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THOSE who were in Lagos around 1991-2 would remember Forum Finance located on Allen Avenue in Ikeja,a company that employed a number of young men and women in flashy cars going about town duping the gullible of their hard earned money. Its famous advert was “Forum go double your money!”. It paid outrageous returns to its earlier investors and this made many fools to part with their money . By the time the bubble burst,it was sorrow and tears for thousands of unwary who lost their fortunes to the Ponzi scheme . Ponzi schemes are named after Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant who perpetrated a legendary scam. Actually, he wasn’t the inventor of this type of scams – it was called “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” schemes – but his was so large that his name became synonymous with it. Ponzi started a business buying and selling a type of postal coupon and promised investors a 50% return on their money within 45 days (compare this to an annual 5% interest for bank savings account at the time).

Money from investors

Ponzi’s early investors did get their money doubled and even tripled in a short amount of time. This, and glowing newspaper reports at the time about his company, the Securities Exchange Company  got him a lot of money from investors. At one point, Ponzi took in $1 million in a three-hour period from investors. All in all, about 40,000 investors invested about $15 million in Ponzi’s scheme in nine months between 1919 and 1920 (about $184 million in 2017 value).

Failed Scheme:

When it was discovered that Ponzi was paying old investors with money from new ones, his scheme collapsed and he was sent to jail … for five  years! After serving his federal sentence, Ponzi was sentenced by the State of Massachusetts for an additional nine years, but he skipped town. Ponzi ended up in Brazil, where he spent his last years in poverty and sickness. Before he died, Ponzi gave one last interview where he confessed to his crime.  “My business is simple. It was the old game of robbing Peter to pay Paul. You would give me one hundred dollars and I would give you a note to pay you one-hundred-and-fifty dollars in three months. Usually I would redeem my note in 45 days. My notes became more valuable than American money … Then came trouble. The whole thing was broken.” (Zuckoff, Mitchell, Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend, p. 313)

Early Ponzi schemes:

In the 1980s in San Diego, California, J. David & Company, a purported currency and commodity trading and investing operation named after its founder, J. David Dominelli, a withdrawn and shy currency and commodity trader, was revealed to be a Ponzi scheme which took in $200 million and returned $120 million to investors, leaving a net loss of $80 million. The scheme touched all levels of upper class business and professional life in San Diego and environs. One of those most closely involved was Nancy Hoover, the mayor of Del Mar, California, a cozy upscale beach town just north of La Jolla. Hoover was J. David’s assistant and live-in companion at the time. Also involved was the prominent New York law firm Rogers & Wells (now Clifford Chance), which had advised J. David (through a rogue partner) and others. When the fall came, J. David briefly escaped to Montserrat in the Caribbean, but was returned ultimately to plead guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment,serving 10 before being paroled. You should not have forgotten now that financier Bernard “Bernie” Madoff was arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. There are four notable facts about his operation: It was the largest (dollar-wise) It was the longest-running (known) Ponzi scheme in history. Investigators sifting through the record found evidence of hanky panky since the 1970s. It was perpetrated by one of the pillars of Wall Street – Madoff was a former chairman of NASDAQ His victims are some of the most financially savvy and rich people in the world (you need at least $20 million to “invest” with him). His  website used to say before it was taken over by authorities: In an era of faceless organizations owned by other equally faceless organizations, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC harks back to an earlier era in the financial world: The owner’s name is on the door. Clients know that Bernard Madoff has a personal interest in maintaining the unblemished record of value, fair-dealing, and high ethical standards that has always been the firm’s hallmark. There was also  Biletov  or fractions of shares of the MMM Corp, bearing the likeness of Sergey Mavrodi. Just one million people? Meh, said Sergey Mavrodi. His scheme duped two million people!

The Mavrodi  scheme:

Mavrodi was a Russian scammer who along with his brother Vyacheslav Mavrodi and Vyacheslav’s future wife Marina Murayveya, founded the MMM company in (the triple Ms came from the surnames of these three people). In the early 1990s, MMM promised dividends of 1,000%, promoted itself heavily in TV ads, and delivered on its promise. At its peak, Mavrodi’s company was taking in more than $11 million a day from the public! Within five years, Mavrodi took in $1.5 billion from at least two million people. When the whole thing unraveled and the police raided MMM offices for tax evasion, Mavrodi pulled another fast one: he convinced his “investors” that it was the government’s fault that they lost their investment. He even ran for the Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament) to get the government to initiate a “payback” programme … and he was elected! That was a good thing because he got himself a parliamentary immunity. When his immunity was later revoked, Mavrodi went on the lam. In 2003, he was arrested , fined $390, and sent to a penal colony for four-and-a-half years. That translates to about $38,052 swindled per hour in the slammer. MMM surfaced in Nigeria in 2016 with a promise on 30 per cent return on any money into the scheme in 30days!

