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Probing the probe of $20 billion?




IF reports that President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, is going to initiate fresh probe into the controversial “missing” $20 billion are anything to go by, then we may be in for the usual merry-go-round that is the bane of Nigeria’s backwardness and under-development.

It is not that probing official financial recklessness is bad per se; the problem with this particular probe is that the outgoing Jonathan administration has already probed the issue and laid it to rest, using world-acclaimed accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The probe would have won popular acclaim if Jonathan didn’t do it. It is advisable that the issue be put behind while the new administration tackles the mounting challenges facing Nigeria.

Except there is a hidden agenda to witch-hunt the outgoing President and his much-maligned oil minister, Mrs. Dieziani Madueke, it is needless going back to exhume a buried issue.

The PwC did not just do a probe in the commonly understood manner; rather, it carried out what financial experts call “forensic audit”. By definition, forensic is the application of science to decide questions arising from a crime.

By forensic audit, it is understood to mean that the PwC probe was scientific, thorough, in-depth and rigorous enough to be trusted. Besides, PwC is an independent external body that has a reputation to protect worldwide.

Its reputation cannot be dragged to the mud in Nigeria, that would put it in bad light. Therefore, any move to re-probe a probe already carried out by such a renowned body would be counter-productive.

It would mean discrediting the famed accounting body.If that is done, where does it place Nigeria? Could the country have the temerity in future, to approach PwC or any other accounting firm in that category for a probe when their work is discredited? The country would have shot itself on the foot. My people say if you kill the medicine man (dibia) who supplies you with charms; the people that are out to poison you are not finished.

The N20 billion may not be the last money over which probe would be instituted. Rather than embarking on a wild goose chase of an issue that has been laid behind, the Buhari administration should enthrone CHANGE, which Nigerians voted for.

It should evolve systematic structures that would make stealing of public funds difficult. Such a system should also make it easy to apprehend culprits. The difference between us and the developed world is not that there are no corrupt people out there.

There is corruption everywhere. The difference is that they have systems that make it difficult to steal public funds and those that attempt it are easily apprehended. The ease of catching the thief restrains would-be thieves.

Our system is porous. People steal without being caught and the money is declared missing.  That encourages new thieves and corruption blossoms.

No amount of probe would stop corruption in Nigeria. Otherwise, thousands of probes in the past would have done it. It is against this background that I am worried about what probing this matter is out to achieve.

Would it make any difference and outweigh the one already carried out by PwC? Is PwC going to be re-engaged, to probe itself? Or, is another accounting firm, probably, one greater than PwC, going to conduct the fresh probe? If that is the case, I don’t know how an equally competent accounting firm of PwC clout, would discredit what its peer has done. This is why I call this a wild goose chase.

But, if the probe is going to be done the usual Nigerian way – by that I mean, having a panel constituted by Nigerians, then, the exercise would equally amount to a waste of time and resources.

It is advisable that the incoming Buhari administration accepts the PwC report, closes the chapter and faces other more serious national issues that need attention.

Gen. Buhari, the other day, reportedly told a delegation from Adamawa State led by the State Governor-elect, Bindow Jibrilla, that he would investigate the allegations of the missing fund despite information that some persons have already started returning money to government coffers.

He reiterated that the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was removed from the Central Bank because he said that about $20 billion was missing, noting that instead of the government to investigate the matter, they refused and sacked him.

Sanusi, it would be recalled, had in September 2013, written a letter to President Jonathan alleging that a whopping $49.8 billion was missing from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)! The NNPC quickly debunked the allegation.

A reconciliation committee set up estimated that $10.8 billion was unremitted. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said it was $12 billion. Later, the CBN told a Senate committee that the amount was $20 billion.

A forensic audit conducted by PwC came up with the verdict that only $1.48 billion was actually unaccounted for. That should settle the matter. If we don’t trust our own reconciliation committee and don’t trust PwC, who then should we trust?  We are boxing ourselves to a corner and have no route for escape.

Gen. Buhari had earlier promised to draw a line on this matter but seems to be recanting. Sanusi, who was at the centre of the storm as former CBN Governor, seems to be prompting the incoming government to re-open the matter. As a financial expert, he should appreciate the fact that the probe he was seeking for has been carried out by PwC. His position as Emir of Kano places him as a strategic stakeholder in Nigeria. He is a father to millions.

