Dr. Wumi Akintide

Because information is a tool for decision-making, I am using this article to cry out to the two Presidents of Nigeria on a developing issue I think they need to be aware of. Nigerian banks rip off Nigerians who send money to their parents and loved ones through money grams and Western Union.

The first president is Muhammadu Buhari who was elected on his promise of change by more than 2 million Nigerian voters and more than 25 percent of the voters in more than 2/3 of the 36 States of Nigeria. The second is Bukola Saraki who was elected Senate President in a coup by 57 out of 109 senators in the Nigerian Senate. Saraki was elected by 49 senators of the PDP and 8 of the 59 APC senators.

The development qualifies as a coup because 51 out of the 59 APC senators were locked out and shut out of the election on the senate floor and they did not know ahead of time what Saraki and his 49 PDP senators were planning. They were gullible and foolhardy enough to believe that the PDP could never stage that kind of coup against the APC. The APC leadership and their President and Vice President couldn’t believe that the PDP could carry their impunity to such a ridiculous extent.

They foolishly thought the APC was riding high on popular support for change in Nigeria. They grew careless and in the process they put their party in a "cul-de-sac.” I guess now, much to their own regret and everlasting embarrassment, they know better. The APC won the election but the PDP used 419 to beat the APC at their game. The PDP had took over the Senate with their 49 senators and the 8 APC senators including Bukola Saraki.

With a “quid pro quo” mindset, the 57 senators at the Senate Chamber all voted to crown Saraki as the Senate President, Ekweremadu of the PDP as his Deputy, and David Mark of the PDP as the Majority Leader with the excuse that they were honoring the soldier-turned politician as the longest serving Senate President in all of Nigerian history.

It was a well-orchestrated and flawlessly executed coup; Saraki sleept overnight inside his car at the Senate parking Lot a day before the election so nobody could kidnap him or stop him from attending the special session on the Senate Floor. He knew that 51 out of his 59 APC senators were scheduled to be away from the Chamber at the time fixed for the special election at the Senate Chamber.

Saraki got his wish at the expense of his Party, which was rooting for Senator Lawan as Senate President, Akume as Deputy Senate President, and another APC Senator as the Majority Leader.

Hiding behind Senate rules, Bukola Saraki imposed himself on the APC at a time when Party supremacy was unheard of in the APC because the Party was ill-prepared for their sweeping victory on March 28 and April 11.

It can be argued that Nigeria now has two presidents from the same party.  Buhari rules from Aso Rock and Saraki rules from the Senate Chamber. No bill can become law in Nigeria if it has not been passed or amended in the Senate. The same bill cannot become law if it has not been signed into law by Buhari.

Today the Senate President receives representatives of foreign Governments, like Ambassadors, in his office in the same way as his rival in Aso Rock. Bukola Saraki has become another “Akintola taku” of Nigerian Politics. If the APC tries to remove him by force or through court litigation, the APC would lose all credibility. Neither the APC nor Buhari likes Bukola Saraki, who has now become a thorn in their flesh.

Buhari will forever regret his inaugural statement that he “belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody.” He will also regret his statement that he is ready and willing to work with any leader that emerges from either the Senate or the House of Representatives. That statement will continue to haunt him for the four years of his one-term presidency.

If Saraki and his 7 conspirators in the APC are forced to decamp to the PDP today, Nigeria may well have a situation in which the PDP becomes the majority party in the Nigerian Senate. That will be just like the classic Yoruba proverb “Ara o rokun ara o r’adiye,” which means, “When a rooster tries to balance itself on a string, the rooster is bound to experiences as much discomfort as the string or the rope.” Buhari is the rooster and Saraki is the string.

