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Nigerian president feels heat from critics

(GIN) — New evidence of massive corruption has tainted Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, formerly unscathed by scandal. Nigerians were almost numb to the frequent discoveries of missing money, land grabs and graft. But, reports of troves of cash quietly shifted out of the country have sparked a frenzy of exposes in the once compliant press.

Two weeks ago, Ibrahim Lamorde, chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, announced unknown persons illegally transferred an estimated $129 billion (N20.6 trillion) out of Nigeria over the last 10 years. Between 2009 and 2013, over $25.4 billion was siphoned out of Nigeria by way of physical movement of cash and financial instruments.

Earlier, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria accused the petroleum and finance ministers of diverting or outright stealing about eight trillion naira from crude oil sales proceeds between Jan. 2012 and July 2013.

A devastating account of lost and stolen funds appeared this week in the online Osun Defender. Journalist Rudolph Ogoo Okonkuo wrote: “Crude oil thieves now steal over 100,000 barrels a day. That is over $3.6 billion dollars a year. Some foreign sources put the figure of oil theft at 250,000 barrels a day. Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recently told the Vanguard newspaper the loss to oil theft could be up to $12 billion this year.

He continued: “These thieves are made up of a cabal of top security officials, retired and current military officers, top government officials, civil servants whose job it is to monitor foreign oil companies and report how much oil they pump out each day, militants who are charged with protecting oil pipelines, etc.”

But, perhaps most surprising was an 18-page open letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which scolded the current president for incompetence and worse. It did not, however, impress at least one news columnist who scoffed:

“Some of the particulars in his charge sheet are right on target. President Jonathan has been unable to contain the threat of Boko Haram terrorism,” agreed Okey Ndibe, the columnist for Sahara Reporters.com. “He has not developed a good, much less a bold, program for tackling Nigeria’s myriad crises, including a scary healthcare sector, a collapsed educational system, and wretched infrastructure. He’s just occupying the space of president and commander-in-chief, without being able to rise nobly to the challenge of the office.”

But similarly, continued Ndibe, “ex-President Obasanjo was so thoroughly committed to the promotion of criminality that I nicknamed the man mischief-maker-in-chief.” A long litany of the former president’s flaws follow.

President Jonathan, for his part, has dismissed the charges against his administration and has threatened to charge the All Progressives Congress with treason.

 

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