P&ID $9.6BN NIGERIANS WILL FEEL MORE LASHES.
“For every folly of their [Governments] Nigerians feel the lash.”
Horace, 65-8BC. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS.
Wisdom and folly have always been around since mankind first formed governments. Some races grabbed more of the former than the latter. The black race obviously picked up the latter. That is why white men enslaved us and not the other way around. Just in case you think economic slavery ended in the 18th century, then you have not thought deeply of what the governments of presidents Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari had just done to us with regard to the $9.6bn P&ID scam. Just as the white man sat in the shade at the coast while greedy African traditional rulers waged senseless wars just to capture fellow Africans to be sold to slavery, our three governments have now ensured that a few white men will sit in the comfort of their mansions while 200 million Nigerian work to cough up whatever the final settlement turns out to be.
Don’t let Mr Malami, the incompetent Minister of Justice fool you, we are going to pay a substantial sum which will cripple the economy this year and for years to come. We will probably have to borrow more than we planned to get rid of P&ID. Right now, Mr Malami is playing dangerous games with our lives – if what he had been reported to have said is correct. They are reproduced below.
First, the Attorney General for the Federation, AGF, said: “The records are there for any sane person to see and judge if indeed Malami or indeed the Buhari government can be held responsible for an act that had been completed five years before we came into office.” Second, he delivered his judgment in his own case by saying that it is therefore wrong and unfortunate for any sane person to insinuate or imply that AGF Malami is culpable in any way regarding the award of $9.6bn against Nigeria by an English court.” Together, the two statements can be reduced to one sentence. “No sane person should blame me”.
To use Malami’s word, it is unfortunate that discussions about the P&ID award which several individuals, at home and abroad, had tried to keep out of mental hospitals had been taken right there by the AGF. Hitherto, critics of all the three governments involved and the Katina Mafia which initiated the grand larceny had focussed only on the gross dishonesty, the demonstrated incompetence and the obvious lack of professional skill of all those directly or remotely involved in the great scam which has now imperilled our country financially. None of us had questioned the sanity of the actors. Malami has suddenly opened our eyes to another possibility which must be considered as we continue with this inquiry. We must now ask great questions about the mental state of those involved. Indeed, one of the unintended consequences of Malami’s query regarding the sanity of the FG and himself is that like the man who points one accusing fingers at others; he forgets the four pointing in his direction. Certainly, we must now ask if those elected and appointed to serve Nigeria, including those in this administration, who in any way participated in this calamity (whose economic dimensions are still unknown; but will be considerable and crippling) should not be marched to the National Psychiatric Hospital to check if their mental wheel balances are not out of order. Surely, it takes a lot of people who derive pleasure from seeing their nations on fire to start this disaster which goes well beyond ordinary “corruption is nothing but stealing”. This one scandal is threatening to bring down the entire edifice. And, anybody who could have either stopped it or reduced the damage cannot disclaim responsibility or be presumed to be well-adjusted mentally.
At this point, we return to the first part of Malami’s defence. It was a classical example of creating a straw man in order to knock it down and congratulate oneself for a job well done. Malami made a point which no critic of the Buhari government disputes. The contract was concluded several years before this government came into office. But, that only states the most obvious fact. It was a necessary condition for exonerating the Buhari administration of initiating it. But, that was not a sufficient reason not to question its role once it came into power and inherited the mess.
Every new government inherits assets and liabilities from its predecessors. The same is true of managers in any institution. Malami probably needs to be reminded that the current FG inherited over $43bn in external reserves, $2.1 in Excess Crude Account, $1.5bn in the Sovereign Wealth Account, streams of revenue from the LNG which was started by Babangida’s government in the 1980s, Aso Rock and an airline called Presidential fleet. Buhari accepted all those assets. He must also accept responsibility for the liabilities – including $9.6bn. It is simply ridiculous for the AGF to argue as if the contract stood apart from all the assets and liabilities Buhari took over on May 29, 2015.
One of the reasons we are deeper in this contract mess had just repeated itself in 2019. When Buhari bluntly refused to appoint Ministers for five months in 2015 he inadvertently allowed the matter to gather momentum against Nigeria in Britain. The President of Nigeria can hold his “slaves” in Nigeria to ransom for five months but he cannot halt the court processes in a foreign land for one day. Until November 2015, there was no Minister of Justice to brief and advise him.
I admit to lacking information regarding what Malami did when he was appointed AGF. Whether or not he sat with the senior officers in the Ministry to identify the top priority matters needing attention is unclear to me. Only Malami can tell us that. But, my experience in the private sector during the turbulent financial years – 1984 to 1990 – taught me one lesson. When faced with imminent liquidation on account of a law suit brought against your company, three things count most for the survival of the entity – speed, focus and relentless engagement with those bringing the suit against your company or organisation.
Granted, the Katsina Mafia, under Yar ‘Adua, set in motion the processes which resulted in the shady contract and which has brought us to the brink of this disaster. You don’t need to be perfectly sane to realise that the fault belongs elsewhere. But, President Jonathan (who should never have been President) and his Ministers made the matter a lot worse by virtually ignoring the suit. The Buhari administration compounded the criminal negligence and complicity by not tackling the matter with vigour from the first day.
Permit me to close this part by citing examples from the private sector in the late 1980s when several firms got into trouble on account of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP. In one afternoon, I was seconded from the brewery in Kano to a subsidiary in Ijebu from which the last three Chief Executive Officers have resigned in less than ten months on account of mounting law suits. My brief was to hold the company for 15 months until the shareholders could restructure and save the firm from liquidation. Although represented by three of the most ingenuous lawyers (names withheld), it was still up to me to determine the game plan. Seventeen creditors were involved but two accounted for 75 per cent of our liabilities. Judgment in favour of any of those two big ones meant the end for the company. So, we concentrated all our energy on those two – despite an auditor’s report indicating that some of our staff had colluded with the creditors in inflating claims. We were still in court for 22 months when I left.
If the Buhari administration had concentrated its fire-power on P&ID right from the first day we would not be talking about $9.6bn or sane or lunatic people. That is the point Malami is missing.