By Tonnie Iredia
Developed countries and their international organizations that rely majorly on figures have always come to the aid of Nigeria in areas where she is unable to ascertain exact impacts. It is easy to know from them for instance, that the mosquito is the nation’s greatest enemy. According to one such platform, only 3% of Nigerians do not face the risk of malaria, the other 97% are constantly ravaged by it. Malaria contributes to an estimated 11% of maternal mortality in the country. On the average, about 300,000 deaths per year in Nigeria are attributable to malaria. However, whereas the dangers associated with the mosquito are not doubted by Nigerians, those of other non-human enemies are often downplayed. These other elements are numerous, but only a few tend to make the news these days among office holders in the country.
Let’s begin with that of the monkey. The story began with a sudden change of leadership of the Northern Senators Forum during the 8th National Assembly. The change according to the media was due to dissatisfaction by members over how the then leader of the forum, Senator Abdullahi Adamu was alleged to have poorly managed Seventy million naira (N70m) inherited from the 7th Senate. Efforts to get to the root of the matter failed but Senator Shehu Sani a man known for making striking statements gave a vivid perspective. He argued that the money which could not be accounted for may have been swallowed by monkeys at the Senator’s farm. When pressed to say more he said, “there are some things that some of my colleagues cannot say but I’m not used to holding back what is the truth.” The Senator said he was worried over the way Nigeria was becoming a huge joke adding that whereas rodents made it impossible for the office of the President to be functional at a point, there had also been stories of other animals consuming millions of naira in some other offices.
If the story about the monkey was an imagination, which many may have doubted, the one about a gorilla swallowing money was a real story. Last month, a gorilla was accused of swallowing N6.8 million in the Kano Zoological Gardens. A finance Officer in the zoo was quoted to have said that the gorilla sneaked into an office and carted away the money before swallowing it. Umar Kobo, the managing director of the zoo confirmed that the money was missing and that the incident which happened during the Sallah celebration was under investigation. While no one knows what has now been done about the gorilla, the police spokesman in Kano, Abdullahi Haruna says 10 persons most of whom were on duty at the time of the operation by the said gorilla have been arrested in connection with the subject.
Another non-human enemy is the snake. With a change of management in the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board JAMB, a story of the enemy action of the snake came to light. The story was that a snake sneaked into the accounts department of the Benue State Branch of the Board in Makurdi and made away with N36million naira cash. A salesclerk in the office, Philomena Chieshe told auditors investigating the movements of funds in JAMB that some people had been spiritually stealing money in the office through a mysterious snake that sneaks in to swallow the money in the vault. All this came to light because the new JAMB Registrar, Prof Ishaq Oloyede decided to overhaul the corrupt system he inherited. The story was, indeed, a mystery to many people which probably prompted Senator Shehu Sani to show interest in resolving the issue. He consequently visited the headquarters of JAMB with anti-snake venom and snake charmers to catch the snake.
The JAMB Registrar reportedly went into rounds of laughter when the Senator presented him with two packs of anti-snake venom and offered the services of two snake charmers to fish out the snakes that swallowed the huge amount. Like the Registrar, not many believed the possibility of snakes doing such havoc but legislators at the Ondo State House of Assembly may probably be thinking twice now.
Only last Thursday, the sitting of the House ended abruptly following the invasion of snakes during a plenary session in the chamber. It was gathered that the snakes came in through the ceiling of the chamber. According to media reports one of the snakes almost fell on the Speaker, Bamidele Oloyeloogun who was presiding. While one snake appeared to have targeted the Speaker, a second one was going for the mace. Before adjourning indefinitely, the legislators were also alarmed to observe that termites had completely eaten several parts of the chamber. This may have been due to the fact that legislators who carry out oversight functions to other organizations have no one doing same to them
This new observation about the activities of termites adds to the growing number of non-human enemies of Nigerians which adversely affect the nation’s development. In truth, the issue of the termites is not one to be taken lightly because they appear to be engaged in the indiscriminate destruction of anything no matter its owner. Just the week before, they ate up the school certificate of Justice Tanko Mohammed, the new Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN. The termites invaded the home of the judge in Bauchi in 1998 to devour the document beyond recovery as no portion of the certificate could be salvaged. These facts were contained in an affidavit which the top jurist submitted to the Senate during his recent screening to become head of the Supreme Court. No one knows how many other documents of many Nigerians have been consumed by termites
Interestingly although these stories are upsetting, there have been instances when dangerous animals were actually imported into the country. Two years ago, the Nigerian Customs Service claimed it intercepted three consignments containing snakes and 660 other animals imported into Nigeria from Cameroon. The containers were brought in through the Calabar waterways to the National inland Waterways Authority jetty in Calabar, Cross River State. The other animals which were identified as geckos, millipedes, hairy frogs and spiders were said to be worth about N6.9 million. According to the customs officials in Calabar, the consignments which were Lagos bound were prohibited items adding that there was no permit to bring live animals into the country. Government later handed over the consignment to the University of Uyo for a comprehensive expert report on the consignment.
Yet to be disclosed is whether any of the content of the consignment found their way into the society. Are the snakes in the consignment real or spiritual entities like the ones that did havoc at Benue JAMB? We may never get an answer, but the issues involved need to be ironed out before it becomes a trend for explaining inexplicable losses in the country.