QuickRead: US court orders return of looted $8.9m to Nigeria. Four other stories we tracked and why they matter

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A court in the United States ordered the return of looted funds totaling $8.9 million to Nigeria. The funds were earmarked for the procurement of funds for the military tackling terrorists in the Northern part of the country.

The same week, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) invited the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, for questioning over the N438m contract scandal at the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.

These and three other stories we tracked dominated public discourse in the country last week.

1. US court orders return of looted $8.9m to Nigeria

On January 16, A Royal Court in Jersey, the US, ordered the return of looted funds totaling $8.9 million to Nigeria.

The funds earmarked for the purchase of equipment for the military tackling the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East were diverted under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.

The court’s order followed a forfeiture notice by Jersey’s Attorney-General, Mark Temple KC, in November last year.

The AG in his presentation at the last proceeding told the court that the funds were shared with family members of PDP officials before the 2015 general election.

He said: “This case again demonstrates the effectiveness of the 2018 Forfeiture Law in recovering the proceeds of corruption and restoring that money to victims of crime.

“I now intend to negotiate an asset return agreement with the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Why it matters

The development from the US has reopened the discussion on how some corrupt elites profited from the conflict in the North-East and almost drove Nigeria to the abyss because of greed.

It speaks to how successive governments in the country have been unable or muster the courage to tackle this cancer which stalled the country’s development since independence.

The inability of the Nigerian government to unravel how funds earmarked for the procurement of military equipment ended in private pockets has remained a sour tale in the mouth.

2. CCB invites interior minister over N438m contract scandal

The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) on January 15 invited the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, for questioning over the N438m contract scandal at the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.

The CCB invited the minister through a letter signed by its Director of Investigation and Monitoring, Gwimi S.P.

The letter wrote: “The bureau is investigating a case of alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers in which your name featured prominently.”

Why it matters

The invitation of the interior minister in connection with the contract scandal in the humanitarian affairs ministry is an indication of the massive rot in the ministry created to address the needs of poor Nigerians in the last seven years or thereabouts.

The revelations of the numerous scandals in the ministry have reinforced the call for a far-reaching inquiry to fish out corrupt officials who have perfected the art of stealing under the guise of providing succor to the large army of suffering Nigerians who are at the receiving end of the government policies since 2015.

3. Atiku’s aide defends meeting with Tinubu

Daniel Bwala, the spokesman for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar, on January 14 defended his meeting with President Bola Tinubu.

The lawyer had come under criticism in the last few days after reports of his meeting with the president were made public.

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However, in a Channels Television programme, Bwala dismissed as absurd the claims that he betrayed Atiku for meeting with the president.

He said: “I informed Atiku Abubakar I was going to see the President.

“After I had seen the President, I informed him (Atiku) that I had just seen the President and he replied, ‘Thanks Daniel for notifying me.”

Why it matters

The meeting between Bwala and President Tinubu, the man he called all sorts of names in the weeks leading to the February 25 election has again shown that politics is an interest-driven game, casting light on how players in the political space can quickly alter situations in the pursuit of their goals.

It will, therefore, not be a surprise if the lawyer-turned-politician realigned with the president in the coming days despite his well-publicized loyalty to Atiku.

4. Utomi on merger of opposition parties

A political economist, Prof. Pat Utomi, said on January 17 that the merger of opposition parties being conceived to wrestle power from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2027 was not for “machine politics” but for genuine service to the people.

Utomi, who is the Convener of the National Consultative Front (NCFront), said in a statement that the proposed arrangement was not a hurried coupling together of interests.

He was reacting to comments by the Deputy National Organising Secretary of the APC, Nze Chidi Duru, on his merger plans.

He said: “I read with interest the response by Nze Chidi Duru to speculations about what has been called a merger of opposition parties. That response itself is much evidence of progress.

“To clarify, what I have been speaking to is not the hurried coupling together of interests to create a platform for machine politics like the Daley machine in Chicago to obtain desired elections outcomes and foist state capture on a wearied people.”

Why it matters

Although this group is being conceived to provide an alternative platform for Nigerians following the abysmal performance of APC in the last nine years, it is hard to see different outcomes as many of those promoting the idea have been in the system for more than 25 years, moving across the two biggest political parties in the country.

There is an apparent lack of ideology among Nigeria’s political actors with many in the system only interested in grabbing power either legitimately or otherwise to share spoils.

5. Agbakoba doubts Nigeria’s existence as ‘one entity’
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A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, on January 18 expressed doubt on the continued existence of Nigeria as one country.

Agbakoba, who stated this at a press conference in Lagos, also charged the National Assembly to dismantle the mafia at the Supreme Court.

He said: “It’s not sacrosanct that we must be one country. If in being one country, you have all the killings in Jos, in Abuja, everywhere, what’s the point of being one country?

“Quote me. If we continue on this path to deploy the military, and deploy resources, and I don’t even know how much has been spent by the military in acquiring armaments, we can’t win. It’s a mistake. We cannot resolve our problem with a military solution. It will not happen.”

Why it matters

Agbakoba’s remark shows how broken the country has become in the last few years with no particular sector in the country exempted from the systemic rot.

It suggests that the country is in a serious crisis and on the verge of collapse.

The current situation in Nigeria has, therefore, assumed a national emergency that requires all manner of solutions to heal the wounds occasioned by bad governance and put the country back on track.

By Hamed Shobiye

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