Aisha Buhari’s Miss­ing N2.5bn

Sunday Trust - - FEVERPITCH -

As Aisha Buhari left for the 73rd United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly two weeks ago, she was seething with rage. Aisha is the spouse of Nige­rian leader, Muham­madu Buhari, who came to of­fice on an anti-cor­rup­tion horse.

En­ter­ing New York with her hus­band, Aisha was re­ported to be an­gry with her aide-de-camp (ADC), Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice Sani Ba­ban-Inna. To be an ADC in Nige­ria is to ar­rive at the ta­ble of priv­i­lege.

Baba-Inna had been present for two years when Aisha or­dered his ar­rest, al­leg­ing that he re­ceived huge do­na­tions from politi­cians and busi­ness peo­ple on her be­half but did not de­liver.

At stake is over N2.5 bil­lion, enough money to buy loads of luxury homes and cars in the world’s most ex­pen­sive cap­i­tals. Enough money to buy a liv­ing-room load of Mouawad 1001 Nights Di­a­mond hand­bags, which are worth $3.8 mil­lion apiece this year.

Ba­ban-Inna was ar­rested on Septem­ber 21. The po­lice up­turned his home; no N2.5bn. They ri­fled through his bank ac­counts; no N2.5bn. In fact, they re­ported find­ing a com­bined N31,200 in both lo­ca­tions.

But Mrs Buhari would not hear of it. Re­ports said she ac­cused the po­lice of cov­er­ing up for her sus­pect.

Cu­ri­ously, the In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice Ibrahim Idris, whom she first or­dered to ar­rest Ba­ban-Inna, was al­leged to have been among the donors, a charge he de­nied.

The fu­ri­ous First Lady then snatched the case from the hands of the po­lice and turned it over to the Depart­ment of State Security (DSS), who took the ADC into cus­tody.

Mrs Buhari, it may be re­mem­bered, is not an of­fi­cial of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria. She nei­ther ran for any of­fice nor was she ap­pointed. In fact, Buhari said on sev­eral oc­ca­sions that he would abol­ish the of­fice of First Lady.

Nonethe­less, there have been oc­ca­sional re­ports that the Of­fice of First Lady was well equipped and had been ex­ten­sively de­ployed by her pre­de­ces­sor, Pa­tience Faka Jonathan. Those re­ports say Aisha is served by her own ar­ray of pro­to­col and security of­fi­cers and per­sonal aides. Ba­ban-Inna was one of those aides.

But that is be­side the point. Where, in her mo­ment of anger, was her elected hus­band and anti-cor­rup­tion “cham­pion”, Muham­madu? He was prepar­ing to talk to the United Na­tions about im­por­tant sub­jects such as democ­racy, the rule of law and in­di­vid­ual rights, Myan­mar, Afghanistan, and the con­quest of cor­rup­tion.

In a press state­ment on Septem­ber 25, the same day Pres­i­dent Buhari took the mi­cro­phone at the Gen­eral Assem­bly, Aisha de­nied a hand in Ba­ban-Inna’s ar­rest for us­ing her name to de­fraud peo­ple.

“CSP Sani Ba­ban-Inna has been her ADC since 2016 and has been as­so­ci­ated with her ever since,” her spokesman said. “To the ut­ter dis­may of Her Ex­cel­lency, he has used the op­por­tu­nity to de­fraud un­sus­pect­ing as­so­ci­ates and of­fi­cials as ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tions have shown.” The po­lice, as his em­ploy­ers, had “ar­rested him to in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions lev­elled against him.”

She did not say at what point she lost faith in the po­lice and handed the mat­ter over to the DSS, and the gov­ern­ment, char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, has not said one word about the mat­ter.

“Oga’s Wife” has been a prin­ci­pal player in the Nige­ria cor­rup­tion mud for a long time. By “Oga’s Wife,” I mean the wives of Nige­ria’s lead­ers, in­clud­ing gover­nors and min­is­ters. Some older Nige­ri­ans know sto­ries from the 1970s and 1780s of crafty for­eign busi­ness­men who com­pro­mised Oga through their wives they met “ac­ci­den­tally” in the streets and shop­ping malls of Europe. Few of those wives could re­sist lav­ish baits thrown at their feet, par­tic­u­larly when, in ad­di­tion to cash, their ex­pen­sive shop­ping in­cluded de­liv­ery to any ad­dress in Nige­ria.

