Nigeria: The Smiling Faces of the Subsidy Thieves

The chickens are finally coming home to roost. The twilight song when the sun recedes towards the swallowing ground is about to signal the end of a saga. The era when the word ‘cabal’ became a buzz word for describing a rapacious clique of bandits that held the nation by the economic jugular. When business upstarts suddenly became lords of the manor; when owing a private jet became a fad; when becoming a billionaire was only less strenuous than snapping a finger. Surely, they were days of the cabal when the bazaar lasted. But this week, Nigerians had their own day; (that’s if the trial is not bungled) not only in the sun but in the court too. It promised to be worthy of the waiting.

The tragedy of moral debasement is exemplified by the figures that the fuel subsidy probe had thrown up. The billions that had ended in private pockets; the lives that had been ruined and put in jeopardy, the roads and schools, hospitals, drinkable water that could have been built with billions that had ended in private accounts. It is a telling testament of a nation on the cliff hanger Overnight, young lads become billionaires, not as a result of industry, not as a result of hard work, not as a result of any creative ingenuity that adds value to society. But rather, as a result of actions that chips away the cardinal principle upon which the tripodal values of society anchors its footings – honesty – hard work – transparency.

Sudden and stupendous wealth were flaunted by these subsidy suspects, private jets, exotic cars, expensive yachts, choice houses in choice locations in Dubai, Monaco, London, Germany, Barbados, America, Switzerland, etc became the signature symbol of these nou-veau-riche.

For many Nigerians, they could only look with mouth agape at the dizzying speed of their rise; they were wondering how it was possible for a company incorporated within 2years, some within 5months to flaunt such extreme wealth in the midst of the grinding poverty that has become the lot of the people.

Of course, some admired them for what they thought was their creativity and innovativeness in business, but many more had their suspicions about the sudden and obscene wealth they were flaunting around. We now know the story of how they defrauded the Nigerian people in the name of subsidy, how they cheated the Nigerian state, how they colluded with government officials and private accounting firms to steal billions of naira belonging to the Nigerian people. They robbed the people of their common wealth for their own personal self fulfillment and ego.

The boy in Ajegunle who could not go to school owing to the stark reality of poverty, the girl in Kaura Namoda who died of malaria because her parents could not afford the cost of treating simple malaria, the woman in Adamawa who had to trek for 10kilometeres to look for drinking water for herself and family are all victims of these subsidy bandits. From every nook and cranny of the land many lives yield to death’s grip because the leaders are unable to protect them and provide for them.

Nigerian roads are amongst the worst in the world, Expressways have become death traps owing to craters, feeder roads are in a state of disrepair.

Fallen tankers of fuel roast hundreds who with hunger in their stomach run out to scoop petrol from the accident spot, and in a flash, are engulfed in a blaze of fire. Its happened over and over and over again.

Drinking water is scarce. One will even be gracious to call our public health centers consulting clinics. Our educational system is in shambles, the statistics of failure stares us in the face daily as the nation continues on a downward spiral into the abyss. And yet new multi millionaires, oh multi billionaires emerge on the world stage daily.

As the country bleeds to its death, the cabal of gangsters and mobsters smile to the banks caring less about the future of so many people and the survival of the country. Even in the face of grave allegations of fraud leveled against the scions of the cabal, they are smiling in court.

The smiling faces of Mr. Mahmud Tukur and Mr. Mamman Narsil after their arraignment at the Ikeja High Court for fraudulently benefitting from the subsidy scheme speaks volume about these people and their rapacious tendencies.

Clad in expensive clothes, sunglasses and wrist watches worth thousands of dollars, they showed no remorse in their behaviour and carriage. In a way their over confidence is also a pointer to how lowly they hold the judiciary. The smiles on their faces is a mockery of the Nigerian State. Unrepentant in their carriage and totally unfaced by the charges against them obviously because in their estimation the case was going nowhere. To borrow from R&B singer Tuface Idibia nothing dey happen.

It is for this contempt, that the Nigerian State and the Nigerian people who are at the receiving end of these rapacious gangsters should rise up and make sure that the full force of the law deals decisively with these people. Clearly, as it stands now, it is a case between light and darkness, between the forces of evil and forces of good.

As the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, put papers together to arraign more companies and individuals – at least N382billion had been recommended for recovery. This is almost the budget of some states for three years! Yet, these are monies that ended in private pockets! Eterna Oil Limited. Nasaman Oil Services. Ax Energy Limited. Pinnacle Oil and Gas Limited. Nadabo Energy Limited. Fago Petroleum and Gas Limited. These are some of the names of the companies that got their hands to our collective till and drain it almost dry. They lived big while we moan about decaying infrastructure.

They became billionaires overnight while the rest of us kept on asking when shall we achieve economic freedom. But deep inside are salient questions on the men that run these outfits.

Mamman Ali. Mahmud Tukur. Abdullahi Alao. These men were sired by fathers who are deeply entrenched in the corridors of power. Ali (the senior) ones suprintended over the affairs of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP. Tukur’s name should also ring a few bells within the ruling party.

Bamaga Tukur is the current Chairman of the PDP. While Alao, the Ibadan based quasi-religious leader cum big businessman has always had the creed of not being enemy of any government in power.

That of Goodluck Jonathan is no exception. The fall-out of this is that these men lay their hands on our collective patrimony, not because of the strength of the proposal they presented nor the intimidating nature of their corporate profiles. It was simply because of where their fathers were: by auspicious end of the power equation.

The morals of this is the painful fact our nation is still far from having institutions stronger than individuals! Our celebrations or condemnations have always centered around individuals who show flashes of courage and have raised the bar in building our moral base and those who have lowered it.

But more often than not those who man our institutions have always come short of the strength of character required to build institutions with enduring legacies. That is why a Farouk Lawan is still walking the streets a free man despite his confession of accepting bribe to alter his report.

As the trial begins, Nigerians are watching with keen interest. We are already seeing a platoon of SANs and lawyers always so eager to defend these people. They will use all sort of technicalities to frustrate the cases in court.

But the fact must never be lost on the court. The question should be: Did these people collect monies from the subsidy scheme with fraudulent documentation? If the answer is yes, then there should be no legal jargon 1000 SANs will speak that will make the suspects less guilty. Nigerians are waiting and watching.

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