House of Reps intervention

The House of Representatives did one good in its life by warning people against this scam. It asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC,  and the Central Bank, CBN,  of Nigeria to immediately go after the promoters Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox, otherwise known as ‘MMM’ in Nigeria. Lawmakers strongly opposed the investment scheme, which lately gained popularity among Nigerians in the wake of the current economic recession in the country. The Chairman, House Committee on Telecommunications, Mr. Saheed Fijabi, had in a motion, drawn the attention of the House to the growing popularity of the scheme among Nigerians. “The scheme entered the Nigerian circle in 2016, capitalising on the high level of unemployment and poverty to deceive unwary Nigerians into falling  prey to their antics”, Fijabi stated. He added that  the fact that MMM was not regulated by law or approved by the CBN as a secure business venture, made Nigerians more vulnerable. Nobody did anything. By December 2016 when the company froze the accounts of its 3m “muguns’ it had raked billions of Naira unhindered.

The level of our ethical collapse was seen with images of worship places that should teach the right values about wealth creation organizing Ponzi seminars for MMM in their auditoria.How low can it get for a country . Our security agents who were raiding Bureau De Change operators months ago are not yet on record to have gone after the MMM operators who are not known to gave been licensed by the CBN to carry out any financial operations in Nigeria. Is there a government here? My heart sank when I saw Nigerians in their hundreds dancing and holding a vigil on the eve of the January 14 promise by the Ponzi schemers to start another round of duping session. My conclusion was that these people are irretrievably damaged psychologically and it would take a major shock in the system to get them to reason like normal cognitive human beings on this side of eternity. Is their fault totally ?  No,I think the wayward Nigerian system which places emphasis on “sharing” has turned them into playthings in the hands of scammer because of expectations of free money in the order of our allocation mentality.

Goodnight, Alfred Ilenre!

THE cold hands of death   came calling last week plucking one of the most consistent and clear headed activists in the crusade for the restructuring of Nigeria, Mr. Alfred Ilenre at the age of 76. Mr. Ilenre was a journalist with the Nigerian Tribune.  Midwest Champion,Nigeria Observer and Nigerian Herald among others. He was until his Death the General Secretary of Ethnic Minorities Rights Organisation of Africa, EMIROAF, and an effective participant in many platforms that are concerned with getting the proper structures for Nigeria, I met him for the first time in 1990 when I went to the Tejuosho office of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa to interview him for The Punch newspapers.He was to make use of the office with Ken’s PA,Wayi, for many years after he was hung to sustain the struggle he died for.

We worked closely ever since then. I would call him to make appearances on TV every now and again because of his clarity and then on issues of common concern and he would always oblige except he was not in town. My last contact with him was in the home of the renowned poet,Odia Ofeimun during which we shared some thoughts as we used to do. I was to see him again after that with my wife as he was driving on some Lagos street  but he did not hear our calling. The struggle for federalism in Nigeria has once again lost one of its most erudite disciples but it definitely continues . 

It is heart-warming for me to see you, Senators, back in good health, refreshed and energised for the work ahead. Let me on behalf of the entire leadership wish you and all Nigerians a very happy new year.  2016, was a very challenging year for all of us. I assure you that the work we have done so far is gradually setting the stage for a greater and better 2017. Let me, therefore, begin this address by thanking every one of you for the hard work and dedication exhibited in the last quarter of last year to keep the promise we made to all Nigerians that we would pass laws that would make the difference in their lives. 

It is already historic that within the last quarter, which incidentally is the second quarter of this session, we all rolled up our sleeves, with sweat on our brows and successfully passed 49 bills through 3rd reading and 68 bills through second reading. This is a record-setting feat, which has never been matched in the history of the National Assembly. That within a period of four months in the middle of the term of any past National Assembly, 49 bills are passed in a single quarter. I want to especially thank all the committees who worked tireless to help us achieve this milestone. Let me also thank President Muhammadu Buhari for showing faith with the work we are doing here at the National Assembly as he has by today signed into law 16 of the bills we have passed.

As long as our economy is still in recession, our work is not done. Because our people are still being laid off; so long as factories are closing shop, for as long as the hardship in the land continues to bite harder, investment continues to dwindle and the foreign exchange market remains fragmented, I will be demanding even much more from us to get all our economic reform bills passed.  Ideally, we would like to see them pass together with the 2017 budget. Let me therefore urge all our committees involved with our priority bills to double efforts to ensure that by the end of the first quarter of this year we will have these bills ready.

We promise to pass our priority economic reform bills to help aid our economic recovery. This is a promise we must keep. There are already, new NASSBER research findings projecting that our priority bills, will have an output impact equivalent to an average of 6.87 percent of GDP over a 5-year period on the economy. The average annual growth in jobs is estimated at approximately 7.55 million additional employment as well as an average of 16.42 percent reduction in Nigeria’s poverty rate. Over the projected 5-year period, it is suggested that the reforms, which these bills would engender, may add an average of N3.76 Trillion to National income (National Disposable Income was N85.62 trillion in 2014), equivalent to 4.39 percent of 2014 figures.

These statistics make the delivery of these bills imperative and confirm evidently that we have got our priorities right so far. It is hoped that as we begin to turn our focus now towards the passage of the 2017 budget, these bills will be implemented simultaneously with the budget to enable us exit the recession quickly.

