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The $43m question(s)

Most of Nigeria has been gripped by the alleged discovery of $43m, 23m naira ($74,980) and £27,000 in cash in a luxury flat in the highbrow Lagos suburb of Ikoyi on Wednesday this week. It was a great photo op for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and its beleaguered acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu to showcase their effectiveness and presumably demonstrate that the regime’s “whistle blowing” policy (in which anyone that blows the whistle on corrupt activities is entitled to 5% of the recovered amount) was working.

But this good news story didn’t stack up from the outset. It seemed a remarkable and very convenient coincidence that those huge sums were “discovered” a few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari failed to show up for a federal executive council meeting and Information Minister Lai Mohammed had to be dispatched to dispel fears about the president’s health.

The next part of the story that didn’t stack up was that such large amounts were not kept in secure safes but in filing cabinets and the keys were readily available!

More discoveries about the money discovery

And then the story started to unravel. Firstly, it was alleged that the building and the money belonged to Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu, a former National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Mu’azu was also the governor of Bauchi State between 1999 and 2007. A day or so later it emerged that Mu’azu previously owned the building, but had sold it. Before the Mu’azu alleged ownership could be debunked, another allegation emerged that the money belonged to Esther Nnamdi-Ogbue, a former Managing Director (Operatons) at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), who swiftly dispatched her lawyers with threats to sue.

Before the weekend a PDP stalwart and former minister Femi Fani-Kayode tweeted:

Lere Olayinka, spokesman for Ayo Fayose, the governor of Ekiti State wrote on his Facebook page:

The Osborne Towers, a luxury residential complex in Ikoyi, Lagos where EFCC said it found $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 on Wednesday is owned by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.

The house was built by Alhaji Adamu Muazu, the former Chairman of PDP through a loan from GTBank.

He could not repay the loan so GTB took over the house and allocated the Pent House to Muazu and two flats.

Rotimi Amaechi bought TWO of the flats (7A and 7B). He then gave 7A to MO ABUDU, the TV presenter, who is suspected to be his girl friend.

But the flat 7B where the money was found belong to Rotimi Amaechi.

The is believed to be cash kept for 2019 elections.

Let’s see how the cover up game goes.

By Friday, it seemed the government no longer knew whose money it was, prompting all sorts of jokes on social media and this classic from cartoonist Mike Asukwo:

Then it was the turn of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to turn whistle-blower against his former ally and nos arch-enemy Rotimi Amaechi.

Wike the wicked whistle-blower

Wike alleged that the money belonged to Rivers State and was stolen by his predecessor Amaechi: “If you recollect in 2015, we said that gas turbines built by former Governor Peter Odili were sold to Sahara Energy, business partners of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at $319million.

“That money was used to sponsor the All Progressives Congress for the 2015 general elections. From the date of sale of the gas turbines to May 29, 2015, the money depleted from $319million to $204,000 . What was stashed at the Ikoyi residence was part of that fund”.

Wike also gave the federal government a seven-day ultimatum to hand over the cash.

In the meantime, there were reports that the money belonged to the secretive National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for “major but covert security projects”, not specified, but perhaps “projects” for securing favourable (s)election results. The NIA is meant to be involved in counterintelligence in Nigeria. But there is no explanation for the lack of intelligence in storing millions in cash in such a way. However, there is no official confirmation that the money belongs to the NIA, but judging by the nature of their work, they wouldn’t be expected to confirm or deny.

The EFCC, according to reports, have got a temporary seizure order on the money from a Federal High Court in Lagos.

As the confusion over ownership of the millions continues, the stage is now set what Fela Kuti called “government magic” in “Unknown Soldier:
Them go dabaru [confuse] everything
Them go turn green into white
Them go turn red into blue
Water dey go, water dey come
Water dey go, water dey come
Them go turn electric to candle
Them go turn electric to candle

The “magical” appearance of all this money has served to deflect attention from Buhari’s disappearance in midweek. As Nigerians move on to another piece of drama in the next few weeks, another magic trick would appear to explain away the millions and its unknown owner. As Fela sang in Army Arrangement after 2.8bn naira went missing when Buhari was Federal Commissioner for Petroleum, “them set up inquiry, them say money no lost oh”. Maybe the inquiry on the “discovered” stash will conclude with “unknown soldier, na him own am”.

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