Time To Reclaim Nigeria By Chido Onumah

Chido Onumah
Columnist: 
Chido Onumah

I have been following the “Occupy Movement” across the world and I must say I am impressed. What started as a small band of protesters on Wall Street in New York a few weeks ago, has grown into a global movement against the current exploitative social order. It is growing bigger every day, incorporating community and religious groups, labour unions, students, and youth organisations. 

As an internationalist, I stand in solidarity with the protesters everywhere. It was inevitable that sooner rather than later “free market” capitalism, another name for corporate greed and brutal exploitation of weaker nations, the working people and toiling masses would face this kind of onslaught. Alas, history seems not to have ended! And the  “free market” ideology which has reduced a huge percentage of mankind to poverty is headed for the trashcan of history. I have always believed that a new, better, and more humane world is possible!

I was ruminating over the “Occupy Movement” and the options open to us as Nigerians when I read what to me was perhaps the most brazen attack on the psyche of the Nigerian people and the soul of the country. As Nigerians, we have become inured to reports of corruption or wanton waste of public resources. And this certainly was one of the many acts of sleaze that go on in the country everyday in the name of governance. But this is different. This is one scam that was devious in conception and contemptuous in execution. If there was any doubt that government in Nigeria is a massive conspiracy of those in power to rip off Nigerians, this scam has cleared that doubt.

We have Sahara Reporters to thank for this awakening. To think that no national newspaper or media outlet has deemed it necessary to investigate or report on this scam is a damning indictment of the media in Nigeria. Did I hear some say “occupy our newsroom?. Well, that is something for another day. Our focus is on the atrocious behaviour of a regime that preaches anti-corruption and transformation, but everything it touches reeks of corruption.  

The government’s latest misdeed has to do with the sale of a piece of land reportedly belonging to Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). It involves the Presidency, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and a “businessman” Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu (boss of AA Oil). Full details of the story are on Sahara Reporters (http://saharareporters.com/news-page/jonathan-agf-adoke-cbn-private-deve...), but I shall attempt a summary here. 

A few years ago, a piece of land belonging to a government agency, NITEL, and valued at N8 billion then, was sold to Alhaji Abubakar Aliyu by the Yar'Adua regime at less than N1 billion. When President Goodluck Jonathan came to power, his administration, through the Attorney General of the Federation and the CBN bought back the same land for N17.5 billion. The Central Bank of Nigeria, which was used as a conduit to buy back the land said it bought the land to build a “world class conference centre”.

The report noted that all those involved in the transaction benefitted handsomely from the deal. In a sane society, this scandal is enough to bring down the government. But this is Nigeria. We may wake up to even bigger scandals tomorrow. After all, the embattled former speaker, Dimeji Bankole, reportedly bought the official house of the speaker for N45 million and put the house for rent to his successor, Aminu Tambuwal, for N40 million.

This same house was allegedly refurbished by Bankole’s predecessor, Patricia Ette, with over N400 million, while Bankole himself spent over N600 million ($4 million) in  refurbishing the house. At the rate Nigeria’s rapacious ruling elite is going, not only will they sell Aso Rock, the seat of government, they may just put up the country for sale one day. Of course, it is not likely that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will take up this case because its origin is public knowledge. 

Ordinarily, it wouldn’t have been necessary to be alarmed by this deal; after all, this is not the first report of sleazy deals associated with this government. What was irksome though was the rejoinder by the CBN on the land scandal. In a  tacky response through Mr. M. M. Abdullahi, CBN’s Head of Corporate Communications, the apex bank sought to pour salt on our injury in its attempt to “put the record straight and to avail (us) of the truth about the said transaction”. If anything, the rejoinder proves the authenticity of the report by Sahara Reporters.

Details of the CBN’s rejoinder are also on Sahara Reporters (http://saharareporters.com/news-page/rejoinder-jonathan-agf-adoke-cbn-pr...), but here is a summary. According to the CBN, “when the idea for a befitting Conference Centre in Nigeria was muted (sic), the issue of an ideal location became paramount. Hence, when Messrs A. Group Properties Limited approached the CBN and offered to sell the plot of land and the existing (uncompleted) structure, the CBN expressed interest in the property offered because of its location and suitability for the proposed project”. The CBN engaged two “registered and reputable estate surveyors” to evaluate the property and advise the CBN on the market value of the property. After due negotiations, A Group Properties Ltd agreed to sell the property to the CBN at the cost of N17.5bn as against the company’s original asking price of N22bn. Part of the CBN’s responsibility in this transaction was to help Alhaji Aliyu clear his debt at Skye Bank.