It is therefore imperative that we immediately begin work earnestly on the MTEF to ensure passage by the end of the week. In this way, consideration and debate on the 2017 budget will immediately follow in the three “sitting days” of the next week. It is our hope that we will with this budget begin the implementation of the report of the Committee on Budget Reforms, which has since submitted its report. This will enable more Nigerians participate in the budget consideration process, deepen the review and create the necessary efficiencies we expect from our budget implementation.

There is hardly a point reiterating the importance of making the 2017 budget the most successful budget we have ever passed, neither is it important to emphasise the need to have this budget back on the desk of the executive on time for implementation. As you may be aware, based on the recommendations of the Budget Reform Committee, we are working towards ensuring that budgets are prepared and submitted timely, so that implementation will follow a regular fiscal circle. In this regard, the National Assembly will not tolerate agencies of government not submitting their budgets within the budget period. This is why I urge all agencies yet to submit their budgets to do so quickly as budgets not received within time may have to wait for the next budget circle.

The budget is the most critical instrument within our public context for economic reordering. It is an effective tool to stimulate the economy, ensure an even distribution of development across the country; and give the “Made In Nigeria” initiative the impetus to survive and in the long term, sustain itself.  In this particular regard, the Senate has played its part by passing the amendment to the Procurement Act for which we are awaiting concurrence by the House and for the immediate assent of the President. Once this happens, we will not rest at simply assigning it back to the relevant committee but rather, we all will play our part to ensure that all government agencies comply with the law. I for one, intend to put the full weight of my Office behind this initiative to build the trust and ensuing patronage of Nigerians in goods and products made by our own people. I truly believe that this is the singular policy that can play a key role in getting out of this recession, provide the needed jobs; and keep the economy going.

The issue of policy inconsistencies remains an issue that continues to challenge our business environment. I have in the past argued and still hold the view that for a private sector-led economy to thrive, we need to reform our policy environment to give investors and our businessmen and women ample adjustment time to make informed investment decisions rather than have uncertainties. This is especially important in the agriculture and solid mineral sectors where we have significant economies of scale and opportunities for diversification of our economy. In view of this, we shall, in consultation with stakeholders across board, be looking at legislative measures that could increase the potential for a more stable policy environment starting with the agricultural businesses and solid mineral resources sectors of our economy.

Before we left for the break, I and a few others met with stakeholders in the power sector to get an understanding of why no progress has been made thus far despite the best intention; and the revelations were mind-boggling. There had been errors in the privatisation process and the model by which the power sector is being operated—whether at generation or distribution—will never take us where we need to be. It has failed and nobody appears willing to tackle the issue head-on towards a permanent resolution. I have mandated the Senate Committee on Power to continue the consultation with the relevant parties to forge a path to solving our crippling power deficit. After all, if we are going to drive Nigerian industry, we need to resolve this and fast.

While we have our attention on the economy and are working with sweat on our brows to improve it for the betterment of our people, we cannot lose sight of the callous and growing circle of violence across the country, especially now in southern Kaduna. We condemn in totality to depravity being exhibited on the streets of Kafanchan. This Senate will not pay lip service to it neither will it sit idly by and watch innocent Nigerians being slaughtered on the basis of their religion, ethnic group or political persuasion. No, we will not stand aloof. Let me therefore; use this opportunity to call on the leadership in the state to use its authority and constitutional mandate to bring to immediate halt the growing orgy of violence that has enveloped Southern Kaduna.

This new theatre of conflict is one too many and must be nipped in the bud. Thankfully, a motion to this effect is already before us. We will ensure a thorough investigation is carried out to unravel the issues and advise government appropriately on the matter in order to ensure that all those found culpable are severely dealt with irrespective of who may be behind them. This will ensure there is no repeat of this madness and assure the people of Kaduna that injustice and impunity will not be allowed to triumph over our collective will to maintain our national unity and coherence.

The Petroleum Industry continues to be critical to the health of our economy. This is why, the Senate is urging the Executive to take positive steps to begin open and meaningful dialogue with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta to proffer lasting solutions that will help us take advantage of the emerging international oil market outlook to revamp our economic fortunes. The proposed engagement we suggest must be sincere, constructive, open, and aimed at confidence building. This Senate is willing to assist and play whatever role necessary to facilitate a successful agreement that would help us see to the end of the lingering conflict.

I would want us during this session to also pay attention to the protection and preservation of consumer rights. The current situation where consumers’ rights are violated and treated with indignity must stop. We are prepared to defend the right of the Nigerian to receive a superior quality of product or service purchased with their hard-earned resources. We will not stand for the exploitation of consumers and we have already shown that we are unafraid to tackle such issues whether perpetrated by public or private sector service-providers; as was the case of the intended data tariff hike proposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which we moved swiftly to prevent. We want people to know that they can run to us and we will in turn rise in defence of the Nigerian consumer who should be respected as a driving force in the economy.

I cannot end this brief remark of mine without emphasising on the need for us to pursue and conclude the ongoing constitutional review process which we will conclude by the end of this session in March. We must do this to ensure that our people begin to enjoy the benefits of the intended reforms which will help strengthen our unity, increase our prosperity and opportunity as well as expand our liberty and happiness across the country.

