THE news trending in the social media about huge sums of foreign and local currencies being hidden in several mansions across the country by a former Nigerian leader gives most right-thinking Nigerians goose pimples. Can it indeed be true as we have read in various online portals such as face book, Nairaland and others that the much sought after hard currencies and Naira amounting to over one billion dollars are being hidden in various houses belonging to the wife, relations and concubines of one of Nigeria’s former leaders?
In most cases, such rumours in Nigeria turn out to be reality, as we are in a country where “wonders never end” as they say in ordinary parlance. Every now and then, our countrymen and women are regaled with news of one financial malfeasance or the other and one begins to wonder when we shall extricate ourselves from such damaging scandals that keep unfolding from time to time.
In the latest stories in the social media, its been reported of how some posh mansions scattered across different parts of the country are being stashed with millions of foreign currencies ranging from the dollar, Euro, pounds sterling, CFA and Naira. They are being hidden in fortified safes constructed by major construction firms in Nigeria. The implication of this is that such safes and their places of abode will remain impenetrable.
From Lagos to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Yenogoa, the reports indicate that in several houses in those cities quantum amounts of foreign currencies “occupy” them rather than actual human beings. Some of those houses are also furnished lavishly as a way of concealing the real “occupants”. This kind of decoy is meant to deceive the unsuspecting members of the public.
Obviously, what this implies is that the avowed commitment of the Buhari administration to trace Nigeria’s stolen money may have injected high level paranoia, fear and trepidation, that patronising conventional banking system has become a no go area for corrupt people. As much as this serves the interest of those that perpetrate this act, it is not by any means a good omen for our society and financial system generally, for those in positions of authority to continually rip the country off, just to serve their pecuniary interests. This is without doubt the highest betrayal of public trust and confidence. Irrespective of how demoralising this monumental sleaze appears, yet it is consoling that the war against corruption which the present administration has embarked on is making appreciable impact.
It is only hoped that as the government endeavours to recover all looted funds that Nigerians will offer them the requisite support to go the whole hog in sanitising the system. It is indeed regrettable the heavy toll that many years of sleaze has taken on our country, and the consequent hardships and privations associated with it. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to ensure that as a nation we don’t relent on the fight to reclaim Nigeria from the albatross of corruption.
In the latest instance as reported online we find huge sums of money being frittered away to relations, concubines, wife, etc. The question is where does the redemption lie? Even more interesting is that locations where the monies are hidden are listed. For example, mention was made of Lekki Phase 1, Ikoyi Victoria Island all in Lagos. Equally mentioned in the reports are places like Port Harcourt, Abuja (Maitama and Asokoro), Bayelsa state (Yenogoa and an unnamed village). If the resources of the country are frittered away in this manner, obviously we are in for Armageddon.
All hope is not lost considering that security operatives have swung into action and Nigerians eagerly await the outcome of their investigations. The mere fact that two aides of the former Nigerian leader have stepped forward to spill the beans, or act as whistleblowers as the social media reports indicate, goes a long way to show that Nigerians are indeed sick and tired of a situation where a few revel in opulence with proceeds of corruption while majority of the citizens wallow in abject poverty, squalor and want.
There is no period in our nation’s history when war against corruption has been more desirable than now, considering the negative effects of the malaise in our national life. The dilapidated infrastructure, unemployment, poor health care delivery, drop in educational standards and other ills bedeviling Nigeria are by-products of corruption.
Many observers have at different occasions attributed lack of visionary leadership for the propensity by those in authority to engage in corrupt practices, and this truly is the case, for visionary leaders usually plan ahead for their nations. In Nigeria, it seems that people entrusted with leadership responsibilities consider the interests of their immediate families as overriding than that of the entire nation. It is however gratifying that the Buhari administration has found it necessary to clean the augean stable by fighting corruption headlong.
Perhaps, this is the reason some former office holders have resorted to using their homes as “banks” of some sort by hiding the stolen funds in them. Again, this new approach to sleaze will do more harm than good to the nation’s economy, if we consider the inflationary effects on the economy.
Firstly, it reduces drastically the foreign currencies in circulation for carrying out legitimate business and secondly weakens the naira against other world currencies as we shall now have excess naira chasing few foreign currencies in circulation.
As patriotic citizens, this ought not to be the approach to nation-building and development. Sometimes, it raises the question if Nigerians are different species of human beings that we do things in ways that befuddle sane people.
From the administration of President Obasanjo, and up this day Nigeria is still recovering hundreds of millions of dollars which late Head of State, General Sani Abacha stashed in foreign banks, yet this did not serve any useful lesson on our successive leaders, as they continue to loot the nation’s treasury at will.
By engaging in unbridled corrupt practices, both Nigerians living and those unborn are subjected to perennial poverty, misery, want and diseases as the monies that ordinarily should be used to build the country are stolen and hidden in unknown places.
If it is indeed true as reported in the social media that over one billion dollars are hidden in various mansions across the country by a former Nigerian leader, then government must intensify efforts to recover the loot, and channel it towards addressing the huge infrastructural deficits and other needs of the country.
With the downfall in oil prizes, every kobo must be accounted for, and the new government can only deliver on its electoral promises with available resources. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to give a helping hand in ensuring that past government officials don’t elope with their ill-gotten wealth. The day of reckoning is here with us and everyone, irrespective of status should be called to give account of his or her stewardship. Nigeria cannot continue to go on a roller coaster ride in terms of fighting corruption as it has marred our growth and development as a nation. By the currency conversion rate today, one billion dollars will translate into about N220 billion which can be used to salvage the country.
Mr. Chukwudi Enekwechi, a j ournalist, wrote from Abuja.