Opinion

President Tinubu and the Vultures

If I were to choose between the governed and its government, I will choose the latter. This is because it has been established that the former are fortune hunters who in a world of ‘survival of the fittest’, seize every available opportunity to inflict hardship on their fellow compatriots while the latter is saddled with the onerous task of keeping man who is often insane under control. Nothing brings this home more vividly than the ongoing war of attrition being waged not just by the political and economic elite, but by ordinary Nigerians against Nigerians.

We have all become vultures feeding on the blood of the most vulnerable. From fuel subsidy scammers, foreign exchange speculators to the Kano food distributors who short-changed farmers but locked up food items in warehouses while people starve, the egg and bread hawker on the streets of Lagos who attributed high cost of their wares to dollar exchange rate, the first instinct is always how to exploit the vulnerable.

I discovered from a nearby grocery store last Sunday that the price of a loaf of bread had gone up to N1, 300. It used to be N1, 000. Since there was no value added, I decided to drive to another store where I thought I could get ‘coconut bread’ for N1,200. There also, I discovered the price had gone up to N1,600. After wondering when we started importing flour and coconut, I was forced to buy the bread. The story was not different from my neighbour who supplies us fresh eggs from his farm at N2,400 per crate. The price has gone up to N3,500, per crate. He attributed the difference to high cost of drugs needed to treat his birds.

High cost of living has led to demonstration against government in a number of Nigerian cities. Last Thursday, it was the turn of Kano State. The city’s residents took to the streets calling on President Tinubu to come to their rescue as they could not “eat three square meals even the one square meal is now becoming difficult, as a bag of rice which used to go for N25,000 now attracts N70,000. And “Sugar which was sold for N8,000 now goes for N75,000”.

But as if to confirm we are all vultures, three days later, on Sunday February 11, the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission confiscated 10 warehouses with hoarded assorted foodstuffs in Dawakin Tofa Local Government Area of the state. According to Muhyl Magaji, the commission’s chairman, “The owners have been issued notice to report to the commission preparatory to facing charges before the court of law for their illegal activities”.

Perhaps we need a journey through memory to remind ourselves how greed by a few fortune-hunters led to the removal of fuel subsidy by government and the floating of the national currency resulting in current massive depreciation and escalating cost of living.

Fuel subsidy scam started at the onset of the fourth republic when PDP stalwarts and their sibling defrauded the nation to the tune of N1.7trillion by “forging papers without importing a pint of fuel,” in the words of Audu Ogbe the then PDP national chairman. A probe by the National Assembly indicted a number of fuel marketers. (Otedola masterminded a DSS sting operation to nail Lawan Farouk for receiving bribe in order redmove his name from the list.)

Then a forensic probe of Sanusi’s (CBN Governor) allegation that $49.8b was not transferred to the federation account by NNPC confirmed $10.8billion was never reconciled. Andrew Yakubu, NNPC group MD later said $8.76B of the amount was used for subsidy. (An Abuja High Court presided over by judge Ahmed Mohammed who ordered EFCC and CBN to transfer $9.8 million and 74,000 pounds recovered from Andrew Yakubu to an account under the control of the Chief Registrar of the court in March 2022, discharged and acquitted him of all charges).

Sanusi however insisted such expenditure without appropriation was unconstitutional especially since subsidy on kerosene had been cancelled by Yar’Adua since June 15, 2009 when it was discovered that ‘if anyone was benefitting, it must be marketers and government officials. Sadly, about N500 billion was purportedly spent on kerosene subsidy in four years when the product was hardly available at filling stations or sold for N150 as against consolidated N50 controlled price. President Jonathan knew about the scam but shielded his friends in PDP, NNPC and the petroleum ministry.

Buhari similarly failed the nation. Isa Yuguda, former governor of Bauchi State and chairman of the committee on subsidy in 2009 told Channels television “I am sad to let Nigerians know what I saw. We came across situations where subsidy was claimed on pipeline that never existed…. Those that claim to pump the product and those that are in the subsidy scam, they just fill papers, invoices and they claim subsidy on it”.

Yuguda was sure Buhari as president who doubled as oil minister for eight years, was aware of the scam. Buhari lacked the political will to act. He chose instead to leave the poisoned apple for his successor by refusing to budget for fuel subsidy beyond June 2023.

But no sooner President Tinubu declared during his inauguration that ‘fuel subsidy was gone’, than the vultures in the guise of marketers swung into action. Within an hour of the statement fuel disappeared from filling stations across Nigeria or sold for about N700 per litre where available.

President Tinubu also admitted inheriting ‘a rotten’ financial system. The Jim Obazee-led special investigation of Emefiele’s tenure as CBN governor was to later unearth a damning report of monumental mismanagement, fraud and arbitrariness, looting, diversion of funds, forgery and collusion against Emefiele and about 15 others. Specifically, the was an investment of billions of dollars in over 500 banks IN USA, UK and China without approval of CBN board. There was £543,482,213 in fixed deposit in one of the banks in UK.

From alleged manipulation of the forex markets by banks, First Bank, UBA, Zenith, Access and GTB reported a combined N1.38trillion in forex revaluation in the first half of 2023.

As at July 2023, there was also N26.627 trillion in ‘ways and means’, whose “management was dogged by a lot of arbitrariness with funds taken out of the national treasury without necessary authorization”.

Government’s efforts at stabilizing the exchange rate through the unification of the official and parallel market exchange rates “hailed by economists and other stakeholders” have continued to be sabotaged by “some commercial banks who hold long-term foreign exchange positions to enable them profit from the volatile movements of exchange rate”.

In a move to reduce the pressure on the naira, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has raised a 7,000-man special task force across its 14 zonal commands to clamp down on dollar racketeers.

For President Tinubu, the subsidy removal and the floating of the national currency were fait accompli. Unlike President Jonathan and Buhari, there was no escape route. There was just no money to run the government. With 97% of our resources going into servicing debts, borrowing was not an option.

To reduce the burden of Nigerians, President Tinubu must recover our monies from all indicted oil marketers. The banks and some others owe AMCON close to N6trillion. These taxpayers’ monies must be retrieved from the banks and other debtors who are today serving senators or live like princes.

And as an elected sovereign, the president must be reminded he is free to take ‘protective measures including invasion of personal privacy and assault on group culture’ to safeguard the interest of the state.

Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button