The APC is no position to move forward or backward right now because Saraki has put the Party in a double bind. All the APC can do now is hope for a miracle that somehow Buhari or Osinbajo will be able to perform a miracle for the APC. Nobody is sure right now if Osinbajo has the anointing to perform that kind of miracle for the APC. Buhari, who is a born-again Muslim, would not even try.  If he has such magic wand he would have tried it, first and foremost, on Boko Haram, which is giving him as much headache as it used to give to Goodluck Jonathan.  Many of us used to pray to be like Buhari. Not anymore, because the guy is fast losing his credibility with Nigerians as he moves from one blunder to another, with no end in sight…

If I make this plea to Buhari alone I could be wasting my time because Buhari alone cannot fix the problem without some help from Saraki. I realize I cannot change the world by keeping quiet. I am a strong believer in the Biblical injunction which says, “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given unto you and knock and it shall be opened unto you.” The corollary is that you find nothing if you don’t seek, and you get nothing if you never ask, and no door gets opened for you if you don’t knock.

I recall taking a similar action when I wrote my article titled, “Alaga Ijoko, Alaga Iduro Conundrum” more than 6 years ago. I wrote that article to challenge the greed of the “Alaga Ijoko” and “Alaga Iduro” at the official engagement of one of my daughters.

The engagement ceremony funded by me and my daughter and her husband-to-be took place in Lagos. I have attended many such ceremonies in Akure, in Lagos, and even in New York but I never paid close attention to what was going on until I had my daughter’s engagement in Lagos.

The “Alaga Ijoko” and the “Alaga Iduro” completely took over the ceremony raking up as much money as they could make from my family and all the guests present at the ceremony. Both of them were paid to come and be the joint masters of ceremony at the occasion. It turned out that they came there to make a fool of the rest of us all in the name of tradition.

I could not believe my eyes that they both carted away all the money that was supposed to go to the bride-to-be. It was nothing short of a daylight robbery. I was so pissed off that I decided to do an article on the observation in the interest of the general public. I wasn’t going to allow any other Nigerian to be abused and robbed like that ever again.

Please don’t get me wrong. I was not opposed to the import of traditional engagement as an important reaffirmation of the Yoruba culture we all want to preserve for generations of our children yet unborn. What I did not appreciate was the sheer brigandage and the greed and the kleptomania of the “Alaga Iduro” and “Alaga Ijoko” in the name of tradition.

I did not believe it was right to have the two masters of ceremony doing what I call “double dipping” at the expense of the bride-to-be and her husband-to-be. They both get paid for their services but that did not stop them from taking all the money that should have gone to the bride-to-be. They both laughed all the way to the bank while the bride-to-be and the husband-to-be and their families picked up the pieces. It was not the best way to start a family or any marriage. I wrote that article to put my searchlight on what I saw, and the article caught fire on the Internet and the social media beyond my wildest imagination.

Many Nigerians wrote back to me to express their gratitude for drawing attention to the terrible malfeasance. They all decided they were going to force the “Alaga Ijoko” and “Alaga Iduro” to stop their extortion and I saw a clear proof that many of them did that. Those masters of ceremony are no longer allowed to rob their clients anymore. They get paid for their services and they are no longer allowed to take all the money and donations raised at the ceremony like they used to do. I felt vindicated for leading the campaign.

When you stand up for what is right, you are not only helping yourself, you are helping humanity. I take up this assignment again with the same spirit. I had cause to wire some money to Nigeria recently. What I found was the reason I am raising this alarm.

I chose to send the cash using an electronic transfer with Western Union in New York. I was informed by the Western Union that the amount I was sending would be paid in naira at the current exchange rate as at the time I made the transaction in New York. The exchange rate was 226.50 naira per dollar for that day.

I paid the commission for the immediate transfer of the money and I immediately sent a text to the person who would receive the money in Akure with the MTCN number and the security question. The whole transaction took only a few seconds because of the power of technology.

But I was shocked when the claimant at Akure reported to me that the First Bank in Akure said they could only change the cash at 200.00 naira per dollar meaning that the First Bank was going to make 26.50 naira on every dollar I sent. The First Bank was only a conduit pipe to deliver the cash at the other end to the claimant at Akure because I already paid the commission to the Western Union in New York. I was not expected to pay another commission at Akure but that was what happened when the bank decided to take 26.50 naira or more for every dollar I sent. For some stupid reason the fraudulent Jonathan government had made a deal with the banks in Nigeria to never pay out whatever amount you send in dollar or British sterling because they did not want the Hausa black market hustlers to put their banks at a disadvantage.

