The subject I dreaded most as a student was Mathematics. The sight of numbers easily unsettled me. Not a few of my concerned teachers had to call me to their offices to ask what my problem was with a subject many of my classmates gleefully announced as their best. Their concern was accentuated by the fact that my performance in the subject was always drawing my position back. They reckoned that but for my poor performance in Mathematics, I would consistently be one of the best three in my class, but they were worried by a situation where I would perform excellently in other subjects only for Mathematics to mess up the overall result.
At the initial stage, I made deliberate efforts to overcome the phobia I had for the subject, but the harder I tried, the more monstrous it became until the sight of numbers sent panic waves through my spinal cord. So, from my early years in secondary school, I knew that I was not going to have anything to do with any course with a bent of Mathematics. Mercifully, there were many courses I could do in the university without been capable of adding two and two together. I made up my mind as far back as that time that I would study Law or Mass Communication. It goes without saying, therefore, that one of my biggest reliefs as I left secondary school was that I would no longer endure the sessions of abracadabra my classmates called Mathematics period.
Since I left secondary school, I have avoided figures like leprosy except where they had to do with money. I have done so successfully until President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 29 and the ugly monster started baring its fangs again in the form of the billions of dollars reporters are quoting on a daily basis as sums embezzled by some actors in the immediate past administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. To be sure, many concerned Nigerians had expressed their fears long before Buhari assumed office that many officials of the administration had preoccupied themselves with the looting of public treasury. Only that no one seemed to suspect that the sums involved could be anything near the mind-boggling ones that are being rolled out on a daily basis.
The alarm bell was first sounded by former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now the Emir of Kano, when at the twilight of the Jonathan administration he accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) of failing to pay about $20 billion in oil revenue to the government between 2012 and 2013. The government denied that any money was missing even before an investigation was conducted, and removed Sanusi as CBN governor.
But that turned out to be the beginning of the revelations in the graft that enveloped the Jonathan administration. PriceWaterHouseCoopers, an audit firm the Jonathan government hurriedly commissioned to audit the books of the NNPC, said the corporation only had to account for $1.48 billion. But a former CBN governor, Chukwuma Soludo, wrote a long, acerbic article accusing the managers of the nation’s economy of misappropriating over N30 trillion of public funds, including several billions in oil money.
In an opinion article published by the Financial Times of London, Sanusi also faulted the report of PriceWaterHouseCoopers, saying the argument that the outstanding amount was used by the NNPC for apparently unlawful purposes such as kerosene subsidy, did not diminish the notion that the NNPC illegally withheld billions of dollars from the government. “Contrary to the claims of petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, the audit report does not exonerate the NNPC. It establishes that the gap between the company’s oil revenues between January 2012 and July 2013 and cash remitted to the government for the same period was $18.5bn,” Sanusi said.
But those were just signs of the things to come as has been evident in the mind-boggling revelations of the sleaze that had had been the lot of the nation’s finances under Jonathan. Edo State governor and member of the National Economic Council (NEC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was the first to raise the alarm shortly after the NEC was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 29, saying that the sum of $2 billion the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) said was left in the excess crude account (ECA) was $2.1 billion short of the $4.1 billion the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had earlier declared.
Oshiomhole said: The last time the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, reported to the council, and it is in the minutes, she reported by November 2014 that we had $4.1 bn. Today, the Accountant-General Office reported we have $2.0bn. Which means the honourable minister spent $2.1bn without authority of the NEC and that money was not distributed to states, it was not paid to the three tiers of government.”
Okonjo-Iweala promptly responded to the allegation in a statement issued by her spokesperson, Paul Nwabuikwu, describing the allegation that she made the withdrawals without authorization as false and malicious, insisting that the withdrawals had the blessings of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) whose meetings are attended by finance commissioners of the 36 states of the federation. But FAAC promptly took exception to Okonjo-Iweala’s claim that it (FAAC) was privy to the withdrawal of the said sum, saying that Okonjo-Iweala’s explanation was “far from the fact and misleading,” adding that the law that set it up did not give it the power to approve withdrawals from the ECA.
Apparently rattled by the FAAC’s reaction, Okonjo-Iweala shifted the blame on former President Goodluck Jonathan on whose directives she said the withdrawals were predicated.
Yet more shocking are the sordid tales emerging from the sum of $2.1 billion the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki allegedly withdrew from the Central Bank of Nigeria for arms that were never acquired. Already named among the beneficiaries of the scandalous deal are the chairman emeritus of DAAR Communications Limited, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi; former Director of Finance in the Office of the National Security Adviser, Mr. Shuaibu Salisu and former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, among others.
Only yesterday, the news media were awash with the story of another sum of N8.4 billion the Jonathan government paid Dokpesi’s DAAR Communications Limited for a contract awarded to it by Federation of International Football (FIFA). That was a day after Salisu relived how he moved 11 suitcases loaded with $47 million from the Central Bank to Dasuki’s house in Abuja. The figures are already making me dizzy but the President says the facts are only beginning to emerge. I need help before the billions drive me nuts.
.BY VINCENT AKANMODE