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ONLY IN NIGERIA

If it were a Hollywood movie, it would have made the Oscars. Sadly, it was not make-believe; it was real, it happened and it could only have happened in Black World’s most populous country, Nigeria, where strange things are never strange. In many respects, it is evidence of how much the country has suffered in the hands of its political leaders. It is also symptomatic of a greater malaise plaguing the country – widespread corruption, moral decay, and failure of state institutions.

The story of how operatives of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), continues to discover millions of dollars of looted money in the strangest of places would make even Robert Ludlum’s political thrillers green with envy. So far, no place has been considered too unlikely to accommodate stolen money by politicians. In fact, the more unlikely a place looks, the more likely it is to conceal huge stash of raw looted cash. Millions of looted dollars have been discovered ingeniously stashed away in soak-aways, farmlands, ghettos, airport terminals, shops, and now fancy apartments in fancy upscale neighbourhoods of Lagos.

On April 12, following a tip off, operatives of the anti-graft agency stormed an apartment block in Ikoyi, Lagos, in a sting operation and discovered a huge stash of cash in local and foreign currencies running into millions of dollars. Discovered along with the cash was campaign materials of former President Goodluck Jonathan. The discovery came immediately after another N250 million cash was discovered in a shop at the popular Balogun Market in Lagos, N49 million cash intercepted at Kaduna international airport and over $9 million buried in an Almajiri ghetto of Kaduna.

In a statement, the EFCC said it discovered $43.4m, £27,800 and N23.2m in flat 7B, a four-bedroom apartment on the 7th floor of Osborne Towers located at 13 Osborne road, Ikoyi, Lagos. The statement said “the operation followed a whistle blower’s confidential alert received by the Commission’s Lagos office ….regarding some noticed suspicious movement of bags” in and out of the apartment. According to the EFCC, the whistleblower revealed that the movers of the bags, make believe they were clothes and that a woman usually appeared on different occasion with bags popularly called ‘Ghana Must Go’ looking haggard, with dirty clothes but her skin didn’t quite match her outward appearance”.

Preliminary investigation revealed that the building belongs to former Bauchi State governor and Peoples Democratic Party chairman, Alhaji Adamu Muazu. Muazu initially denied ownership of the posh towers, but later owned up when the heat became intense. He, however, denied knowledge of who occupies flat 7B where the stash of cash was discovered. The EFCC immediately filed court papers for temporary forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.

As the anti-graft agency progressed further in the investigation to unravel the identity of the occupant of the flat, Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) Director General, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, surfaced with a claim that the apartment was an NIA safe house and that the cash discovered in it was part of the $289 million approved for the Agency by former President Goodluck Jonathan for covert operations. More investigation revealed however that the wife of the NIA Director-General, Mrs. Folashade Oke made a cash payment of $1.658 million for the purchase of the flat between August 25 and September 3, 2015. The question then became how did money approved for NIA end up in a private apartment belonging to the wife of it’s of its DG? Even more, how come the NIA DG neither briefed President Buhari nor the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, about the money and the covert operations it was supposedly meant for on assumption of office May 29, 2015.

Oke’s problems worsened when his lieutenants at NIA punched holes in his covert operations story. Deji Adeyanju, former PDP Director of New Media, revealed on his Twitter handle that the cash was a leftover of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign funds which Oke was trying to steal. It will be recalled that shortly after his defeat in the 2015 presidential election, Jonathan order refund of over N2 trillion unaccounted campaign fund from his party men and women.

President Muhammadu Buhari has since fired the Ayodele Oke as NIA Director General. The President also suspended from office the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, over his role in the award of contracts under the Presidential Initiative on North East. In the same breath, he set up a three-man panel headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to investigate allegations against the two top government officials. Other members of the panel were NSA Babagana Monguno and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami. Buhari has waged a relentless war on corruption since assuming office in May 2015 with EFCC boss Ibrahim Magu as his arrow head.

However, while the outcome of the investigation into the Ikoyi Dollars is being awaited, the President’s ill-health continues to give Nigerians much cause for concern. On 26th April, Information, Culture and Tourism minister Lai Muhammed told a stunning country that the President was working from home in line with his doctor’s advice. Lai said this in response to journalists inquiry on why the President was absent at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which held that day.

The President’s failure to chair three consecutive FEC meetings where key decisions for the country are taken, his absence at three weekly Friday Muslim Jummat prayers coupled with the fact that he was hardly seen in public had fueled speculations that he might be incapacitated. This was against the backdrop of news filtering in from Aso Rock that he could hardly eat or drink water. The speculations became rife following inability of the President’s media aides to prudently handle the narrative surrounding his ill-health as well as their failure to tell Nigerians exactly what was wrong with their President. Attempts to find out the exact nature of the President’s ailment always met with a brick wall. Given the precedent of former President Umaru Musa Yar Adua 2010, Nigerians had good cause to worry.