I can understand the Nigerian banks paying back in naira. What I do not understand is the double dipping of the banks in Nigeria to start charging such a prohibitive commission on every dollar or pound or foreign money transferred through their banks. It is a rip-off and it makes no sense.

It was a daylight robbery, as far as I am concerned, and I think somebody has to speak up or raise an alarm about how Nigerian banks are conspiring among themselves to swindle millions of Nigerians like me who frequently send money to their loved ones in Nigeria. Many of us who live and work abroad do contribute so much money to stabilize the economy of Nigeria by sending money to our families back home.

The Nigerian economy will completely collapse if you discount the impact of such electronic transfers on the economy of Nigeria. No responsible government should ever condone that kind of fraud.

Millions of our loved ones depend on such remittances to keep body and soul together in a country where salaries are not paid to people working for upwards of one year or more and where pensions are never paid on time. Nigerian parents who have children abroad depend on such remittances to pay for their food, their hospital bills, their rents and medical coverage. It is not right that the Nigerian banks and financial institutions should be allowed to swindle their fellow citizens living abroad in that kind of way. Somebody has to speak up for them and that is what I am doing with this article.

I am raising an alarm with this article to let our two presidents be aware of what is going on in their government and under their watch. They can no longer blame Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP for what is happening in their own government. Nigerians elected Buhari as the new President of Nigeria based on the promise that he is going to be the catalyst for change in Nigeria. Now that he has won the election, he has to fully keep his promise to the whole country. It is now time for action, and Buhari and Osinbajo must not be allowed to sweep their promises under the carpet. I am not going to allow them to do it because I have promised I was going to be very hard on them if they do not live up to expectation. I hated Jonathan because he did not perform. I am going to hate Buhari and Osinbajo if they do not perform.

Osinbajo as Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former Attorney General of Lagos State has to know and understand the full implications of what I am talking about. The banking sector is doing Nigeria a disservice by ganging up to rob Nigerians living abroad of their hard-earned income. Corruption and fraud take place in the banking sector as well as the public and private sectors.

The government has to be able to regulate and monitor the banking sectors for full compliance with the law all over the country. I am keeping all of the documents given to me at the Western Union in New York to prove that the banking sector in Nigeria is not only corrupt but fraudulent.

If the Buhari government cannot protect Nigerians, it has failed in its fiduciary obligations to protect the public and to be the champion for the change that Nigerians chose on March 28 when they voted and waited for their votes to be counted before they left the polling booth. They made that sacrifice for Buhari and Osinbajo. It is now time for payback, and we are not going to let them off the hook.

Buhari could never have been elected but for the perseverance of Nigerian voters across the board. It is quite possible that the old man may have forgotten how he got elected into that office. Many Nigerians died or shed their blood to get him elected because the PDP had never wanted to relinquish power. We took it from them by force.

I am sending this SOS to the Buhari government at Aso Rock and to the Bukola-Saraki government in the Senate Chamber. I am asking them to please double-check the information I am giving in this write-up and to do something about it. I am aware that Bukola Saraki has had some problems with the Societe General Bank in Nigeria that may discourage him from wanting to show any interest in this kind of protest. He should get over it and collaborate with Buhari to investigate and fix this problem in the interest of Nigeria.

If Nigeria is ever going to change, it is those of us who are ready to speak up that must lead the effort. I stand ready to serve as a witness or as an “amicus curiae” to what I am alleging in this write up. I can be reached for more information at my e-mail address at [email protected]  Any of you reading this should feel free to contact me if you have any more questions.

You should feel free to circulate this article to all of your contacts on the Internet in the hope that Buhari and Saraki would get to hear about the fraud in the banking sector and do something about it.

I work for SaharaReporters, the most powerful advocate for good government in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole. I would be remiss in my duty and obligations to Nigeria if I keep quiet and say nothing about the malfeasance.

All hands must be on deck to save Nigeria. If we all play our part, there is a chance we can all do that by creating awareness and acting upon it.

I rest my case.

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