Nigeria’s Intriguing Corruption, By Dele Agekameh

Before the age of computers, the internet and all forms of modern media generally, oral story telling was a big part of cultural integration processes, especially in Africa. Great story tellers existed and their traditional tales thrilled children and adults alike, with the many twists and turns crowned by the inevitable moral lessons inherent in them. Fables were especially popular, and the tortoise was at the centre of many funny tales. It now seems like a wave of nostalgia about those times has come upon the corrupt elements in our society.

Like many incredulous stories that have come out of Nigeria in recent times, the rave in the past few weeks has been about a few cases of missing beans, which is not in itself strange news to Nigerians. This time though, there has been an unexpected twist to the tales of corruption – animals. Like scripts from some of the many fables we used to be so entertained by, we have heard of how mysterious snakes and monkeys made off with staggering sums of money. The story tellers, of course, are civil servants and government officials who were confronted with questions to which they could not give any satisfactory answer.

In the first case, a sales clerk at the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) office in Makurdi, Benue State, produced an unbelievable account of how a mysterious snake made repeated trips into a vault that held JAMB’s money and swallowed a combined sum of at least N36 million. The clerk accused her house maid and other staff at the office of being accomplices or puppeteers of the mystery snake. The incredible storytelling was caught on tape, despite the fact that the story teller denied making the statement in an interview with CNN.

Without going into details of how a domestic help at the home of a JAMB sales clerk got caught up in the case of missing beans, one wonders why the clerk thought it wise to relay the tale to her superiors, truth or not. If the clerk believed the story to be true, why had she never raised alarm before the JAMB audit uncovered the deficit? Furthermore, there has been no word from the alleged maid or other implicated people, or the snake for that matter. Yet, the news spread like wildfire, intriguing the eventual victims of this very real theft – the Nigerian people.

In the next case, which is even more embarrassing than the implausible snake story, the now former head of the Northern Senators Forum, Senator Abdullahi Adamu has been implicated in the disappearance of the sum of N70 million. Senator Shehu Sani from Kaduna State spoke on the floor of the Senate after the letter of removal of Senator Adamu as leader of the forum was read at the Senate. He commented that there had been rumours that some monkeys raided the farm of Senator Adamu and carted away the millions. It was not readily clear whether the comment was serious or jocular, but the very fact that it wasn’t clear says a lot about where we are as a country today.

A country where looting becomes funny because some ridiculous tale has been told to cover it up, is not ready for real change. Soon after the snake and monkey episodes, other ridiculous stories have made the rounds, all supposedly in good humour.


Beyond the intrigues of this incredible storytelling, there are real issues of concern in these matters. First is the cash culture that is still prevalent in the country despite the supposed cashless policy of the government. In the JAMB case, at least, one is thankful that Ishaq Oloyede, the new registrar, has been able to phase out the cash transactions that enabled clerks in Benue to gulp down a whooping N36 million with no credible explanation. This is why the joke or no joke about N70 million and monkeys involving senators is a shame.

Government officials are amongst the most frequent handlers of large sums of cash, some of it coming straight from the Central Bank, as recent corruption cases have shown. With the knowledge that cash transactions increase the potential for corruption and minimises the accountability window in official transactions, one would expect that government offices and officials would be the pilot grounds for the implementation of the cashless policy. All evidence points to the contrary.


Another quite disturbing issue is the reception of the incredible tales by Nigerians. It appears that the weight of corruption has worn down the minds of Nigerians into a dispassionate state where we are majorly interested in the intrigues of corruption cases, while losing sight of the real issues. In this case, one can describe the reaction of Nigerians as that of fascination, rather than something like righteous indignation, in the least. Maybe the case of the clerk presented a scenario most could relate to as opposed to a governor making up the same story.

In any case, Senator Shehu Sani displayed this fascination the most while attempting to masquerade his delight with sarcasm. Before his likely-made-up statement about monkeys, which only served to disgrace the country further, the senator had been the one that visited the JAMB headquarters in Abuja with snake charmers to further make light jokes about a serious matter of embezzlement, while on the clock for his constituency of Kaduna Central. The man was simply so enthralled in the admittedly comic dimension of the whole affair that he lost touch of the real issue. Many Nigerians unfortunately mirror this reaction.

