Is it true the Presidency said lack of funds is stalling Nigeria’s effort to trace and recover its stolen monies; and prosecute former government officials responsible for the heist?

President Muhammadu Buhari speaking in Paris

If it is true that a letter by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption (PACC) to a United Kingdom-based anti-corruption organization, Global Witness, soliciting assistance in raising funds, claimed that “due to the fall in crude oil prices and the general economic downturn, the government lacked the needed funds to pursue recovery of loots,” then this advisory committee if not firmly checked now may turn out to be in itself a reproach to the entire effort of government’s anti-corruption and loot recovery efforts.

How do you reconcile that already, this mere advisory committee has begged and received from abroad a combined financial help of over $5 million from international organizations such as the Ford foundation, MacArthur Foundation and the Foundation to Promote Open Society? What do they need this money for? Is PACC now Nigeria’s economic and financial crimes agency? No wonder Obasanjo last weekend in Ota while emphasising the need for us to be serious as a nation said EFCC has become a toothless bulldog and “We need to work things out so that we don’t take two steps forward, one step and three steps backward.”

The report had it that the letter to the Director of Global Witness, Simon Taylor dated February 15, 2016, was signed by the Executive Secretary of PACC, Bolaji Owasanoye.

In it, PACC stated that “due to the multi-jurisdiction of the cases, and the exorbitant charges of professionals such as lawyers, forensic financial investigators, and the ability of the suspected officials to use part of the alleged stolen fund to challenge the recovery of the fund, the government needed huge flow of resources.

“However, this poses a major problem. An empty treasury means that the money is not currently available for the government to engage these professionals due to the high fee that they charge.

“Even in cases where service will be given on contingency basis the initial seed fund required to start the process is not affordable. As a result, the action the government urgently seeks to take is being stymied.”

Now, how do you reconcile that a Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption (PACC) could be writing to all sorts of people (non-governmental organizations) abroad soliciting funds to fight corruption in Nigeria? Does it occur to the committee that some of these NGOs are covertly funded by some of these people we are running after?

People we presumed should know better continue to embarrass Nigeria by their level of expressed ignorance. Does PACC know what Global Witness’ goals are? Global Witness’ main roles are to expose the corrupt exploitation of natural resources, e.g diamonds, oil, timber, cocoa, gas, gold and other minerals and international trade systems. Is Global Witness now INTERPOL? What are we dealing with as PACC- uninformed or over-zealous bunch whose ingenuousness may ultimately thwart Buhari’s genuine efforts at recovering our looted funds?

Let’s even ask: is PACC now a Nigerian law enforcement agency or a mere advisory committee? Is the advisory committee not outreaching itself given that its role does not involve hunting down alleged corrupt Nigerian officials around the world? PACC seems already intoxicated by power and is beginning to act like Dasuki: a mere adviser to the former president, but who expanded his role to undermine the ministry of defence, CBN, NNPC etc.

Can genuinely concerned Nigerians particularly the younger age grades tell this government’s “wise men” that there is something called contingency fee structures? Promise any lawyer 10 percent or even less of recovered loot and see how hard they are willing to work for you.

Asset recovery companies abound all over the world and the people posses the best crack investigators anywhere that can find any asset hidden by anyone for a fraction of the total value of the assets recovered. This was what was used by Panama to fish out the corrupt riches of their former president Manuel Noriega from all over the world and even in Philippines in the Imelda Marcos case. These professionals abound all over the US and UK and they are the best at what they do. So, have we exploited that option before embarking on this “Papa Sunday baabi Allah venture”?

The world is a global village now and there is hardly anything hidden that cannot be traced electronically, there are always electronic trails all around these fraudulent transactions and any monies hidden in Europe and America will be found within hours with specialized softwares. Some of these monies have also not left Nigeria, a lot of it is in assets and raw cash stored inside walls and underground vaults in these people’s houses. If the Nigerian government is really serious about finding these monies, they will find it, all it requires is a little more intelligence, creativity and genuine commitment and above all, plain sincerity and honesty.

Many Nigerians believed that Buhari would hop on a jet and return the stolen funds from abroad to boost the economy, rebuild the derelict infrastructure, provide jobs, build schools and hospitals, provide electricity and food security etc. It is now obvious that a lot of false hope and assurances were given to the masses on the corruption and its fight in the country and they simply were not told the truth about the magnitude of the “stolen funds” and the realities of recovering such funds. Nigerian money was looted, no doubt but wild exaggerations deployed during the last presidential campaigns may have gone too far from reality and in some cases outrightly bogus.

Truth be told, there has never been in the history of governments where an economy was revived or developed by recovery of stolen monies which in fact is still phantom as we speak. Buhari was elected to create wealth and improve on the economy he inherited- whether good or bad! Is PACC now telling us that the government hoped on “recovered” funds to do all that?

Without doubt there are patriotic Nigerians even foreigners that can assist in the loot recovery once granted permissions by the offices and agencies in charge. This excuse by PACC is not acceptable at this time. God bless Nigeria!

IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja and can be reached on: [email protected]; 234-8033043009

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