Finally, let me thank you all for your unflinching focus and perseverance in the way you have conducted yourself as we march towards the attainment of most of our laid priorities. Though there have been many distractions on the way and unmerited traducers unleashed at you to weaken your resolve, you have remained resolute and un-detachable to our collective goal. This is a reflection of what can be achieved if we keep the focus before the end of our tenure. Like I said when we started this journey, history beckons and we cannot afford to lose sight of the goal.

Saraki, President of the Senate, delivered the welcome address to Senators On their resumption from their 2016 end of the year recess on Tuesday, 10 January, 2017.

Sunday, 15 January 2017 13:57

By Alkali: PINE not just a grass cutter

Written by

The recent indictment of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Babachir, over alleged corruption underestimated the value of work done by the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) argues Mohammed Alkali.

Contrary to the opinion of the Senate, the Presidential Initiative on North-East (PINE) under the watch of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. David Babachir, is not just a grass cutter but a worthy predecessor of the Lt. Gen Theophilus Danjuma-led Presidential Committee on North-east Initiative (NCNI).

The Senate would have had a different opinion if it considered the real work done by PINE within the short time it operated under the SGF.

It must be noted that at inception, the Goodluck Jonathan administration domiciled PINE in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). And most of the initial works and attendant expenditure were done under the supervision of ONSA. It was Buhari that reorganized it and placed it under SGF in last year for ease of coordination since most of the agencies working on the North-east are government ministries and departments.

Its mandate was to mobilse targeted resources to provide emergency assistance to people and communities displaced and adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency; jumpstart and stabilize the region’s economy; and strategically position the region for long-term prosperity. It had 24 members, including representatives of government ministries, departments and agencies, Victims Support Fund (VSF), a representative of the North-East Economic Summit Group (NEESG) and the Nigerian Red Cross working with many development partners.

Upon its inauguration, it quickly developed a three-prong implementation strategy for delivering its mandate. First was the short term plan that was designed to provide emergency assistance and economic stabilization to the victims of the insurgency. This programme covered 11 per cent of the projected 150, 000 households targeted by PINE’s Comprehensive Relief Program across the six states in the region. The second was the medium term plan, aimed at restoring lost livelihood and engaging the region’s youth population in productive works. The third was the long term plan that focused on the development of basic infrastructures: Agriculture, Health, Education, Safety and Security, good governance, international trade and regional economic growth.

In fulfillment of its first implementation strategy of providing emergency assistance, PINE intervened massively in the provision of relief assistance, including food and non-food materials to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the peak of the crisis till the Senate intervention. Specifically, the initiative procured relief materials comprising 960 tons of food items, 450 tons of non-food items, including 17,500 bundles of roofing sheets (zinc), 300 tons of cement for IDPs across the region and 360 tons of food items for IDPs in Niger Republic. It also provided 2,005 tents for IDP families in Borno State.

In pursuit of it second implementation strategy of restoring lost livelihood; PINE began the process of rehabilitation of destroyed infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. It was hoped that this would not only help to begin to resettle the displaced but would also provide some jobs as the rehabilitation works begin. In specific terms, the initiative rehabilitated or renovated 28 schools burnt down by the insurgents. It also face lifted 32 police stations and two police barracks that were burnt down by Boko Haram in Adamawa and Yobe states. It upgraded and equipped the Burn Centers at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, Yola. PINE also provided two ambulances to the Federal Medical Center, Yola and the State Specialist Hospital, also in Yola.

As part of its core mandate of restoring economic activity to the ravaged communities, it removed invasive plant species on River Kumadugu and channeled the river in order to provide irrigation for communities along its banks.

Interestingly it was the award of the contract for the removal of the invasive plants and the channelization of the river that created the uproar at Senate. Yet the contact was not only awarded in compliance with the procurement law, but was also duly executed. The people have since started enjoying the fruits of the project as farmers returned to their farms using water from the irrigation scheme of PINE. Fishing had also returned as the invasive plants had been cleared. It is worthy of note that there is already a large scale production of onions along the banks of the river, so much so that an international market has been created with traders coming from far and wide, including Ghana and Niger to trade.

But by far the most important work that PINE did was the development of a Marshall Plan for the resettlement and reintegration of the communities ravaged by the insurgents. Developed by a 22 member special committee, including representatives of relevant government ministries, departments and agencies, Victims Support Fund, North East Economic Summit Group, Nigerian Red Cross Society, some large companies in the region and several development partners, the plan contained the assessment of needs of the affected part of the region, the specific strategies to address these needs, the framework for monitoring and evaluation and cost estimates for specific interventions.

The plan, which estimated that about 282, 422 IDP households would return to their communities in the next one year, itemized the areas of need as cleaning, clearing and sanitation; restoration of sanitized water and hygiene; provision of food and non-food relief; cash transfers and housing refurbishment materials and support.

Other areas identified are trauma counselling; education and safe schools; healthcare delivery; agriculture and food security; critical infrastructure and productive works; empowering people; community leadership support and post conflict security.

The plan, which has since been submitted to the Danjuma-led PCNEI estimates that a whooping N286billion would be needed to meet these needs.