There is no better way to appreciate the monumental fraud that took place here than to capture the feeling of Nigerians who have responded to the report. I crave the indulgence of readers who are justifiably outraged to reproduce these responses.  Perhaps, Mr. President, the Governor of CBN and the Attorney General of the Federation would address the issues arising. Let me say from the outset that I don’t think the “culprit” here is Alhaji Aliyu. My take is that the government needed some slush fund for “personal” activities, including electioneering, and it didn’t know how to spirit that kind of money from the CBN without raising eyebrows. So the idea came that there was a land to be bought and the CBN was used as a conduit to pay for the land.

Now to the matters arising: Why should the building of a conference centre be of concern to the CBN? Why should the CBN distract itself from its statutory duties of financial and economic regulation of the economy and be chasing land? If the CBN needed land for “a world class conference centre”, why did it not approach the government for a free land? And if it was the government that needed land, why did it involve the CBN in the evaluation and purchase? If the land cost N17.5 billion, how much will it cost to build the conference centre? Was this N17.5 billion appropriated by the National Assembly? How much is the CBN budget for a year and was the purchase of land for almost N20 billion part of its budget?

Who effected this huge appropriation: the CBN, the federal government, or the Ministry of Justice? Who mooted the “idea for a befitting conference centre in Nigeria”. Was it the CBN, the Presidency, or the Attorney General?

Did the Presidency send Messrs A. Group to the CBN? Why would Messrs A. Group Properties Limited approach the CBN and offer to sell the plot of land? How did the company know that CBN was looking to buy land? Is this deal not comparable to the deals that sent rogue bank executives to jail? Is it the responsibility of the CBN to help its “client” settle its debt with Skye Bank? Why did the CBN buy a land with an uncompleted structure when it knew what it wanted to do with the land? The uncompleted structure which undoubtedly would be demolished by the CBN for its world class conference centre would have been taken into consideration in fixing the value of the land.

Someone has reminded us that the 2011 budget of Ebonyi State is N60 billion and a CBN official is defending the purchase of a plot of land for N17.5 billion. It is simply mind-boggling to say the least. In a country where there are no functional hospitals, good roads, reliable electricity or potable water, it is amazing that the CBN has this sort of slush money to spend on land. Imagine what N17.5 billion will do for our educational and health institutions that are in utter decay.

It is not likely that all those mentioned in this land buy back deal will step forward to tell Nigerians the truth. We are used to elite conspiracy. It is the same conspiracy that is about to play out with the planned removal of the so-called fuel subsidy. The government has gone on a propaganda offensive. A few days ago, a faceless organisation, Mass Interest Project (MIP) took out four pages in Thisday newspaper to explain the benefits of removal of subsidy.

For an oil producing country like Nigeria, the truth is that if our refineries are working, there is no need for the government to “subsidise” fuel. Our government exports crude oil and imports refined petroleum products. It takes money from the treasury, purportedly to cushion the effect of the high cost of imported petroleum products. Much of that money goes into private accounts.

The so-called removal of subsidy means that there will be  a bigger bounty for our ruling elite to play around with.

Former petroleum minister, Professor Tam David West, has described the fuel subsidy claim as “orchestrated fraud”. There is no better way to portray it. Clearly,  a lot of injustice is being perpetrated in Nigeria in the name of democracy and governance.  But then again, power belongs to the people as Tunisians, Egyptians, and now Libyans have demonstrated. It is not too late to reclaim our just portion of the new world order through mass action.

conumah@hotmail.com

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KZTWzLfgYbRIKAOUXN

- he is a brilliant man and this is unnileabde. I don't actually like him. A smooth operator who is using his brilliance to hoodwink many people. All will be revealed soon. But let me tell you, he is better than Soludo. Of course that doesn't say much. I hope Mr Weate will blog when some of us decide to reveal all about Sanusi.

NIGERIA - A COUNTRY BADLY GOVERNED

Nigerian! It is time to take your country back from these hoodlums called leaders. The time is NOW!

We really do not need a

We really do not need a standard conference center now. What we need is a standard and stable electricity. The money can be diverted to produce a stable electricity. Anything short of that is nonsence. Is this is what Okonje Iweala is advocating for? That means she does not know our piority yet. The libyans are all enjoing basic amenities. See where ghadafi laid on the floor. If is was Babangida or obasanjo it will be on the mud.

