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A Jet of Dollars

This post was first published via YNaija under the title Our government has made things worse for us

Our government has done it again! It is tough enough already for Nigerians who travel frequently to different corners of the world… the numerous cases of profiling, stereotyping and undue suspicion that meet any individual carrying that green passport, leave many wondering why they were born in such a country. The age-old stigma of being 419ers’ and intrinsically corrupt humans remains an every moment battle for those in the diaspora. Despite these prevailing circumstances, the Nigerian government has plunged the nation into an embarrassing scandal. On the 5th day of September, 2014, 9.3 million dollars was transported from Nigeria to South Africa in cash via a private jet.  Thankfully, the booty was intercepted at a South African airport by Customs officials who were vigilant enough to observe ‘irregularities’ perhaps while scanning the luggage. A total of three bags were intercepted and cash, laid out in 90 packs, worth $100, 000 each, confiscated by the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The three passengers on the aircraft alleged that they transported the cash to procure arms in favor of Nigerian security services. $9.3 million is the equivalent of N1.5 billion, the worth of 40 four bedroom duplexes in Lekki axis.

Why was the cash seized? South African laws stipulate a maximum amount of cash allowed to be brought in country by an individual. According to the SARS, “Currency brought into or taken from South Africa is monitored by law. Should you have more than $10 000… this must be declared”. These three passengers transported over 900 times the limit… it does not take a prophet to guess that they did not attempt to declare same.

Was this cash movement, now deemed illegal by South Africa law, truly in favor of the Nigeria government? A known Nigerian newspaper details its findings from a ‘top intelligence official’ as follows “The security chiefs took time to explain that urgent security issues warranted the direct purchase of the arms”. There we have it. A government at the peak of the rollout of a cashless initiative, decides to procure arms via the movement of raw cash to the point of contravening the laws of another country. Fail! As if that were not embarrassing enough, worse still is the report that the security chiefs had to take time to explain to the President why this line of action was undertaken. For a country whose President is also named the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces, it is shocking that such a decision seems to have been taken with urgent action implemented, oblivious to the C-in-C. Fail!

Where was the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through this process? What happened to wire transfers? Where was the cash withdrawn? The CBN? Or from wardrobes in a house as typified by one-time Governor of Delta State?

It is clear that there was no plan for transparency and financial accountability in the execution of this transaction, rather an obvious attempt to avert process and procedure to the point of illegality. The entirety of the story is clandestine.

There is also the issue around the ownership of the private jet involved. It is owned by a firm, Eagle Air Company, in which Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor has vested interest. Pastor Ayo is currently the president of Christian Association of Nigeria. However, the company has issued a statement indicating that the aircraft was leased commercially by a certain John Ishyaku for a Lagos – Johannesburg – Lagos flight. Was Eagle Air and/or Pastor Ayo aware of the purpose for which the aircraft was hired or not? Are there any guiding regulations by the NCAA requiring full disclosure of intent for aircraft hire? Is there a valid case of aiding and abetting or rather pure happenstance? In the country which we live in, the default mindset on such occurrences is that there is some form of collusion, no matter how passive it may be. It is pretty much a form of guilty until proven innocent. There is hardly any reason to alter this paradigm as yet. As usual, the country expects to hear that investigations are underway… but until one case of corruption is seen to completion, with the guilty charged and punished, the hope for justice remains just that, hope!

Here again, we are confronted with a leadership gaffe. True leadership ensures that urgent decisions with far reaching impacts, are taken at upper echelons, with full alignment of stakeholders and at least due notification to other affected parties. Actions are implemented in conformance with laid down guiding principles. Processes are put in place for efficient execution. For example, a procedure exists for transacting urgent huge sums of forex to foreign recipients, in favor of government purchase. Someone, somewhere in the chain of command, breached management procedure or as it is popularly dubbed, due process, and has plunged the country into an embarrassing scandal.

In the final analysis, the only thing to worry about is whether strong action will be taken against this leadership blunder. Yay or nay? Do the nays have it?




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