It is rather disappointing that the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Worsening Conditions of the IDPs in the North-east led by erstwhile human rights activist, Senator Shehu Sani, neglected to recognise these monumental works of PINE and decided to scandalise the initiative with an isolated case of a private transaction between Josmon Technologies Limited and Rholavision Nigeria Limited over the funding of a contract won by the former. For the kernel of the Senate findings was the transfers of monies from Josmon to Rholavision, insisting that the transaction was suspicious.

Senate’s suspicion arose from the fact that Babachir had interests in Rholavision and that the transfers were kickbacks for a contact Josmon got from PINE that was then under the watch of the SGF.

Although the SGF has since denied the charge of corruption, which is now the subject of a presidential review, it is important to note that nothing in the Senate findings showed that the said N233million contact awarded to Josmon was done in violation of the procurement law. In any case the impression created by the Senate that the contract was for the clearing of invasive grass in the IDP camp was grossly misleading.

It is necessary to state, therefore, that the claims by the Senate that PINE was a grass cutter, who actually did not cut any grass, is grossly misleading and completely inaccurate. And since the report upon which it based its conclusion is an interim one, it is only fair that it directs its ad-hoc committee to go back and complete its work, taking care to pay more attention to the facts of the concrete evidence on the ground that PINE has delivered meritoriously on its mandate!

  • Alkali, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Damaturu

SPONSORED BY YES434.COM...THE BUSINESS DIRECTORY: The recent release from a British prison of a former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori has since it happened last month attracted comments from across the nation. While many especially Deltans were happy about the development, analysts from other parts of Nigeria were virtually disgusted over what they saw as a sheepish people turning an ex-convict into their hero.

Many of my avid readers and friends have wondered aloud why I made no comment on the subject. I must confess that for once I found a topic that I was not quite comfortable with because I couldn’t agree with the idea of eulogizing the former governor in view of what he was alleged to have done just as I couldn’t agree with those who felt that his release was not worth celebrating by those whose lives he touched. Luckily, in my visit to Asaba last week, I was well entertained by an interesting debate between some politicians who were on the opposite sides of the divide. Chief James Ibori The anti-Ibori side threw the first jab that it was awkward of the pro-Ibori group to celebrate a common criminal who confessed to his crime and duly served his jail term in full.

They argued that it was a shame that people were celebrating those who embezzled state finances which has largely contributed to our increased unemployment rate in the country, lack of healthcare services, deteriorating educational standards standard and disastrous democracy among other challenges.  If such a situation continued, they imagined that our country would end up without values. Perhaps because of the numerical strength of Ibori’s admirers which tripled the adversaries, the voices of the latter were quickly drowned making it easy for the pro-Ibori group to marshal their points for hours without stop. First, they warned against the erroneous posture that Ibori was the worst Nigerian ex-governor in a nation where every governor turns out to be richer than his state.

They recalled what happened in 2015, when Senator Bernabas Gemade, a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had to decamp from his party so as to qualify to contest the coming elections. His challenge according to the story was that the governor he nurtured having become more viable was set to capture his seat. Nigerian politicians are like that, once in office, they overwhelm their sponsors, hence; many governors hardly support their deputies to succeed them. They mentioned the few who did like Shinkafi in Zamfara or Ganduje in Kano who hardly lasted few months before things fell apart between them and their predecessors. Interestingly, the aggressor is irrelevant as the issue is usually the control of state resources. So when politicians are loyal to a leader and are willingly to stand by him for all times, it is not that they are sheepish, the leader must have consistently touched lives as Ibori, according to his admirers, did to his dynasty of successors and other members of their party.

The pro-Ibori side had an eloquent lead discussant. His response to the charge that Ibori was no doubt guilty because he was convicted by an impartial foreign judge was quite interesting. He began with an explanation of how Britain itself had since found out that the police that investigated the Ibori case were compromised. He said corruption was not only an English word but that it was the British and other Europeans that taught Nigerians how to be corrupt adding that although they claim to abhor money laundering, they hardly ever return such funds to Nigeria making them corrupt custodians of stolen goods.

A few days later, the point became clearer to me when I read a statement credited to the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, that Nigeria risked losing another $550m recovered from the Abacha family to the United States. Speaking to reporters during a media parley on asset recovery jointly organised by his committee and Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, Sagay disclosed that the likely loss was contrary to the earlier promise by the U.S. to return the sum to Nigeria. I honestly enjoyed the debate and if the truth must be told, we have to accept that there is no consensus in this country as to what constitutes corruption. After all, our immediate past President was once quoted to have said that all the noise about corruption in Nigeria was merely a perception. Accordingly, different people understand it differently as the circumstance suits them.

For instance, whereas a section of the senate believes that the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr. Ibrahim Magu should not be confirmed because of a negative report on him by the Department of State services (DSS), a few senators and the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption think otherwise.  Indeed, by rejecting Magu, Prof Itse Sagay believes that the Lawmakers acted in self interest thereby aiding corruption So, before condemning what looks like a people’s indiscretion, it is probably wise to also hear how they arrived at their decision. Here is one instructive story.

