Nigeria News

Who actually is holding-on to Nigeria’s money?

Last week, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Abubakar announced the promotion of 24,118 police personnel in the country. According to Police spokesman, Frank Mba, the exercise ranks as the highest number of Police Officers promoted in one fell swoop in the history of the Force. The announcement was a happy one for many families including that of this writer-our own cousin Joe, being one of the beneficiaries.
Two days ago, we held a lavish party in his honour in the family country home. On the occasion, many members extolled Joe’s qualities. Some even imagined that he would one day be the nation’s IGP. Why not? Although this writer neither doubted Joe’s qualities nor the possibilities of his rising to the top of his organization, I was only worried about whether or not, Joe was sure of his salary this month. My contribution was clearly unpopular. It was really obvious from the general disposition of everyone in the party that I was nothing more than the harbinger of bad news! The reaction was however not unexpected considering that many were looking forward to some gifts from the new Oga Olopa of our family.
I was not perturbed at all by the stigma because as a long-time news reporter, I am used to people getting angry with journalists who report ‘unpalatable’ stories. What I said at the party was not my wish. I merely deduced it from last week’s presentation of the current IGP at the National Assembly-  an issue which I believe our newly promoted cousin Joe needs to ponder over whether he likes my views or not.
According to IGP, Mohammed Abubakar, who spoke at the budget defence of the Police before the House Committee on Police Affairs, a possible major crisis might be looming in the Force if the Federal Government does not reverse its decision to cut the personnel budget of officers and men in the 2014 budget. Last year, the personnel cost of the police was N293.5bn, but this year, it went down to N279bn, that is, a shortfall of N13bn.  In the words of Abubakar, “this is a serious shortfall” adding that “very soon; it means that we will not be able to pay salaries”. Can anyone imagine what would happen to Nigerians if police salaries are not paid?
If we cannot pay the Police, to where are we sending the money meant for that purpose? It is obviously not being saved to recruit more hands into the force. This view is informed by the revelation of the then supervising Minister of Police Affairs, Olajumoke Akinjide that plans to recruit additional police men and women to raise the current staff strength of 370,000 were hindered by meager allocation to the ministry.
Who then is getting what the Police is losing? Could it be the Judiciary? That is an unlikely beneficiary because the alarm raised by the IGP was not able to sound louder than that of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Aloma Muhktar, who lamented the fate of the Nigerian Judiciary at the recent swearing-in of 17 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, at the Supreme Court.
The CJN argued that “a situation where budgetary allocation to the judiciary continues to drop while the general government budget is on steady increase every year is clearly an impediment to the quick and effective dispensation of justice in Nigeria and on the whole a set back to the current effort at transforming the judiciary.”  In 2010, the judiciary got N95 billion. It got N85 billion in 2011 and N75 billion in 2012. In 2013, the budget fell even lower to N67 billion. The trend was roundly condemned by many analysts last year but what all the noise could achieve was a meagre addition of N1bn in 2014.Where then did all the drops from the allocation to the Judiciary flow into?
The argument that the problem may be due to a shortfall in the nation’s main economic source of strength-oil revenue is compounded by allegations by state governors that illegal deductions of oil revenues are being made from the federation account. What this seems to suggest is that there is no shortfall in oil revenues, rather what we have is a diversion of revenue. Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State Governor said the other day that over N4.62 trillion had been frittered away from the Federation Account in the last three years being the amount not remitted by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The governor’s allegation became clearer to members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly when they realized that over N480 million was being deducted monthly from the revenue accruable to the state.  What did the Ekiti legislators do with the information? Did they realize that it was an allegation? If so did they seek to investigate it? Did they discover that the deductions were being organized by President Jonathan? If not why did they call for his impeachment on the matter?
In reality however the issue is far too serious to be put into the politics of opposition. A much more robust approach is needed especially as it concerns the NNPC. We dare not fall into the same error of the Central Bank of Nigeria by speculating and giving the nation several conflicting figures concerning NNPC’s alleged non-remittance of funds.
We need to be more accurate about our statements because those holding-on to our commonwealth may just be invincible. For this reason, we have to look here and there up to the so called advanced nations that have since become known as the custodians of stolen money. Only last, week we read a story that the United Sates department of Justice has frozen more than $458million in corruption proceeds hidden in bank accounts around the world by former Nigerian leader Sani Abacha and others.
What exactly do they mean by frozen? Is it another way of saying they have confiscated the loot? If so, it is necessary to appeal to them not to join our heartless brothers and sisters who are holding-on to Nigeria’s money.

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