The escape of the Binance executive is embarrassing. But there is nothing to suggest it will not happen again, writes Joshua J. Omojowa

It was December 2019. The Covid19 virus had by this time become endemic in China whilst the rest of the world watched and hoped it would be contained. What went on to happen in 2020 suggests they weren’t watching from afar too long as the virus came home to virtually every country. That December was a different kind for Japan. The Carlos Ghosn escape from the country earned Japan the sort of global spotlight it was not used to and was a source of embarrassment for the government.

Carlos Ghosn was arrested for alleged financial misconduct in November 2018 amidst the merger talks between Renault and Nissan. At the time of his arrest, Ghosn was the chairman of Nissan whilst also simultaneously the chairman of Renault and was also an intersection between both brands and Mitsubishi. This made his arrest and detention a big deal in Japan and around the world.

Whilst under house arrest, Ghosn became aware of Japan’s 99.4% conviction rate and coupled with the fact he was not permitted to speak with his wife for months, he decided on an escape plan.

With the help of Michael and Peter Taylor — father and son — Ghosn escaped Japan in a large box that officials would assume to be one of many big boxes for the many concerts in Japan that December. 

Born in Brazil to Lebanese parents — Jorge Ghosn and Nigeria-born Lebanese, Rose Jazzar — Carlos, also a French citizen, chose to escape to Lebanon, via Turkey. He was a national hero in Lebanon but more importantly, Lebanon shared no extradition treaty with Japan. Whilst Carlos escaped, his American partners, Michael and Peter, were handed over by the United States and served jail time in Japan. Apart from ensuring the punishment of those who aided Carlos Ghosn, Japan went on to tighten its exit controls and immigration protocols in the wake of the Ghosn embarrassment.

We do not currently know how Nadeem Anjarwalla, the British-Kenyan Binance executive, executed his escape from Nigeria. But it would have been impossible without the help of some of the security officials that were meant to keep watch over him in house arrest.

The Ghosn story, like many stories of such breaches in France, Morocco, Egypt, the United Kingdom and a host of other countries, shows that acts like the Nadeem escape isn’t unique to Nigeria. The internet and books are replete with records detailing such escapes from some of the most advanced countries. Some countries are experts at plotting and executing such escapes. Their names are above the grade of this column.

It is of course embarrassing to the Nigerian government that this happened, but the real point of shame isn’t that it happened. It is that this is the norm. In most of the countries escapes like this have been pulled off, not only did people go down for it, but the security architecture also changed for it. In essence, it is treated like an accident and the systems adjusted appropriately. 

Based on our history, the best you can expect is personnel punishment. Meanwhile, that punishes people for what already happened, it won’t fix things for the future. Even at that, there are no guarantees that we will get to the bottom of the how it happened.

Whilst the escape could have happened without the help of an embassy, it is unlikely that such diplomatic support wasn’t on hand here. Escapes like this hardly ever happen without the knowledge of an embassy, with a new passport procured. Assuming the escape was not in a box.

Nigerians shouldn’t be more bothered that this happened. We should be bothered about the fact that the exact thing can still happen today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. This is the cost of impunity across every layer of our polity. The general thinking is, “in Nigeria, everything is negotiable”. The latest incident is one more proof of many of that. 

Yes, heads must roll. However, heads rolling just won’t cut it. We need to take another look at our security architecture and international travel protocol. That also includes our land borders – more notorious than whatever failings we have at the airports. An overhaul is necessary. 

Once it is about putting more officials and more uniforms at these ports, just know we are simply digging further down. It is not the challenge of fewer personnel. Indeed, we have too many officials involved with our exit protocols. We need better processes.

Anyone who’s ever travelled through any Nigerian airport knows that most of these officials have no business there. They are mostly there to fulfil the righteousness of marking a presence for their agency. It’s shocking that people who have been around the world return to Nigeria to enforce the anomalies we have at our ports and elsewhere. If you don’t use these points as a diplomatic passport carrier, did you not use them when you carried the ordinary passport? What is with us and accepting and leaving things as they are? Especially when we know change is necessary.

We can decide to make this an accident. Ensure it never happens again by restructuring what requires an overhaul. Or we can just make the usual noise and then get on with things as we are used to them. As we already know, we will all suffer for it; the powerful and the ordinary citizen, the rich and the poor. When push comes to shove, we will all pay for the failings of our country.

For starters, we all share in this embarrassment. However, beyond that, there is the potential cost to our safety and well-being as a people. Our failure on national security is only one of many apparent outcomes.

This escape reflects poorly on our country. However, it isn’t as bad as the fact that, as things are, this is the norm. Will things change? That is the opportunity this incident offers. Not even the most obsessed gamblers will bet on anything changing. The question is, who will prove them wrong?

 Omojuwa is chief strategist, Alpha Reach/ author, Digital Wealth Book

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