About a decade ago, a group of young Edo activists disclosed that they were shopping for another candidate because they felt the incumbent was too dishonest to be re-elected. In later years when asked how come the governor they indicted was re-elected, they explained that they too changed their minds and voted for the governor because they found that the governor that they felt was a thief; would no doubt be better than his rival that they knew to be an armed robber! So, were such voters fools to have preferred the proverbial “lesser” evil? Were they celebrating criminality? What this suggests is that the real difference between Ibori and other politicians is luck.

Therefore, those who think Ibori should be tried again in Nigeria because his supporters celebrated his release from his British prison greatly miss the point. If we concentrate on Ibori, what happens to those who spent N1billion naira building one kilometre of a road?

SPONSORED BY CHIQUEMAGAZINE.COM...CELEBRITIES, ENTERTAINMENT, FASHION & MORE: An oil magnate, Mrs. Ada Ugo-Ndali, fainted in the dock on Friday shortly before she was convicted of a N1.7 billion subsidy fraud by a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja.

Justice Lateefat Okunnu found Ugo-Ndali, the Managing Director of Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, and the company Chairman, Mr. Walter Wagbatsoma, guilty of N1.7 billion fuel subsidy fraud charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Delivering judgement in the matter on Friday, the judge discharged and acquitted the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) representative, Fakuade Ebenezer, of forgery allegations.

After reading the judgement, Justice Okunnu stood the matter down for a 15 minutes break for allocutus plea by the convicted persons.

When the judge returned at 1:15 p.m. to hear the defendants plea for mercy, the second defendant, Ugo-Ndagi suddenly slumped and fainted in the dock. 

When the woman was finally revived, she was breathing heavily just as counsels frantically called for medical assistance and ambulance.

She was later assisted out of the court into a waiting black jeep by her lawyers.

The vehicle sped out of the court premises immediately Ugo-Ndagi was brought in.

The development forced Justice Okunnu to adjourn sentencing of the convicts till Monday.

Wagbatsoma, Ugo-Ndagi and the oil company were arraigned on July 7, 2010 for collecting N1.7 billion from the Federal Government as fuel subsidy payable to Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited.

They were arranged on an eight -count charge of obtaining money under false pretence from government, forgery and altering of documents.

SPONSORED BY HIRING234.COM: The “temporary” forfeiture of $153 million looted funds by the former minister of petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke to the federal government, once again points to the felonious nature of Nigerian banks and their executives. It is a crying shame that there are no sacred institutions in Nigeria. Actually, there are no institutions. Criminality seems the norm everywhere. Only a few are interested in building an enduring enterprise, company or the nation. Everyone else wants to “hammer”! Everyone wants to steal from the system. The shame that a woman is involved in this monumental heist and crime against the Nigerian state is crippling to those of us who wonder if anyone needs that much money. Especially if the money is not coming from genuine enterprise and honest contribution to humanity.

Nigeria’s financial system is not only corrupt in practice, it is corrupt by design. Nigeria banks are notoriously invested in short termism. They offer no real product and services to advance the real sector of the economy. They play and game the system. Their promotions and salaries are designed to incentivise unethical and criminal behaviour and anything else it takes to bring in deposits and generate profits. The banks, like other systems within the country, are a true reflection of the society. A society inflicted with a systemic corrosion of values. A society where the incentive system rewards fraudulent behaviour. Thus, there is no surprise when we get these kind of results because fraudulent behaviour begets social tragedy. The banking halls are vaults of reward for criminal behaviour and in the absence of deterrence and governmental refusal to prosecute, we can only expect more crime.

Nigeria cannot continue this way. What action is the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) taking on this issue? Will it continue to be business as usual?… The price of corruption is steeper than we realise. Every act of compromise has a deleterious effect on the country and it multiplies with grave consequences.

The deep-seated cultural and ethical failures involved in the transfer of money from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on behalf of Ms. Diezani Alison-Madueke confirms the lack of respect for law, regulation and the public trust by banks. At every turn, we continue to see bank executives, who have no respect for financial laws and regulations, who are not worthy of public trust, and are culturally and ethically impaired at a very profound level. Unfortunately, the story will remain the same with the reluctant attitude towards the criminal prosecution of bankers and the banks themselves. It is unfortunate that legal safeguards cannot be maintained because the money the banks spend taints the political process from beginning to end. Even the religious houses are not exempt. Not long ago, some bankers did their stealing in the name of God.

All over the world, we have bankers as crooks but it is worse in Nigeria. Our slavish devotion to the worship of money, wealth and consumption drives all the ills in our society. We have rejected the idea that there is any dignity in the lives of ordinary, law-abiding working people. With alarming frequency, many Nigerians show a willingness to break the law to make money.

Where there is money there will be thieves and this is Nigeria where actions do not have consequences. The economy is very informal and people do not have confidence in banks partly because they know their money is not safe. They also know, from the failed banks of Abacha era, to the Cecilia Ibru usurpation and the Akingbola gallivant, that bank executives are fraudulent. Actually, we expect them to cheat the government, their depositors and employees without a care. What we don’t expect is the government letting them get away with it.

