N89trn heist and The Gudaji Ultimatum, by Hassan Gimba
For the past two weeks, the gregarious Muhammed Gudaji Kazaure, a lawmaker representing Kazaure, Roni, Gwiwa and Yankwashi Constituency of Jigawa State in the House of Representatives and one of the most vibrant members of the House, has been trending. He came out with some papers and a story that sounded like a tale by moonlight.
In an interview with BBC Hausa two weeks ago, the lawmaker disclosed that he was the secretary of a Presidential Committee on the Reconciliation and Recovery of All Stamp Duties. He also alleged that critical institutions such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), and the Protocol Department of the State House had prevented him from briefing President Muhammadu Buhari on findings made by his committee which, he claimed, had discovered that N89.09 trillion purportedly realised from deductions by banks had been misappropriated.
Among some of Hon Gudaji’s claims are that his committee had flagged the funds in CBN Private Investors Account, amounting to $171.0 billion, ₦13 trillion “recycled” as loans to some banks and FMDQ Debt to the federal government at ₦23.3 trillion.
And for these, the committee wants some actions taken for a full investigation to take place. It recommends, among others, that the CBN governor proceeds on leave immediately, while the Department of State Services (DSS) leads a full investigation into the three CBN accounts and for the EFCC chairman to submit its report on the three accounts.
He also made available to press men a letter making him and six other distinguished Nigerians members of the committee. The letter had a signature of approval by no less a person than our president, who came on the premise of fighting against corruption.
And this is where the story started becoming interesting. With twists and plots and subplots, you think it is a story in the mould of the hit movie, The Bourne Ultimatum. The protagonist, Jason Bourne, sets out on a quest to uncover his dark past. But to get to the end of the riddle, he must dodge the CIA agents trying to snuff out his life.
In the case of Hon Gudaji, whose committee was on a quest to unearth our dark past, he alleged that the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) unilaterally dissolved his committee and the president’s director of protocol, his kinsman, prevented him from seeing the president. In other words, their actions can literally be likened to those of the CIA agents after the life of Bourne, but in this case, it is the Gudaji report that is being killed.
And this is why the whole thing sounds like a tale by moonlight. To begin with, the way the committee itself was set up was so bizarre, sounding more like the stories one used to read in the fictional Nick Carter Killmaster series. In the Nick Carter series, an American president under tension and wants an ultra-secret manoeuvre to outflank enemies of the state circumvents established systems and protocols and gets in touch with David Hawk in charge of a super-secret American spy organisation called AXE. Defined as a stern man on the older side of life, ensconced in his cover office at Amalgamated Press and Wire Services located on Dupont Circle, the cigar-loving “lean, wiry, and tough” Hawk calls in his best operative, Nicholas J. Huntington Carter, shortened to Nick Carter and codenamed N3.
Agent N3, the quintessential American hero, is a man who is not afraid to head into danger and is capable of handling any opponent. Agent N3’s character is perfect, a man’s man and a woman’s desire, supercapable as an agent and dreaded by opponents, unlike Honourable Gudaji Kazaure who is just a plain human who loves his country and identifies with the average person.
Yet he is a man who does not fear, saying it as it is irrespective of the danger it may pose to him. Very vibrant in the House, he is always on the side of the people – and nation. And so, he said the president circumvented known channels and thrust some responsibilities on him, advising him not to let anyone know. He believes with all sincerity in President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to fight corruption. And so, he took up his committee job in earnest.
But unlike N3, whose president acknowledges his contributions to the nation’s security and economy, Honourable Gudaji is left moving from newspaper houses to radio and TV stations. I am sure he is now going public with his story and ultimatums out of frustration.
Now, the Central Bank did not respond to the lawmaker’s allegation, nor did the ministry of finance. No federal government institution did, especially those whose works are related to finance, economy or monetary monitoring. Only Malam Garba Shehu did on behalf of the presidency.
First, he debunked the existence of the committee despite the letter Honourable Gudaji made public. He queried how a member of the legislature will serve on a committee of the executive arm. It may well be so, I do not claim any knowledge of government protocols, but I think (and I hope I am right) that a president or a governor can set up a committee and appoint whoever he wishes, including members of the legislature, who he believes can serve the purpose for setting up the committee. It is all a matter of trust and belief in the capacity and honesty of that person to serve.
Anyway, I have known Malam Garba Shehu for a long time and well enough to be able to say one or two things about him. We have been interacting in the Northern Publishers’ Forum meetings and I know him as a thorough and committed journalist. Last time I checked, he did not major in economics, nor did he teach finance. A veteran journalist, he has taught journalism to people who have gone on to distinguish themselves in the profession.
Therefore, he should not be the one to cast aspersions on Honourable Gudaji’s allegations. Here, one can borrow from the advice of the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who, as president, gave the late Dr Ambrose Alli, then governor of Bendel State.
He said, “My brother Ambrose Alli, a medical doctor in politics, leave politics to politicians.”
Even though Malam Garba Shehu is the president’s spokesman, he should leave talking about economics to the economists. He is not a financial expert. He is not on the payroll of the Central Bank. The CBN governor should be able to defend himself. We have the minister of finance, and surely, the president has an economic adviser. They are the ones to respond and not Malam Garba Shehu.
The CBN which complained that they are redesigning our currency because between 2015 and 2022, the currency in circulation doubled from ₦1.5 trillion to ₦3.2 trillion (as if the ordinary folks printed the excess) should come out to defend itself. The CBN that does not know the quantity of the new naira notes it ordered printed should rebut Honourable Gudaji’s allegations.
If the honourable member is falsely accusing the CBN and its governor of financial atrocities, this is the time for him to know that he cannot be above the law. He cannot come and impugn the character of people, especially public officers, and go scot-free.
However, if there is truth in his claims, then it is a litmus test for the president and his acclaimed commitment to fighting corruption. If he turns a blind eye, posterity will not forget, nor forgive. A challenge has been thrown. Will he take the Gudaji ultimatum?
Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.
That’s Shehu Garba for you, Dr., Spokesperson for the president. Journalist or economist? I wonder!!! He would’ve allowed an economist to respond. It’s a very important and sensitive allegation that attracted the attention of Nigerians.
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