Miscellany of Nigerian Happenstances

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

The world sometimes appears to be spinning out of control. Nowhere is this more crystal clear than in the Nigerian space – what with our penchant for the ridiculous on the same breadth with the profound. A cursory review of the Nigerian news stories reveals a panorama of actions and scenarios that would easily make for movie scripts, or a documentarian’s delight. We elected to sashay across this week’s major news items – biased towards the fairly serious-minded, and of some level of significance to the well-being of the Nigerian people. Of course, like the four blind men and the elephant, we all are likely to reflect on our Nigerian “elephant” largely informed by our peculiar interests and proclivities. Nonetheless, here are our perspectives:

  The week started with this piece of drag: “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Sunday, said it has so far recovered ₦32.7billion and $445,000 from top officials of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. It also said some banks implicated in the ministry’s scandal are being investigated.”

  Ordinarily, one would expect that where stolen money is being retrieved in billions, the light fingers involved would be identified; be seen to be undergoing prosecution, as they strive to untangle themselves within a system that dispenses justice fairly, promptly and conspicuously. We are yet to be informed the current location of the “indicted” heads of those cash draining agencies; people like Betta Edu, and her predecessor at the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq. We recall that Ms Edu was suspended from office after it was publicly alleged that she approved the transfer of ₦583 million into a private account. Even an agency under the same ministry, the National Social Investment Programme Agency, made murky waves when the National Coordinator, Halima Shehu was suspended for also playing games with public funds. Buttressing its status as the most colourful cash cow of the federation in recent years, the ministry has reportedly transferred over ₦1.4 billion into the private bank accounts of at least eight members of its staff between 2019 and 2023.

  Little wonder, virtually all the activities of the ministry’s agencies were suspended by the presidency. While we appreciate EFCC’s efforts in retrieving ₦32.7b from the filchers, in these harsh times, the nation would be more grateful if all the suspects, and their alleged collaborators in the banking halls, are publicly prosecuted and ‘canonised’ appropriately as a deterrence to others yet to be exposed, or still in the valley of evil contemplations.

On Tuesday, 16 April, 2024, we received this: “Nigeria witnessed its sixth power grid collapse of 2024 on Monday, as electricity generation on the system collapsed from 2,583.77 megawatts at 2 am to 64.7MW around 3 am before the grid was restored later in the day.”

 In a nation teeming with hundreds of millions of people, and currently criminally under-served by a measly 5000 megawatts (at the height of its propaganda estimation), we continue to bemoan our misfortune in a world where mere cities in developed and developing countries are used to 100,000 and more megawatts! A system and process that allows such a collapse, six times in less than four months, should make our leaders hide in shame. Even more so, a technical and easily procurable investment which sometimes leaves our presidential villa in blackouts, should have galvanized successive administrations to fix the power issue decisively and promptly. 64 megawatts! What an incredulous mess.

Midweek brought some cheery news: “Dangote Petroleum Refinery yesterday announced a further reduction in the pump price of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) otherwise known as diesel from ₦1200 to ₦1,000 per litre. The company said in a statement that the latest slash will “positively affect all the spheres of the economy and ultimately reduce the high inflation rate in the country.””

A grateful nation thanks the ownership and management of Dangote Petroleum Refinery, and prays that more reductions would follow in a short while to bring the cost of diesel down to unprecedented levels. Let something incredibly good happen in these suffocating times. We can dream of buying diesel at ₦300-₦500 per litre…why not? We can also dream and pray, that when Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) starts to pump out of the refinery, we shall wave bye bye to buying fuel at ₦600+ per litre…and start sending quivers of goodwill and arrows of more prosperity to Team Dangote and others, as we take in fuel at less than ₦200 per litre… who says good things cannot come out of Nigeria?!

And then this: “The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has detained businessman and socialite, Pascal Okechukwu, popularly known as Cubana Chief Priest, preparatory to his arraignment today (Wednesday) before the Federal High Court in Lagos. Cubana Chief Priest will be arraigned before Justice Kehinde Ogundare on three counts bordering on abuse of naira.”

 Well, this looks like EFCC’s answer to those who were wondering why the jailed crossdresser, Bobrisky, should be scapegoated in a society where the high and the low are fond of “mutilating” the naira in diverse way… even with some ‘analysts’ insisting, rather bold facedly, that spraying and flinging mint fresh naira notes are part and parcel of Nigerian culture. Apparently, more scapegoats are coming. Unlike Bobrisky, Cubana Chief Priest pleaded “not guilty” to the charges against him, even as mischievous media outlets splash incriminating photos of his ‘unique’ display with bundles of naira, it makes for good reading, and perhaps, further illumination, as we await what should be interesting legal fireworks. 

  We also implore EFCC to expand their scapegoating dragnet and cast it further afield. There are hundreds of thousands of Nigerians deeply invested in habitually “mutilating” the naira at social events all over the country; and they have not failed to leave footprints and evidence of their mutilation exploits on popular social networks. Though there have been public appeals for soft peddling in this latest EFCC crusade, and some have been making frantic efforts to erase or delete the evidence on the internet, we advise the commission not to relent. More scapegoats can be found in high places, executive lodges, and mountains of opulence…what is worth doing is worth doing well. 

  Now that the EFCC is ready and willing to help polish the local image of the Naira, as its sister agency, the CBN, is battling to shore up the international image of our currency, we must all support and encourage the EFCC campaigns… Let us tag evidence of irresponsible and wild misuse of the naira notes to the EFCC social media platforms, and be on their necks when they foot drag in taking immediate action. May the naira overcome!

Finally, this came in on Thursday: “The Oyo State government, yesterday, demolished the building (from) where Mrs Modupe Onitiri-Abiola declared that Yorubaland had become a sovereign nation. The storey-building is located in the Oluyole area of Ibadan. In a viral video, it was revealed that the house was pulled down following the discovery by security agents that the house was also being used as an armoury, storing weapons, camouflage uniforms, boots and other items.”

This is what Fela Kuti called “Opposite People”. Why destroy a building that you have supposedly confiscated, while the owner is already declared wanted. If you call her action treasonable…what do we call your own action? You destroy a commercial potential which can easily be converted to some other positive use…and that was likely without any court order… simply because you are Oyo State government – and you want to look good before the Federal Government by sending a ringing message that you are not in support of any self-determining project or treasonable scheme. Wrong headed move. Ill advised.

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