Ethnic bigotry is a big

Ethnic bigotry is a big problem in Nigeria, what has a revolution that is urgently needed got to do with an ijaw man's govt being pulled down by an igbo man? What does it matter if its an ijaw man , ekiti man or a fulani woman that is in power now . What is obvious is that this imbecilic corrupt system must collapse, in any case i ve always said this is a war btw the ruling elite class and the rest of the population. This ruling elite class that are less than 5% of the population are well represented in every ethnic group. The ve stolen the nation blind and moved our money to develop other countries.The will never stop until they are properly challenged.

I really enjoyed this article

I really enjoyed this article until I scrolled down to the comments section. If you look at the article and the comments it just does not add up. I expected to see an intelligent response ‘for’ or ‘against’ the article, but what I saw just made me sick and ashamed . Igbo, hausa, Yoruba at the end of the day what matters is that we are all BLACK, and responses like this just shows that we are not helping ourselves. If we are more mature in our approach we can help to tackle the problems we are facing as a nation. I think the article is well written and deserved a better response .

Where Have You Seen The North Protesting Against Their Leaders?

Wher have you see or heard where the North joined any protest in Nigeria? Be it university or other group. We do not have a common purpose in nigeria. When a Northerner is the head of state and protests are being stage the North always recused themselves from the southerners. When student unions call for protest against government the Northern student always boycott the protests. How do you get result in a protest where the northern students do not want to take a part? They support their ineffective leaders at the expense of the south. The North are the ones crying fowl. The looted billions of dollars why was it not use to help their people? The musilms are just like Col. Maummar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussien to mention but a few.

CBN Fraud

I have said it in my last comment. The northerners are just trying to bring Abuja to a city of world standard. Abuja will eventually become the capital city of the Hausas.
They have a stript written for them by the London School of Economics and they are following it step by step. Sanusi is a pretender.

igbo man dey call for revolution in Nigeria

Wonders shall never end--Igbo man dey call for revolution in Nigeria-our biafra is gone! Now its how to remove GEJ-the old economic war is back-shaped in the colors of the rainbow!

yeye dey smell

@F MUWE,& Fadie, what most of u dont know is that when we talk about class war in Nigeria-the poorest of poor, hail from the oil producing states in the south south. U have gas stations all over yr zones. We dont have them in the creeks-so the right ppl to start the war are Niger Deltans-Not d thieves who have been in power since 1914. The country was not destroyed by Niger Deltans. Its was yr regional leaders of old. If u want a coup or a revolution, nobody is going to stop u-But I bet u, the revolution is going to be between the hausas, ibos and yorubas-period! That is even because an Ijaw man is d presido! I saw it happen to Awo, Abiola and Gani. Its the same mess again!

@DERI THE FOOL:IT'S ABOUT CORRUPTION

The narrow minded idiot called Deri is doing his brother GEJ a big diservice by not allowing him to feel the true pulse of the country.Sycophants always surround leaders,remember till recently Gadaffi believed that all lybians love him,he said that in an interview with Jeremy Bowen of the BBC less than 3 months ago,Deri if you love your brother,tell him that corruption is driving Nigerians mad,tell him that Nigerians are angry when they see the amount of stealing going on,tell him that many who voted for him want him to fight corruption without fear,tell him that no progress will be recorded in his name with the amount of stealing we are witnessing,I encouraged people to vote for GEJ,so you cannot claim to love him more than I do the only difference is that you are a dishonest,asslicking sycophant of a coward.

THIS SANUSI

I am happy i did not vote for this President that is sleeping, aiding and abetting corruption with his officials and fooling Nigerians by calling the name of God.
The level of corruption today in Nigerian is far above anything we witnessed during the dark days of Sani Abacha regime.
Iam a strong advocate of the the Libyan style revolution. It might be of interest to note that the soldiers will switch their loyalty to this corrupt regime and be on the side of the masses. Go to the barracks and see the squalor and sub human existence of our soldiers.
Democracy is for civilized people , like one of my friends put it. Nigeria does not need democracy now. No civilized person will steal such mind boggling sums of money we read about everyday in Nigeria. These men are shameless without any sense of honour or patriotism. The befitting place for them is the firing squad.

SUPPORT THE REVOLUTION MOBILIZATION UNIT

Sign up to get more information on the Nigerian revolution on: nigeriarevolution@rocketmail.com

Sanusi have been in criminal , his claim of being a leftist is deceitful.