A country where looting becomes funny because some ridiculous tale has been told to cover it up, is not ready for real change. Soon after the snake and monkey episodes, other ridiculous stories have made the rounds, all supposedly in good humour. The fact that many other JAMB offices around the country had cases of missing sums that could not be accounted for became suppressed under the comic weight of the snake and monkey, and of course with assistance from a senator of the Federal Republic.

The world is always watching, and no matter the statistics, figures and charts we put out there, a foreigner wants to feel like they are in a civilised country when they visit, instead they pick up the morning papers and are greeted by these ridiculous tales.


Another disturbing aspect of the matter is the quarter of the population that actually believes the story. In a vastly religious country where older voodoo customs are still practiced by many, one cannot be too surprised that the clerk’s story of the snake sounds plausible to a section of the population. One can bet also that those who believe this will hold other ideas on how to move forward in the case now. There are many mysteries in the world, but civilised society cannot be run on logic-defying beliefs and notions.

The fables now being told by suspected looters and irresponsible lawmakers may rival the best stories we heard in old times, but there is no moral to these tales of corruption. The only lesson we learn is that we are not winning the war of greater accountability. Whether the clerk believed the tale she presented or not, the truth is that the mind-set of the custodians of the common purse at any point in time may be a barrier to accountability in official practices. If one were to believe the clerk, for instance, it is altogether possible that she was busy fasting and praying or visiting witch doctors of her own when she should have been reporting lost money.

It is indeed shameful also that these tales are getting international attention. That CNN interviewing the clerk is a deeply embarrassing episode for the country. Whichever way one looks at it, it casts us all in a terribly bad light, just as the appointment of dead men into government boards and other sorry tales that have emerged from the country in recent times. The comedy must appear to never stop for observers in other countries, particularly neighbouring African countries who are in the same race for greater development as we are.

The world is always watching, and no matter the statistics, figures and charts we put out there, a foreigner wants to feel like they are in a civilised country when they visit, instead they pick up the morning papers and are greeted by these ridiculous tales. It is all at once sad and uninspiring that these are the kinds of matters that are generating the most attention in an election season. Too bad!

For Sale: The Nigeria Police Force, By Dele Agekameh

The Muhammadu Buhari administration came into power with the promise of a full scale war on corruption at all levels. While many see the fight against corruption as being one-sided and a witch-hunt of the president’s political rivals, the truth is that now people feel more emboldened to expose corruption, whether for selfish reasons or for the greater public good.

In the latest bout of allegations and counter-allegations that have almost become routine in the public sphere in the Buhari era, Ibrahim Idris, the incumbent inspector general of Police (IGP) has been caught up in a web of accusations of corruption levelled against him by Isah Misau, a senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on the Navy. Misau accused the IGP of being unable to account for payments received from private companies and individuals for services rendered by the police, amounting to about N10 billion monthly. He also accused the IGP and the Police Service Commission (PSC), under the chairmanship of Mike Okiro, a former IGP, of receiving payments from police officers in exchange for favourable postings and promotions.

But in a shameful manner, the police, through Jimoh Moshood, the Force Public Relations Officer, responded by raising counter-allegations against Senator Misau, labelling him a deserter from the police force, while also accusing him of forgery, after Misau produced a retirement letter. There were other allegations of impersonation and attempts to discredit the senator who was equally accused of frequenting Indian hemp joints.

One can get lost in the sensationalism of the dirty back-and-forth between the senator and the police and miss the vital pieces of information worth pursuing in the ensuing drama. However, the issue of greatest concern is the matter of payments from several firms, including oil companies and private individuals which have been described as “internally generated revenue”. The police is not a revenue generating organisation and these payments are surely not being remitted to the federation account. A fact that may also be missed by many is that these payments cannot be new. The past IGPs would have been recipients of similar payments and the accountability of the money generated may have also been an issue in past times if this matter is properly investigated.

