By Rotimi Fasan
NIGERIA is literally swamped in money right now. Money is and can be found anywhere and in different forms and denominations. Thousands, millions and billions of it. The country is awash in real money. Raw cash. It is available in denominations of dollars, pounds, euro and, of course, the good old naira. Money can be found neatly wrapped in tight bales in scores of huge jute bags.
It can be found- buried in sewer tanks, abandoned in airport lounges; stacked to the roof of firmly locked rooms in swanky high-rise buildings. It could be found abandoned in a Bureau de Change; open market shacks or the dingy rooms of nondescript houses. Everywhere you turn these days there is money. Many times, it is available in liquid form- crisp, sharp notes. It is sometimes to be found frozen in hidden bank accounts; at other times it is ordered unfrozen by courts of competent jurisdiction.
It’s money, money and more money everywhere. But the sad irony about this all is that not a kobo of this money can be touched. Not only because the country is in recession and raw cash, especially when it is of a foreign denomination, is scarce and hard to come by. No, our inability to spend even a naira of the humungous billions being abandoned, ‘lost’ or found these days is not just on account of the inflationary trend into which the country’s economy has been plunged. Rather Nigerians are unable to do anything with the monies being found all over the place because nobody is ready to claim ownership of them. At best they are of dubious ownership involving dubious claimants. This is one of the most unexplainable aspects of our present predicament- that amid the pain of our distressed economy and the non-availability of money in raw, usable form, to the vast majority of Nigerians- it is indeed an issue that defies logic that nobody is keen to claim ownership of the huge sums of money being discovered in different places across the country.
Yet ,Nigerians are not this stupid; they are not so foolish as to find money either carefully or carelessly kept and be slow to claim it. Not many of us are like the United Bank for Africa security guard that returned the $10, 000 he found abandoned within the premises of one of the braches of the bank. How can this be where elected leaders who have more money than they need are the first to help themselves to the national till? How can it be that nobody, not even the very rich ones among us, is willing to come forward to assert their right over the truckloads of money being found all over the place? There is very little or nothing to make of the claim by Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, that the latest discovery of 13 billion naira (hoping nothing has been found again since last Wednesday when the Osborne Towers discovery came to light) belongs to the Rivers State government.
There is little to make of Wike’s claim because he is not saying he is the owner of the money. Rather he is attributing ownership to his predecessor in office and current minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. Amaechi has denounced Wike for his ‘childish’ claim. Wike wants the billions which are in different denominations to be returned to the Rivers State government being amount cornered, he says, by Amaechi from part payment of sale of a gas turbine owned by Rivers State. The National Intelligence Agency, NIA, the other claimant to the money, says the Osborne Towers is one of its operational bases and that the said money that was found in a room in one of the apartment flats in the Towers belongs to it. So far the NIA is having a very tough time convincing anyone how it came by such huge sums and why it prefers a room in one of its ‘operational bases’ to the vaults of a deposit bank for storage. Something stinks here. This is nothing but an act of economic sabotage that should be investigated.
What all these discoveries point to is that Nigeria is in very deep trouble. How can an economy survive with this level of liquidity outside the banking system? If these huge sums of monies exist outside the control of commercial banks in a country where the Central Bank literally injects hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy in order to shore up the value of the local currency, if individuals and government agencies could choose to keep these huge sums of amount under their personal management without fear of consequences, then our country is far more damaged than we care to acknowledge. The previous government led by Goodluck Jonathan simply opened the soft underbelly of the country’s finances and economy to vampires who went on to suck life out of the economy. The blood of the innocent who have borne the pain of this mindless hemorrhaging of the economy will avenge the evil brought upon us all by those who led us to this state.
But before such divine intervention the government of Mohammadu Buhari must bestir itself, rise from its lethargy as it has the immediate task of bringing to speedy judgment those found directly or indirectly complicit in these crimes against our humanity. No country deserves to be treated in this criminal manner by those who called themselves their leaders. Those in power and positions of leadership have failed this country once again too many. They have offended the land, the living, the dead and unborn who have paid, will pay and continue to pay for these serial crimes against our common humanity.
No matter what technicalities are summoned to let confirmed thieves off the hook, the perception remains and the people including those being discharged and acquitted by the courts know their hands are soiled with the proceeds of crime. No court or judge can wash them clean. Theirs are the proceeds of murderous corruption. This is why the actual owners of the huge sums of the monies being found everywhere are shying away from their ‘money’ or are unwilling to claim ownership of their loot which they know is blood money that came from corrupt sources. What more Nigerian wonders lie in wait? We are being told cemeteries have become banks in this new dispensation. One hopes Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and purveyor of this latest insight, is not getting ahead of the story. He will be better off silent to allow the relevant agencies to do their job lest the whole thing starts sounding like attempts to frame innocent people. Nigerians need explanation and the Buhari administration must get to the root of these tragic events.