiss government decided to return $500million [N65bn] of Abacha loot to Nigeria. A little over a year after Okonjo-Iweala announces that Nigeria has recovered $458million [N59.54bn] and about $2bn [N260bn] total assets.
In March 2007 Finance Minister said $2.5 billion recovered funds were given to five Ministries – without the approval of the National Assembly and without being paid into the Federation Account to be shared by all three tiers of government. The Federal government was deliberately robbing the states and local governments under Obasanjo. Yet Nuhu Ribadu, Obasanjo’s favourite bulldog, saw nothing. In the June of 2007 Okonjo-Iweala disclosed at a lecture that between $3 and 5 billion was looted by Abacha in truckloads, with Chief Anthony Ani as CBN Governor.
To confirm what Okonjo-Iweala said, Obasanjo himself, during the campaigns for Presidential elections in 2007 had declared that the EFCC under Ribadu had recovered $5bn [N650bn then]. That prompted me to ask in an article published in NATIONAL LIFE, “Where is the loot?” It is noteworthy that until they left office, neither Obasanjo nor Ribadu accounted for the $5 billion recovered. Incidentally, the looting of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund, PDTF, by Obasanjo’s government, which was roundly condemned by a Senate Committee established to probe that account, was also glossed over by Ribadu. [See PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED, Chapter 6 for a fuller account of how PDTF was raided].
The book had been in circulation for close to eight years and Obasanjo had not dared to challenge the accusations. He knows the truth; even if he pretends. And Ribadu as EFCC Chairman was a disgrace on these matters. Show me your admirers and I will tell you who you are. Obasanjo called Justice Idris “stupid” for asking for the account knowing the man cannot reply. I will do it for Justice Idris. Obasanjo, for failing to disclose how he spent over N650 billion Abacha loot, is dishonest.”
Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1821, once called the British,“a nation of shop-keepers.” Nigerians don’t want to be a nation of envious nosey-pokers. Asking people how they got their money might paint us in a bad light. We should ask them what they did with our money.