I think he should help the incoming administration to enthrone change. We cannot continue to dwell in unproductive shenanigan and innuendoes.

I am an admirer of Sanusi, and have severally written in his support. On one occasion, I described him as the lone voice that cries lion, of which people won’t know when he is saying the truth. If after the PwC’s forensic audit, he still wants another probe, that would amount to pursuing a personal vendetta against Jonathan. And that will not help Nigeria.

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  • Julius Joel

    Truth is not being nurtured by conscience in this article. The often “let’s sweep the dust under the carpet” is what is killing Nigeria. Where is the Guardian newspaper when other previous administrations are probed? 20 billion dollar is too huge a money to wish away. Let the probe be carried out

    • Paului

      Waisting of time and resources. Unnecessary vengeance on Jonathan

      • Asuku

        Jonathan, like any President, is a figurehead. A lot went on by his appointees and their minions that he is clearly not aware of. This isn’t vengeance, it is stemming the rot from where it starts, for the good of the country! One man cannot be protected at the expense of a whole nation.

  • abubakar ganiyu

    Like i said before, this is a good move but I think probe should be wholistic. Buhari needs to
    summon the courage to probe the entire 16 years of PDP’s misrule.

  • Asuku

    The columnist clearly DID NOT read the report by PwC, instead he has only shown an ability to ‘research’ (probably by Google) the meaning of forensic reporting. The report of PwC stated categorically that they cannot qualify the report. Which meant that they could only state what they had done but because they could not fully carry out standard accounting procedures during their audit. The report states they were blocked in their attempts to do proper forensic auditing.
    Any journalist who puts the interests of a firm/business above that of a Nation is not only unpatriotic but has no understanding of how businesses work. Remember Enron and Arthur Anderson?

  • christopher

    if he wants to probe… let him go right ahead – The fact remains, NNPC is inneficient. critical infrastructures especially electricity need to improve to world standard, the economy needs to create quality jobs! and he has 4 years otherwise, he must also congratulate the ‘change’ ( for the better) that we shall make in 2019!

  • Bello Muhammad Sharada

    If this issue is to be laid to rest, it will not unless and Until Buhari probe it. Let him go ahead, do it and do other probes, he has only real 2 years before next round of elections.

  • New Nigerian

    …not that this piece would sway anything other than meeting the need to vent by the writer. We the people demand our stolen commonwealth be returned to the treasury of the federal republic – call it probe, call it whatever you like, all stolen wealth in the past 16 years need to be returned to the treasury. It is simpler than it has been painted to be and I can understand why all thieves would rather think that our money is their money just because they are hiding it in their account or estates – well we did not agree to that. Money is the simplest thing to trace from source to destination and everywhere in between. We should NOT be borrowing from our children & children’s children to give to thieves.

  • Peter Kalu Ajuma

    It is tantamount to incomplete probe to concentrate on NNPC leaving other departments like BPE (Bureau of Public Enterprise) etc, I mean looking into how Nigerian assets and properties became private in the name of prvatisation and concessioning. Adequate probe should cover from 1999 to date or even beyond except the intention of the probe is witch-hunt.

    • Mazi JO

      You have to start somewhere. And the exactitude might have self confessing effect on several other institutions.

  • bojuri

    pls my pple let sai baba go ahead, it is necessary 4 him to probe it

  • Mazi JO

    I totally disagree. The probe or re-probe must have one simple solution and that is establishing how to locate the pressure point to stem the hemorrhaging of our National Assets. Letting the sleeping lie? Absolutely not! The essence of management is control. Data is like the paper-blog. If you fail to control it, you better make your bed under its monumental pile over time. The exact accounting of our National resources might begin with this probing or re-probing exercise going forward. You can imagine when it is extended to CUSTOMS, FIRS, SURPLUSES in Departments after Budget executions, the huge collections from the PORTS and more you see how endowed this nation is. That is how the Asians performed Economic miracles in the world. When you take a variable out of an equation, the equity misaligns. Learn that lesson right now.

  • Michael Oduntan

    The author of the above article must be thinking Nigerians are stupid. I don’t know how you can call what PWC put out as a forensic audit when they themselves disclaimed their report due to the short comingS of the information or lack of information provided to them by NNPC.

    • Asuku

      You are on point!!! I am so happy that majority of comments on this article shows how baseless the columnists views are!