The story of this world is one of several mysteries with varying degrees of mysteriousness. Whether one subscribes to the creation story or the big bang hypothesis, a prevalent cloud of mystery cannot be avoided. In fact, to be human is to accept the mysterious, to accept that for some things, the more you look, the more confused you become. Being human, we accept the complexity of some unfathomable mysteries. However, when some persons decide to present clean water as opaque charcoal, our collective intelligence is affronted. Here begins a look at Nigeria’s newest mystery, crafted in the opulence of Ikoyi.
Let me not be presumptuous to assume that the title is clear to everyone. The title is a play on the phrase: “Unidentified Flying Objects”, a phrase used to describe one of the “mysteries” simultaneously ridiculed and accepted by different sets of individuals. With reported sightings by some persons, UFOs have remained the stuff of legend, pointing either to folly or the existence of aliens. Despite proffered explanations that these objects are likely classified military projects, the mystery surrounding UFOs has not abated. Having explained the title’s link, let’s focus on today’s mystery.
The title was suggested by a colleague while commenting on Nigeria’s EFCC’s latest gem. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigeria’s anti-corruption czar, recently announced the discovery of about US$43 million in cash at a highbrow residence in Lagos. Although some Nigerians were shocked at the amount of raw cash discovered in one residence, there was really nothing shocking about that. A few weeks back, the EFCC had discovered about US$10mn uncooked cash stashed in an unimpressive building somewhere in Kaduna State. This find was simply a validation of existing knowledge that some Nigerians have massive amounts of dollars stashed all around the country. The only thing mysterious about this latest find was its lack of parentage—the EFCC had found an expensive orphan.
Unlike the US$10mn whose owner went to the courts to claim it was a collection of gifts accumulated thanks to an impressive “marginal propensity to save”, similar to those who saved military salaries to buy mansions in Dubai, no one stepped forward to claim this Ikoyi orphan. Seeing the lack of love cum rejection of the flamboyant orphan, the media went to work, linking the cash to at least three different individuals—a former NNPC personnel, a former PDP chairman, and a serving federal minister. Surprisingly, all the potential parents denied parentage, refusing to be linked to the trapped orphan. Then the Rivers State government demanded the money should be returned to it, being part of funds looted by its former governor. Nigerians trying to comprehend the US$43mn drama were soon hit with another mysterious twist.
Reports appeared out of the blue, linking the cash to the National Intelligence Agency, Nigeria’s CIA equivalent. Unlike the famous CIA, depicted in several Hollywood blockbusters, many Nigerians were unaware of the NIA’s existence—that is, until now. This new twist claims the NIA used the said apartment as a “safe house” and stored the cash there for use in classified intelligence operations. Since the EFCC’s official stance is that the owner has not been identified, the purported NIA link makes one wonder if the orphaned cash has finally found its parent.
A look at the entire fiasco presents some incredulous holes. Beginning with the EFCC, it says a whistle-blower (Nigeria’s newest hyper-lucrative occupation) informed it about the apartment where the money was stashed. An informant who knows where such a sum of money is kept would surely know who owns the money. This isn’t a case of a person chancing on a hidden bag in a bush. We are talking about a posh residential area in Ikoyi. The tale about the whistle-blower becoming concerned due to a shabbily-dressed woman entering the apartment is simply a moonlight tale. Nigerians don’t call the EFCC when they see unknown persons entering buildings. The EFCC is not the police, so this tale smells of fish. Even if we concede that the whistle-blower knew about the money in the apartment but had no idea who owned the money or the apartment, the EFCC is supposedly a federal agency with access to official records. Records must exist somewhere about who owns the building or the affected apartment, or if it was leased, who leased it. To even help the EFCC, the original owner of the building is known. Why is the ownership of the apartment still a mystery?
Moving over to the NIA, even accepting the existence of safe houses, it is incredulous that an intelligence agency would store US$43mn in an unprotected building. If we accept that the nature of the intelligence business sometimes requiring hidden money trails may hinder the use of the Central Bank as a warehouse, the NIA’s official HQ or state offices should be more secure than an apartment. If the NIA claims the apartment is one of its safe houses, why is the same apartment linked to politically exposed persons? Is this claim genuine or a flabby attempt to shield someone? Something just does not smell right and this soup lacks proper seasoning.
The mystery surrounding the Ikoyi orphan is unnecessary. “Unnecessary” is even an understatement. It is an insult to Nigerians. The EFCC may think it is “fighting corruption” by running a loudmouthed media campaign, but it is simply disgracing Nigeria internationally. Imagine international media organisations running stories about Nigeria’s EFCC finding US$43mn in a known apartment but unable to identify the owner. If Americans can spin a mystery around UFOs, Nigerians deserve better mysteries. These unidentified monetary objects just don’t meet the cut for an acceptable mystery.
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