With this in mind, one would assume that the senator, who had been part of the police force, would have been aware of the existence of such payments in the past. It raises questions about why he has taken it upon himself to launch a specific attack on the present leadership of the police force. Whatever his intentions, which may probably be selfish, the issue is now firmly in the public domain. One only hopes that, as in many cases before this, the matter will not just be swept under the carpet as soon as public consciousness shifts to other matters.

Another telling point is the reaction of the police. The shame of the response of the police force is not only on the leadership of the force, but also on the entire nation as a whole. The ill-advised counter-allegation is, in many ways, an admission of guilt, and a very childish way of deflecting blame that should not be seen in such high offices. The horror of the situation was televised live when Moshood was engaged in a shouting match with the senator on Channels Television a couple of weeks ago. It was gut-wrenching to watch the shameless display.

To make matters worse, the PSC, which seems to be threading a bit more carefully than the IGP, has now cleared the senator of the allegation of forgery by confirming his retirement letter from the force. Even if it were found to be false, raising the issue after the senator raised accusations against the police is already indicative of irresponsibility on the part of the police leadership and that should not be taken lightly.

The police force in Nigeria is about the most corrupt public institution in the country. Public confidence in the institution has been dangerously low for as long as one can remember. That is why groups like the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and many similar organisations thrive. The present IGP himself came into office in ostentatious manner by immediately accusing his predecessor of carting away choice police vehicles and leaving the runt for him.

Soon after, he was himself involved in a controversy over the questionable disposal of police vehicles and allegations of diversion of about N7.2 billion meant for the purchase of armoured personnel carriers and the renovation of around 102 police stations across the nation, all in violation of the 2016 Appropriation Act. The House of Representatives summoned him over these allegations but not surprisingly, it came to nothing.

Many more allegations have come to light that paint the IGP as a questionable character. Earlier in 2016, Sahara Reporters reported that senior police officers had accused the IGP of brazenly engaging in sexual trysts with subordinates, amongst other acts that make him unfit for his role. This indicates that he may not even enjoy the confidence of his own men and may have been an unpopular choice to begin with. The allegation of promotion racketeering against the IGP and the PSC may also have had a base in the recent appointment of Imohimi Edgar as commissioner of Police in Lagos State. It was an uncommonly fast-tracked promotion as he was just promoted deputy commissioner (DC) in April this year and then moved to acting commissioner within five months. Although, he is credited with the firm handling of the recent Badoo killings in Lagos, nevertheless, his appointment was far and above many of his superiors still left in the cold. It is also a practical affirmation of the allegations against the present police leadership.

The issue of private payments to the police is not a uniquely Nigerian problem. While it is generally not encouraged and met with raised eyebrows, it has unfortunately crept into many police systems. Recently, the UK police had to answer for private payments received from companies and communities which ran into about £20 million. The payments were said to have been occasioned by cuts in the police budget that drove companies to pay for the extra manpower in investigations, and communities paying to bring back police presence to areas where they had to be pulled out.

The difference here is that while in the UK the generated funds are applied directly to the visible and verifiable employment of more equipment and personnel, the Nigerian situation involves utilising men who are already answered for by public funds (estimated at about 10,000) to protect companies and private individuals – many of questionable character. The received payments are unaccounted for and instead, are added to the IGP’s slush fund for illicit spending.

The government needs to take formal notice of these funds and build a structure around its utilisation that promotes accountability and transparency. Receipt of these payments may not be a bad or unacceptable thing in itself, but after years of unaccountability, the allegations made by Senator Misau may have finally cast necessary attention unto this police “revenue”. Whatever his particular interests, the senator may have inadvertently done the nation a service. One would now expect him to hand over the matter to his counterparts on the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, while he returns his attention to the Navy where it ought to be.

As for the IGP, his fate lies squarely in the hands of Mr. President, who needs to do more in ensuring that his appointments match the declared zero tolerance for corruption. From the information now coming out against the IGP, it appears he may not be suited for such a role in a government that is serious about fighting corruption and restoring sanity to the country’s public offices. There is more than just smoke in this ugly episode and the members of the public now wait on Mr. President to put out the fire ravaging the police leadership.

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