There has to be a method to doing things right and doing the right things. The banks may have to police their own conduct and believe in economic and social justice. If they must survive and not self-destruct, they have to find a way of bringing values and ethics into their transactions and discussions.

Banks are smart spaces. They do a cost/benefit analysis when planning actions that might be financially risky or when they plan to do something that they know to be illegal. That is why much of the Diezani loot were placed off the balance sheet in clever schemes to avoid detection. Banks usually plan ahead to examine the odds of getting caught, and they weigh the penalties against the profit from the transaction if caught. If the projected profit exceeds the penalties, or if the risk of getting caught is low, they make a run for it. The top cadre of banks are filled with legal wizards and finance whiz kids paid to think bad! They spend their time on studying labour loopholes that allows marketers to be forced into prostitution in the name of deposits, beat anti-money laundering procedures and offshoring of accounts, hiding liabilities and cooking the books. Illegal banking has evolved into a behemoth that feeds corruption, drug trafficking and terrorism. They are not used to hard work, creative financial services and long term planning. Flirting with enormous sums of money in illicit transfers, is easy money.

Nigeria cannot continue this way. What action is the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) taking on this issue? Will it continue to be business as usual? We should be concerned because inspectors from the Central Bank are routinely bribed and entertained by the banks and they don’t do their jobs. The price of corruption is steeper than we realise. Every act of compromise has a deleterious effect on the country and it multiplies with grave consequences. There has to be a method to doing things right and doing the right things. The banks may have to police their own conduct and believe in economic and social justice. If they must survive and not self-destruct, they have to find a way of bringing values and ethics into their transactions and discussions. Gaming the system remarkably by being greedy, aggressive and out of control cannot serve them well. Their complicity in the Diezani heist is absolutely shameful. The Roman playwright Plautus wrote; Nam ego illum periisse duco, cui quidem periit pudor – I count him lost who is lost to shame. If they face no consequences for their actions, it will happen again.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú is a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst.

SPONSORED BY X365TV.COM: Army spokesman, Brigadier General Sani Usman says another Chibok schoolgirl has been found, one of the 219 stolen by Boko Haram insurgents on 14 April 2014.

She was identified as Rakiya Abubakar. She has a six month old baby.

She is the 23rd to be recovered so far, since the Buhari administration came into office.

She was discovered by troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, in Maiduguri, during investigation of arrested suspected Boko Haram terrorists

Usman, the Director, Army Public Relations, on Thursday in Abuja, said in a statement that preliminary investigation discovered that “she is the daughter of Abubakar Gali Mulima and Habiba Abubakar of Chibok”.

”She further stated that she was a student of Senior Secondary School Class 3B (SS 3B), before her abduction along with her colleagues on April 14, 2014 by the Boko Haram terrorists.

“Rakiya Abubakar is presently undergoing further medical investigation and would soon be released to the Borno Government,” Usman said.

SPONSORED BY X365TV.COM: The Inspector-General of Police( IG), Mr Ibrahim Idris, has disagreed with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), on the number of people killed in the Southern Kaduna crises.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Kafanchan had alleged that the unrest in Southern Kaduna had claimed over 808 lives, in 53 villages in the area.

But Idris disputed the claim in Abuja on Sunday at the new year dinner organised by the Nigeria Police Force for its personnel.

He stressed the need for religious, community and political leaders to be patriotic in their endeavors for peace to reign in the country.

The IG cautioned Nigerians to avoid unnecessary tension which could lead to destruction of lives and property.

He said that Nigerians had no other country than Nigeria, hence the need to do those things that would bring peace and unity to the country.

Idris advised Nigerians to live in peace with one another in spite of religious and ethic differences.

He commended officers and men of the force for their commitment to providing security to all Nigerians across the country.

Idris restated the Nigeria Police Force’s commitment to providing adequate security without bias to any section of the country.

SPONSORED BY BUY656.COM: The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), on Monday said it was committed to providing its customers in five states of the South-East with smart meters in 2017 to reduce complaints about high bills.

The Head, Communications Department, EEDC, Mr Emeka Eze, stated this in Aba on Monday.

He said the company had started providing meters in Awkunanaw area of Enugu State, adding that other states will gradually be metered.

“Metering is one major thing we are taking very seriously in the New Year. Over N9 billion had been invested in metering project so far in the last one year.

“The metering gap is quite huge and we do not have the resources to provide meters for everybody at the same time.
“We have more than 700,000 unmetered customers in our network. So it is something that will take us a while. The 700,000 are the ones we have in our books.
“There are electricity consumers we do not have in our books and are the people we are trying to bring into our books through the enumeration we are to start this January’’, he said.
Eze said part of EDC’s plan in the new year would be to ensure that its services were improved to give customers value for their money.
He expressed hope that generating companies would improve their generation and so improve the volume of electricity distribution to customers.

He said EEDC was forced to manage the little electricity they were supplied, adding that the vandalism of oil pipes lately had contributed to the low level of supply being experienced.

Eze urged the customers of EEDC not to delay in bringing complaints about service problems to the customer service centres created newly to ease access to the managers for quick solutions.

