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Saturday, 02 March 2024 14:38

Tinubu’s Headache: How multi-billion dollar corruption under Buhari hit economy — Investigation

•Culprits already being identified
•Negotiations for the refund to the national treasury ongoing
•Political interference may compromise efforts

 

 

It may never be known whether the man, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would have gone ahead to contest in the 2023 presidential election if he had an idea of what had gone down under the eight-year rule of Muhammadu Buhari. 

It may also never be known whether President Bola Tinubu would have acted differently and not be “possessed with courage”, had he seen the books and known how much of Nigeria’s commonwealth had been stolen by a few, fat cats in the Buhari administration, on Monday, May 29, 2023, when he announced the removal of subsidy on PMS.

Nigerians may not know whether Tinubu would still have gone ahead even if he had an idea of what had been stolen, just to fulfill a said messianic calling of rescuing Nigeria and charting a pathway for progress.

However, what is now known is that billions of dollars were “made away with by some players in the Buhari administration”, a presidency source disclosed to Saturday Vanguard last week.

What is also known, today, is that beyond the bravado and braggadocio President Tinubu puts up in public, he has a niggling headache about how to recover the quantum of funds stolen and what to do with the culprits.

Obaze’s Act

For security and intelligence gathering reasons, Saturday Vanguard was counselled by a very dependable Aso Rock source not to name names yet and to be careful in presenting details of an ongoing investigation into how billions of dollars disappeared.

This is because even Jim Obaze, the Special Investigator appointed by President Tinubu, has not been sitting pretty on the job as a result of constant meddling and needless interference from a few powerful players in the present administration.

But the source said “Obaze is undeterred. And Tinubu is backing him all the way in the investigation.
“Whatever you think you have heard before now would peter into insignificance in the face of what is being discovered”, the source said.

 

How it started

But it all first started as an unverified and unverifiable report that some powerful and influential operators close to President Buhari had become stupendously rich at the expense of Nigeria’s treasury.

Figures in the billions of dollars were said to have been traced to some of them. The figures were too high to be believed prompting one of the sources contacted to ask: “Is it that some of these people you are talking about were the ones to whom funds for the purchase of our crude oil were paid? Did they pay these people directly for crude oil sales or what?’

Billions of dollars traced to individuals

Well, after weeks of investigation, Saturday Vanguard can, indeed, confirm that billions of dollars have been traced to certain individuals.

A source privy to what is going on said that “some of the figures you get to hear are troubling. What does anybody want to do with $6 billion? What does anybody want to do with $8 billion? These figures are something else”.

But how did these disclosures come to light?

Weekend Vanguard discovered that President Tinubu gave Obaze the Magna Charter to dig into any and everything that had to do with how funds from Nigeria’s treasury disappeared or found their way into private hands.

Axes of financial malfeasances

It was in the course of pursuing leads at the CBN and the presidency that some authorised and unauthorised transfers and outright cash withdrawals were discovered.

From over-invoicing to forgeries, unauthorised releases, influence-peddling, funds diversion, arms deals, forex deals and other financial malfeasances, funds were traced and tracked to some influential operators in the last administration.

Saturday Vanguard was made to understand that monies printed using the instrumentality of ways and means, amounting to over N30 Trillion during the Buhari administration, suffered a series of alleged mishaps, leading to diversion and unaccountability.

 

But for the need not to compromise the ongoing investigations and litigation, a Presidency source said “Many disclosures would have been in the public domain. But that has not disturbed the work that is ongoing on how Nigeria’s money was stolen by a few people”.

Whereas some properties and businesses bought and paid for in these axes of financial malfeasances have already been tied to certain individuals in the outgone administration, Saturday Vanguard was made to understand that some of them have already been contacted and are making useful information available to the government.

The presidency source said: “What I can tell you is that some of these people are already talking. They are making revelations and the government is determined to get our money back. Except you see some of the raw documents and figures, you can never truly understand the magnitude of what happened to this country. And it was done by just a few people. The country’s funds were treated like personal allowances for enjoyment. Why do you think there is a problem with the naira and the exchange rate? It is because funds are in the hands of a few people who decided to buy up whatever is available in the market. That is why the government is starved of funds. But properties and businesses are already being seized”.

Tinubu’s missteps

Tinubu, indeed, met an empty treasury. While it is indeed true that the treasury was looted, Tinubu, being “possessed with courage”, simply poured fuel on an already highly combustible situation in the country.

Experts have asked why President Tinubu would announce the removal of subsidy on his first day in office at the inauguration ground when he did not have a petroleum resources minister in place, nor a finance minister in place nor a national planning minister in place? 

If these appointees were already in place, data and official documents would have guided whatever decisions were to be made by the newly inaugurated president. But this was not the case.

To make matters worse, the policy of flotation of the naira which the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank have been calling for was also introduced by President Tinubu.

Unfortunately, a mono-economy that thrives largely on crude oil which suffers episodic interference and manipulation from a plethora of factors, was, naturally, going to suffer a mishap in the absence of huge proceeds from non-oil exports that could have cushioned the floatation of the naira with additional forex earnings.

It is the introduction of these twin policies at the same time that further exacerbated the crises in the economy.

A President and his headache

While some persons close to President Tinubu have confirmed the development, some neither confirmed nor denied the discoveries, the identities of the persons involved and the sums of money at play. 

But those who know are both amazed and amused at the attitude of the president to the issue.

With the present administration assailed from different corners by multidimensional crises on the economic and security fronts, some observers are wondering why President Tinubu has not openly dealt with the issue so that Nigerians would have a full grasp of the type of economy he inherited before he was “possessed with courage” to remove subsidy without the benefit of proper planning. Some say he doesn’t want to embarrass the outgone Buhari administration, while others say going public would present the party, APC, as one whose members were so reckless under Buhari. But Nigeria needs her money.

Indeed, penultimate week, the IMF reportedly issued a “statement on the conclusion of its Executive Board’s Post Financing Assessment with Nigeria and expressed concerns that the government had capped the prices of fuel at retail stations. The global lender advised the administration of President Tinubu to completely stop the payment of subsidies on petrol to free funds to run the government.”

How Tinubu would deal with this headache remains to be seen but he recently said that what mattered more were the feelings of Nigerians, an indication that he may be reluctant to give in to all IMF proposals.

Enter the manipulative hands of politics 

Saturday Vanguard was told that the ongoing talks with some of the looters were yielding positive results.
However, part of what has made the issue very knotty is the complicity of some leaders of the ruling party who actively participated in the Buhari administration.

Part of Obaze’s challenge is the constant meddling of some very powerful individuals in his investigations, sometimes introducing blackmail.

It was reliably gathered that the card being played so that the issue would not go public is the role of some prominent members of the last administration who also played prominent roles in the campaigns for the party.

Pieces of information available to us suggest that some of the funds could be eventually tracked to quarters that would be too uncomfortable for the government of the day to expose.

That is the point at which Tinubu’s headache is becoming a migraine. 

Former President Buhari has been reported to have told his successor to do whatever he needs to do to recover allegedly stolen funds because he knows his hands are clean.

All said, another major concern is how the recoveries would not be re-looted just like the Abacha loot.

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