Ikoyi Recovered Billions and The Mess Following It

Written by Niran Adedokun
Just 24 hours after The PUNCH columnist, Abimbola Adelakun, wrote about the needless spectacle that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission brings to its work, the agency out-performed itself in a most unforgettable way.

Like a man known to possess a rotten dentition whose pastime is routinely flashing his teeth at every stranger, the EFCC swooped on an apartment in Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, the same morning it claimed to have received a tip from a whistle-blower.

The operation was phenomenally productive as the EFCC made the mother of all recoveries, harvesting various sums of money said to amount to about N15bn!

The commission took its camera, filmed the proceedings and then went on its Facebook page to break the “good news” to Nigeria shortly after the deed was done with.

In essence, Nigerians got near real-time feeds. From the sequential discovery of the incredulous volume of the money, every single step taken at retrieval as well as the painstaking counting, each of those moments was captured in such a way that the documentary can favourably compete with the recently concluded Big Brother Naija reality show. The only unfortunate thing is at the end of it all, the EFCC was unable to tell us the owner of the money, an information that is of equal, if not more value, as the haul.

I can never understand what the EFFC gains from this triumphalism especially when it neither busted this crime on its own steam nor has advanced the intelligence received from the informant to the stage of revealing the possessor(s) of the humongous cash.

To start with, no country that wants to be taken seriously should so publicly exhibit mounds of cash, believed to be proceeds of crime, every other day. The EFCC will be grossly misguided to imagine that these extravaganzas add anything to its image externally, especially as it has repeatedly put the cart before the horse in a lot of its operations. Nigerians, in their moments of emotional inebriation, may hail it on but I do not think that such actions do us any reputational good. Even this government has said that those who have stolen the bulk of Nigeria’s money are less than a hundred; these exhibits have the potential of making all of us look like money mongering savages.

It is true that perception is essential to assessing the country’s progress on the anti-corruption warfront, but it cannot be from the serial display of out-of this- world cash stacked in all sorts of spaces including the morbid as suggested by information minister, Lai Mohammed, early this week.

Every country in the world battles the corruption cankerworm but none debases the humanity of its citizens like us. Elsewhere, the evil that corruption does is taken with seriousness and dealt with in sobriety. Investigations are thorough and completed before arrests are effected and prosecution, commenced.

When someone blows the whistle on a crime, it is expected that the informer would be in a position to give insights into perpetrators of the crime. And where he is not, a serious-minded agency would keep vigilant, even if it takes two years, and catch someone red-handed before rushing to make news of the event. Sadly, the reverse is always the case in Nigeria and I do not see how the disregard of processes, which the judiciary has identified as the clog in the wheel of prosecutorial successes for the EFCC, could be complimentary at home or abroad.

But there is a graver sense in which this obscenity is unacceptable. It concerns the sanity of the ordinary Nigerian. For a country where poverty is as prevalent as it is here, displaying these sums of money said to have been looted could impair the mental balance as well as the faith of nationals, many of who go to bed hungry and have no clue when or where the next meal would happen.

Perhaps, the government of the day and its agencies consider the public show an important justification of the success of one of the promises it made to the people, but it seems to me that allowing the people to live blissfully, in ignorance of the real extent of the rape of the country, is far more advantageous to a people whose health care is not on the priority list of the government.

It should be said though, that last week’s event and the handling it has received thereafter, are consistent with the character of this administration and its agencies. A careful examination will reveal a discernable pattern over the past two years. Showmanship, grandstanding and bluffing are the essential modes of communication for members of this administration, when they communicate at all.

And in most of their communication, the President and his people are consumed with a passion to imprint it in our minds that they are better than the rest of us. Without them, Nigeria would have sunken. We owe our lives, living and livelihood to them, hence we should not ask questions! This is why they only speak to us when they wish; it is why people are held in detention months after they would have been granted bail by courts of competent jurisdiction.

Silence from the EFCC and the Presidency is also customary in the circumstance. Since they do not imagine that they owe Nigerians any explanation, they allow the rumour mill go on overdrive with conjectures flying all over the place.

Then, a bunch of inconspicuous “sources” leak some unsubstantiated gist to media houses all aimed at muddling up things and confusing us into either abandoning pertinent questions or systematically exonerating members of the administration.

Take the issue of this Ikoyi cash discovery for instance; the EFCC which recovered the money and came to the public with it was shortly after hit by a mute spirit, no longer volunteering information. On the contrary, various news platforms have attributed all sorts of claims to unnamed elements usually summarised under the tag: “top EFCC sources”. At the moment, no fewer than five names have been mentioned in connection with the proprietorship of these monies, starting with the National Intelligence Agency. I have even read two different descriptions of who the whistle-blower might be. So, you wonder, did the EFCC sources also give out the whistle-blower’s identity?

Some news platforms have also claimed that printed materials of the Jonathan/Sambo campaign organisation were found in the apartment. This is not an impossible proposition; its only weakness is that it started making the rounds about two days after the EFCC discovery. And it would be very curious that the organisation did not disclose this fact when it told us about the money! This, therefore, appears to be a mere afterthought

Rumours about the money belonging to the NIA also further the obvious disjointedness in the administration. Recall that the firmest weapon against the confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the EFCC is a report from the Department of State Services, an organ which sits in the office of the same President who desperately wants Magu.

A government official said this was an indication of the President’s non-interference with the work of the DSS but I cannot find anything more pathetic. It is actually conclusive evidence that the President is an outsider in his office. The same way in which claims that the NIA did not brief the President about the alleged covert operation are ridiculous and worrisome. Does this administration even have a clearing house within its intelligence and security apparatus? Does everyone talk directly to the President or just go ahead to make themselves happy?

This lack of cohesion isn’t limited to the security arm of the government; isn’t it a known fact that the legislative and executive arms of government are hardly able to agree on anything in this dispensation, isn’t the ruling All Progressives Congress, currently a dishevelled mockery of its 2015 form without any hope of a redemption? Why is it that the administration is unable to hold it together?

Personally, I consider the major problem to be government’s inability to see its own true image in the mirror. Instead of introspecting, its honchos are intoxicated by the wine of self-glorification and ego tripping. They are drawn by the hype that they are the best thing to happen to Nigeria and do not care what anyone feels about their inadequacies. It is the reason why they haven’t made much impact on this country and why, if care is not taken, they will look back in four years, and be unable to beat their chest for having achieved anything significant and enduring.

- Niran Adedokun