THE TIME HAS COME FOR US TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES FOR OUR COUNTRY.
MAY GOD BLESS NIGERIA

SHAME ON SANUSI

I held Mallam Sanusi on a very high pedestal until now. I was usually quick to point to people and say this is a no nonsense guy who is incorruptable. I apologise to my friends now. I was dead wrong. How could he allow this to happen under is watch. I have lost hope completly in JEG and his band of "ministers" who's perogrative is to corruptly milk our nation dry under the pretense of "transformational" agenda. May the blood of the thousands of Nigerias that die daily from poverty and effect of bad government be upon the head of GEJ, Sanusi, all the ministers and any one who join in plundering the nation. Can somebody also say Amen? Amen.

SR INVESTIGATION JEG ELECTION FUNDS

SR Its time you do Nigerians good by investigating where Jonathan got his funds to finance the most expensive campaign in the history of Nigeria and indeed the black world. JEG campaign cost seems to have dwarfed Obama's. A cursory look at the trend on the subsidy account points to its abuse for election purpose.

The outcome of your findings will be a must read

A REVOLUTION IS THE SOLUTION

The only solution to all these is a revolution as envisaged by Dr Junaidu Mohammed. All requirements for a revolution have been met in Nigeria.

A combination of Arab Spring and JJ Rawlings' models will liberate Nigerians from the clutches of corruption. All these stolen wealth will be brought back to the people.

Lets all join hands in freeing our country.

A "befitting" kini?

"Who mooted the 'idea for a befitting conference centre in Nigeria'?"

Indeed, and what nonsense for these PDP crooks to talk of a befitting conference center while forgetting to first of all have a befitting COUNTRY. As to the "occupy" tactic, its roots are in demographic pressure from young educated people without any hope. 9ja is obviously not exempt from this global phenomenon. But the inevitable "occupy 9ja" will have to be locally adapted, and not copied literally from either Egypt or Greece etc. The Senegalese have started their own, using red cloth, and it has begun well. Probably in the 9ja area, the 1929-30 anticolonial Women's War would be a useful model, suitably modernized with the broader tactic of a general strike. Forget Abuja, which was another "befitting" waste of the people's money. Just shut down Lagos, Kano and PH markets and business districts, and anoda ting go s.e.le., o!

OWS is a class war-not about Obama-yrs is on GEJ

Were u not here celebrating Sanusi and presenting him as the next C in C just days ago? Clinton and his wife were equally involved in land deals like Sanusi and AGF. Happily it was valuers from yr enclave, who gave us the cost of the land which the plunderers of our resources in the ND, used in purchasing-the Britsh asked that the Niger Delta be declared a special area for FOCUSED developement 60yrs ago-Instead it was Abuja the Aguda panel was deceived into picking as the capital of the federation. The OWS revolution is not about Obama--its a class war-In Naija, u will fail cause yrs is about the overthrow of GEJ and never about our 51yrs old woes! See d difference?

ANOTHER OCCUPY NONSENSE.

 Its starting to get very upsetting seeing these writers trying to cause suicide on our streets by asking Nigerians to copy the occupation of public offices as is happening in western countries where people are protesting against capitalism by using age reverred means distinct to them.

In Nigeria,corruption & not captalism is our problem & just like Syrian Govt. has been killing thousands with the west sitting back if we try any occupation n Nigeria, we will have soldiers shooting & killing thousands.

We need a coup de etat & we need a soldier ,with good intentions for Nigeria, to occupy  Aso Rock.

THE EFFORT MUST BE AIMED AT A NATIONAL CONFERENCE

Chido,I have noticed that the occupy movement seem to have a diversified range of motivations,and this will definitley affect the objectives of this movement.Here in Nigeria,our first objective must be to sit on the round-table and iron out issues,the corruption here has attained legendary status,if we dont get that soon then I am afraid we might be due for the somalia type break-up because we dont have a unifying factor to stand behind mainly due to ethnic differences and the fact that the politicians are so rich infact some are richer than thier states,they can use ill-gotten money to cause schisms amongst the hungry masses.The lybian system is also possible here,but we must first seek peaceful means.

CBN/MESSRS A GROUP LAND DEAL - WHAT A FRAUD

Mallam Sanusi - this happened under your. What a disappointed. It's sad to note that you have succumbed and joined the CABAL of thieves.

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