Nobody would argue that Fidel Castro changed Cuba. Whether it was for better or worse than he met it depends on your economic and political persuasions. No matter what, Fidel Castrol made a pivotal impact since his influence is felt throughout the world. Africans have their share of remarkable leaders: from Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Albert Luthuli to Idi Amin and Abacha. They and many others influenced and shaped their countries in different ways.

So one writing that went viral claimed that ten Buhari could not change Nigeria. We all seized upon it to make our points whether to give up on Nigeria or keep on trying until we die. Some of his frustrations were shared by most of us, whatever position we took. Nigeria is a mess that has not risen up to its potential or expectation as a regional power. So much was expected in the sixties after Independence. Some even claimed if it was Nkrumah that headed Nigeria, Eh!

The point of one man that wrote the piece was that as a qualified Engineer, he had to beg and bribe his way at every level to get a contract with every Sule, Nnamdi and Tunde that never went to school or had the foggiest idea of the work to be accomplished in the contract. Before he could get paid, he had to bribe at every level again. It is the normal way of life in Nigeria and would ever remain the same, even in the face of ten Buhari as the head of that blessed Country.

Some of us wondered if he was around during the first coming of Buhari/Idiagbon or the short life of Abacha in power. Of course he was, that was military, unsustainable in democracy. Well, no one believed OBJ could retire all the military politicians, “marginalized” the old Northern power brokers with the concentration of all Armed Forces chiefs in the North-Central, establish ICPC and EFCC, bring Igbo into prominent posts since the war and would still serve two terms.

Oh please, Obasanjo used ICPC and EFCC to hunt his enemies and Ribadu used EFCC to hunt only some of Obasanjo’s friends. The points the guy made about Nigeria still stand because after all these, Nigeria has degenerated into abysmal failure where most of its leaders have either been indicted or convicted for one crime or another but are still seating pretty, holding on to their posts in the face of one Buhari. So what could ten Buhari do?

When Nzeogwu struck in Nigeria, these are the same people that claimed he was too brutal and some of his colleagues betrayed his cause anyway. But when Jerry Rawlings struck in Ghana the same people justified his action. Only that we could not see how such low-level officers would succeed in Nigeria. While most Nigerians agree that we need a leader with iron fist to succeed, probably with some military experience, Nigerians abuse the benefit of doubts in democracy!

However, we do not have democracy in Nigeria. Those in favor of the writing that went viral would agree that what we have in Nigeria is lootocracy! We spent so much energy and time indulging in self-deception as if we are practicing democracy. The only time looters cry in support of democracy is when they are caught red handed with tons of foreign cashistics in their sewer, farm, house helps’ account, foreign banks and places only crooks would think of.

Who is fooling whom? Let a hungry man steal food from the market and watch angry people transfer the punishment they should have administered to their politicians, bankers and now judges of due process; to poor people. There are no souls left to fight against jungle justice to the poor men and women that needed actual due process and rule of law in a democracy.

The problem with the guy that decided to check out of the country because he had lost all hope that ten Buhari could fix the problem in Nigeria is that, he condemned system that he exploited so much, he made enough to take off to establish in Australia. He never disclosed how much he made from the rotten system to anticipate that he would live a better life in a new country. His false hope is that with his money he would be well received. He is not going there to toil afresh.

Let us remind him that Umaru Dikko and Akinloye had more money than him but could not wait to come back home. Actually, Richard Akinjide had very viable law practice in London but could not live as comfortably anywhere else. There are many more that made either clean money or gained from the corruption in Nigeria only to take off, hoping never to return home. When they miss African hospitalities, accolades of praise singers, friends and family shower on them, nko?

There is a difference between the desperadoes that could not survive or get one or two meals a day crossing the deserts and those that benefited from corruption in the system. Even many of those perished in the sea before they get to their dream paradise. Yes, there is nothing good to say about a country that feeds its talents to the seas and deserts like feeding their infants to the lions. But those that get trained on life scholarships and exploit the system must think twice.

Someone that benefits from the corrupt system like the guy that wrote about ten Buhari, can’t survive abroad. The life they dream of and think they are going to live may be too expensive to maintain unless they can come back home to milk our corrupt system some more, the only way they know how. If you cannot change yourself in a country, you cannot change any country.

Africans coming abroad in their adult life have never struggled like those that came as youths to work and pay to go to school, on minimum wage forcing them to cut coat according to their size and suffer insults and discrimination even when they are at the height of their careers. Most may have avoided ghetto where many minorities live, endure sounds of gunshots in their sleep or wake up to one more dead body in the neighborhood daily. Think before you check out O!

The salvation of Africans and black people wherever they are in this world will not be achieved until Africans achieve it at home for which everyone can point to and be proud of. We can export as much American dollars and British pounds, we neither print nor mint, as we want. We will be seen and will remain the descendants of underachievers everywhere we go forever.

The amount of talents in every field Africans possess and waste outside will be used to develop other countries. Individual rewards in return will be minimal compared to what we could gain if achieved, built on and sustained by African youths. Election of Donald Trump is not an accident, not based on policy or vote. They want to protect their country from outsiders. If we messed up ours so much, which country is going to let us in; so that we can mess up their countries too? 

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