It will be recalled that on January 19, President Buhari embarked on a 10-day medical vacation in the UK. He ended up spending nearly two months during which time Yemi Osinbajo acted as Acting President. When he returned to the country on March 10, it was an emaciated and frail-looking Buhari who informed the country that he underwent multiple surgeries and that he had never been so sick in his life. This was even as official sources had claimed that the President was hale and hearty.

In another development, controversy has greeted Lagos State Government’s ongoing celebration of the 50thanniversary of Lagos State. Lagos State was created out of the old Western Region shortly after the start of the Nigerian civil war in 1967. Already, banners adorn the landscape of the mega city with some known and obscure faces under the rider, ‘Lagos is my success story.’

Critics are questioning how the success story of Lagos State can be told without mention of notable names like late legal luminary, Chief Rotimi Williams, late human rights crusader, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, late business moguls, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, Olorogun Michael Ibru, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, and late Dr. Stella Adadevoh among others.

Dr. Adadevoh’s non-inclusion evoked more bitter emotions in that she was the one who raised the red flag on spotting the first index case of the dreaded Ebola virus in her patient at First Consultants Medical Centre, Obalende, Liberian national Patrick Sawyer. Upon confirmation of the diagnosis, Adadevoh and her team ensured the accurate tracking of all 20 of Sawyer’s contacts. She later paid the ultimate price due to her exposure to Patrick Sawyer but saved an entire nation in her patriotic bid to curb the spread of the dreaded disease that had killed thousands of people in neighbouring West African countries.

To properly document Dr. Adadevoh’s bravery for posterity, a blockbuster movie, 93 Days, featuring a blend of Hollywood and Nollywood legends, was produced in 2016 to remind Nigerians of the woman who took the bullet for all. It is against this backdrop that critics opine that the success story of Lagos is not complete without a prominent chapter dedicated to this woman of unusual courage and patriotism. So far, no official explanation has been offered by Lagos State Government for the reason behind the exclusion of these notable Nigerians. The celebration will end on 27th May 2017.

And here in Canada, the rift between Stephanie Otobo and controversial preacher, Apostle Johnson Suleman, is not about to abate as the sultry singer has filed a lawsuit against the preacher at the Ontario Superior Court. Stephanie is claiming 5 million Canadian Dollars for “damages resulting from breach of trust, breach of fiduciary relations, breach of contract, negligence, defamation, poisoning, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional stress, forcible confinement, multiple instances of battery, false imprisonment, fraud, assaults, sexual assaults, sexual harassments, harassments and malicious prosecution”. According to Canada laws, Suleman has 40 days within which to serve and file his defense.

Away from controversies, Osun monarch, Oluwo Of Iwo, Oba Adewale Abdul-Rasheed Akanbi and his Jamaican wife Chanel Chin holidayed in Toronto in April and were hosted at the Toronto City Hall by Canadian Parliamentarian Michael Ford. As a prince, Adewale was a resident of Toronto. He returned to Nigeria in 2015 with Chanel, then a girlfriend, to be crowned the King of Iwo land. Chanel, daughter of popular Rastafarian, Ludlow Chin a.k.a Bobo Zaro was a former factory worker in Canada.

Meanwhile, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on April 28 confirmed that it has removed the conditional permanent residence status for spouses and common-law partners sponsored to immigrate to Canada.This means that such residents now have full permanent resident status upon arriving Canada.

The condition was introduced by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper in 2012 as a means of deterring people from seeking to immigrate to Canada through non-genuine relationships. By eliminating the condition, the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau seems to be addressing concerns that vulnerable sponsored spouses or partners may stay in abusive relationships because they are afraid of losing their permanent resident status.

Finally, ambitious leader of Ontario’s New Democratic Party (NDP), Andrea Horwath, has announced that if elected premier in 2018, she would introduce the province’s first plan to cover drugs for its 13.6 million citizens. The plan – much like Ontario’s equivalent of Obamacare – according to her, would be fully implemented by the year 2020 and it will cover 125 drugs costing a whopping $475 million a year.

Horwath said the plan was informed by the fact that some Ontarians can’t afford to buy essential medications because they don’t have private health-care coverage. She says the NDP will fund the plan from anticipated new government revenues, or where they don’t materialize, from cuts in some government budget or an entirely new revenue source.

Commendable as the plan is, what Horwath did not say is if that “new revenue source” would entail a new tax of some sort. When asked to clarify this, she answered that “we don’t want to see any kind of burden that’s going to unnecessarily create hardship for individuals or businesses. We’re going to do everything we can to avoid that.”

Reacting to the plan, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said he would like the NDP to be clear on how they are going to pay for it. It will be interesting to see how the promise of this plan would affect the political fortunes of Andrea Horwath in the months ahead.