Clearly, that pat­tern, and of gen­er­ous Nige­ri­ans de­liv­er­ing 100-dol­lar bills in ce­ment-block packs, has con­tin­ued; an­ti­cor­rup­tion speeches be damned. It may be re­mem­bered that ear­lier this year, fol­low­ing the dis­clo­sure by the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) of a “ma­jor (in­ter­na­tional) break­through” of un­cov­er­ing two of her domi­cil­iary ac­counts con­tain­ing $11.8m, Mrs. Jonathan pro­posed an outof-court “am­i­ca­ble res­o­lu­tion of all cases” against her.

Two years ear­lier, in October 2016, she had ex­plained her for­tune came from gifts she re­ceived over a pe­riod of 15 years from many per­sons, some of whom she said she couldn’t re­call, in con­tri­bu­tions some­times “as small as N250,000.”

Yes, it is an in­vest­ment game that is boosted by the greed which rules Nige­ria. Those who play it know how it works. Among its prin­ci­ples, they know that a per­son who ac­cepts one gift will ac­cept a sec­ond. They know if he ac­cepts in Nige­ria, he will ac­cept abroad; that if she ac­cepts Naira gifts, she will ac­cept US dol­lars as well. You can see it as a gift. Its real name is a bribe.

De­spite Mrs. Buhari play­ing it as if it is an aber­ra­tion, it is to be re­mem­bered that her hus­band’s party re-nom­i­na­tion forms of N45mil­lion were bought for him last month by such an in­vestor called Nige­ria Con­sol­i­da­tion Am­bas­sadors Net­work (NCAN). The pres­i­dent took the bait, set­ting an atro­cious pub­lic ex­am­ple.

Worse was the sug­ges­tion in it that Mr. Buhari, try­ing to per­pet­u­ate the myth that be­ing a “cor­rup­tion-fighter”, he could not af­ford the forms be­cause he is not rich. There may be no law against such a prac­tice, but the ab­sence of a law has never made a wrong thing, in­clud­ing bad judge­ment, right.

Mrs. Buhari stressed that she has never asked any­one “to col­lect any favour on her be­half or on be­half of her chil­dren.”

Per­haps not. But Yusuf, her son, who grad­u­ated from the Uni­ver­sity of Sur­rey in 2016, re­port­edly owned-within one and half years - two BMW mo­tor­bikes, each of which was said to cost $157,000, and one of which he de­stroyed in a crash in De­cem­ber 2017. A fa­ther who can af­ford $314,000 for two mo­tor­bikes can cer­tainly buy an elec­tion form for $125,000, un­less those bikes were ac­cepted from NCAN-style po­lit­i­cal in­vestors or spec­u­la­tors.

What all of this means is that the Ba­banInna case un­der­lines that the anti-cor­rup­tion war of Mrs Buhari’s hus­band is a farce. Ev­ery time that “war” is chal­lenged by sim­ple events that ought to be taken care of by com­mon­sense and the law, the gov­ern­ment is ex­posed and de­fence­less.

In this one, Mrs Buhari clearly lacks the au­thor­ity to or­der na­tional in­sti­tu­tions around at her con­ve­nience. This is not the liv­ing room or any other house­hold room, but a na­tion and a democ­racy. If an aide has of­fended a rel­a­tive of an of­fi­cial, that should not cause the sub­ju­ga­tion of na­tional in­sti­tu­tions to that rel­a­tive, no mat­ter who they think they are.

It would have been fas­ci­nat­ing if Mrs Buhari were con­vinced of an anti-cor­rup­tion war and iden­ti­fied the per­sons who tried to put a price on her and hand them over for pos­si­ble pros­e­cu­tion.

And be­cause I also coun­sel peo­ple to­wards com­bat­ting and con­vert­ing vote buy­ers to ac­cept any mone­tary in­duce­ments but to sup­port non-traders, I would have loved to see Mrs Buhari col­lect the N2.5 b - and act­ing out­side the gov­ern­ment, be­cause she is not an of­fi­cial - build li­braries and buy books for our chil­dren na­tion­wide to feed the fu­ture. • son­ala.olumhense@gmail.com • @Son­alaOlumhense

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