Switzerland Must Not Return Unsupervised Loot to Nigeria, By Pius Adesanmi

If you return this money to the Nigerian state unsupervised, you have just given APC and President Buhari the seed money to prosecute the 2019 election. The closest any part of that money will get to the Nigerian people will be via stomach infrastructure when bags of rice, salt, beans, knorr, ajinomoto, and garawas of ororo and palm oil are distributed in the 2019 election cycle.

Mr. Femi Falana is complaining about Switzerland and how that country is handling the latest tranche of the Abacha loot that is due for repatriation to Nigeria.

We are talking USD 321 million. The Swiss are insisting that the World Bank supervise the repatriation and monitor the spending of the money. Mr. Femi Falana is crying foul, citing Nigeria’s sovereignty and all sorts of conventions from the Geneva Convention to the Talata Mafara Convention.

Me I say the Nigerian people must cite the layman’s convention in this matter. And the layman’s convention states that where a state has been receiving looted funds since OBJ and immediately relooting it, somebody somewhere has to help her break a corruption cycle she has neither the moral inclination nor political will to break.

All the arguments about the Swiss being corrupt receivers of stolen goods and property are valid. The Swiss have never hidden the fact that they are the world’s most corrupt facilitators of African loot, constantly advertising their vaults as a safe and dependable home of loot.

But when the Swiss thieves sit down jejely in Switzerland, and your Nigerian thieves ferry loot to them constantly for safekeeping, it is the fault of your thieves. And where one set of thieves has shown some remorse, repatriating funds in tranches since Obasanjo, only for the funds to be immediately relooted and returned to them by your own remorseless thieves, you do not blame the remorseful thieves for finally insisting on supervised repatriation.

To put it bluntly, I am not in support of an unsupervised return of USD 321 million to Nigerian officials at this time. The Nigerian state does not inspire confidence and has egregiously mismanaged and relooted previously returned loot. We cannot account for one kobo of returned loot since OBJ.

I say get UNESCO into the picture. Let them set up an international trust fund for Nigerian primary education with the money – to be accessed directly as grants by Nigerian public elementary schools in rural areas for infrastructural renewal, teacher training, and curriculum development in civics.

The case of the management of those funds under Okonjo Iweala is legendary. She gave constantly shifting accounts and explanations depending on which audience she was addressing. In the end, it all boiled down to the repatriated funds having been recycled into Nigeria’s architecture of corruption. Not one sisi was spent on the Nigerian people.

But Okonjo even tried. At least she offered a million shifting and contradictory explanations. None of those who managed repatriated funds before her have ever even bothered to dignify the Nigerian people with true or false explanations.

You cannot return unsupervised funds to Nigerian officials. These are desperate times and all the talk of sovereignty is trumped by the era of globalisation and the IT knowledge economy marked by the ability of actors to bypass the state and reach peoples directly. Bypassing the state has proven very necessary in Africa because the postcolonial state in Africa is corrupt, dysfunctional, bogged down by all kinds of self-imposed strictures which prevent actionable agency from reaching the people.

What is wrong is for the remorseful thieves in Switzerland to have insisted on the World Bank. How can you bring Bretton Woods – another set of thieves – into the picture?

I say get UNESCO into the picture. Let them set up an international trust fund for Nigerian primary education with the money – to be accessed directly as grants by Nigerian public elementary schools in rural areas for infrastructural renewal, teacher training, and curriculum development in civics. Of course there will be all kind of obstacles erected by the Nigerian state. Laws will suddenly be passed preventing schools from accessing “foreign funds and grants” without the approval of the federal and state ministries of education, etc. But strictures can always be overcome.

If you return this money to the Nigerian state unsupervised, you have just given APC and President Buhari the seed money to prosecute the 2019 election. The closest any part of that money will get to the Nigerian people will be via stomach infrastructure when bags of rice, salt, beans, knorr, ajinomoto, and garawas of ororo and palm oil are distributed in the 2019 election cycle.

And, I must say that every President since OBJ has added a brand new plane to the Presidential fleet. President Buhari is yet to expand the fleet. USD 321 million is an excellent fleet expansion incentive…

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.

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