The $49.8bn question: Too big to ignore

Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala 119 December 2013, Abuja – Even for a country that is rapidly acquiring the reputation of the world’s cover-up capital, the letter cannot – and will not – be swept under the carpet. On Tuesday, the press published a letter by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in which he accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of failing to remit $49.8billion (N8trillion) received from the sale of crude during 19 months ending July 2013 into the treasury.

NNPC’s response has at best been obfuscating, and at worst, insulting. To tell the public that the governor of the CBN does not know how to add up oil receipts, is to say Sanusi does not know the difference between six and half a dozen. That is ridiculous. We know that the folks at NNPC are used to a president who doesn’t give a damn and a legislature that doesn’t take its job serious. But we promise them, on behalf of millions of ordinary Nigerians whose children have been robbed of a decent education, potable drinking water, safe neighbourhoods and a fair shot at a decent life, that we will hold their feet to the fire. We will not stop asking until the public has a full and satisfactory account of what happened to the $49.8billion.

They think that a scandal-weary public will accept anything. They are mistaken. This may well be the scandal that ends all scandals.The moment of truth has come; we either swim or sink.Only last Monday, finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at a breakfast meeting with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) in Lagos, bemoaned the destructive influence of “corruption, mismanagement and waste in government”. Infrastructure and development, she said, were impossible with “this level of corruption” which “is eating into the fabric of the economy”. In a rare moment of candour, she added: “We are not helpless; we need to have the courage to start the corruption fight.”

About the same time, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, was addressing the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day. He said President Goodluck Jonathan was encouraging corruption in the country by failing to act on cases found by the legislature to be true. In particular, he drew attention to the purchase of two bulletproof cars for aviation minister Stella Oduah at the cost of N255 million, the failure of anti-graft agency EFCC to account for donor funds it receives, inaction over N1trillion stolen by fuel importers in the name of “subsidy”, and the mismanagement of billions of naira of the police pension fund


– – Leadership Editorial

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