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Air El Malam – Flight 423 billion, by Sam Omatseye

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Air El Malam – Flight 423 billion, by Sam Omatseye

Kaduna State has witnessed two flights. One is money, and the other is human. The latter flight is because the former is airborne. The money flight comes from fraud, while the human flight soars from fear. We can call the airline Air El Malam in its cloudy accounting. From my investigations, the flights are international and involve two continents and three countries.

We hope that the flights have return trips, or else the EFCC and Pastor Olukoyede may have to employ Interpol. For his peace and that of Kaduna, we should hope that all those who have left the country are on vacation or some sort of medical rejuvenation, or businesses that have little to do with the new report from the Kaduna State House of Assembly about the first flight that involves N423 billion taking wings from the state accounts.

That first flight, in financial parlance, may be called capital flight. But this is not strictly capital flight because capital flight can be legal and even wholesome.

The report, a 175-page affair as long as a novella, involves corruption allegations of gargantuan dimension, both in dollars and naira, traced to the little man who bestrode the most iconic state of Northern Nigeria. This writer was the first to do a comprehensive expose on the seedy tale of a government that had projects that eyes could not see, claimed to issue contracts without due process, some by blackmail and others by sheer bravado. Contractors collected money without work. Undocumented Contracts yielded funds to questionable accounts and documented money spun fairytale contracts. So, fiction became money and money became fiction. One of the satisfying events for a writer is for public occurrence to vindicate his report.

We hear that former Governor Nasir El Rufai is in Egypt. I expect that he will return soon, and I don’t want to invoke the line from scripture about those who seek refuge in the north African country. But many in the state are worried that the folks indicted by the House report have left the country to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Can we say they fled, or they are merely visiting?

Let it not be that they pled guilty with their feet and fled. Let it not be told that their flight tickets are saying, “I am guilty, my honour, because I have no honour.” Let it not be imagined that they fled to houses they bought abroad. Such purchases may invoke in the purloined homes the phrase in scripture that cursed is in the house of a thief.

The sum of N423 billion is no small find for even the grandest larceny. Malam EL Rufai, as I stated in an earlier piece, is often not a man to bait. He replies even before you drop an acidic sentence. Now, we neither see his face, nor hear his voice. The small man has become a hermit. He who was in a quiet swagger and eyeing with an avaricious eye the illustrious ambition of 2027, is like the haunting Comfort Omoge song about the fellow that everyone searched for but could not see. He is an invisible man.

He has promised to respond. When I wrote the expose, he said he would respond. He didn’t. When the House met, he said he would respond. He didn’t. Now that the report is out, he said it is false. But that is all he has said.

But this is the second phase of the invisible man. In the first incarnation, he loved the gossip. He was in stealth flight mode. He was meeting the president’s foes in furtive nights and unknown rendezvous. Then he made a show of his visibility. He met Pitobi. He even met folks of the SDP. Then to escalate the vanity, he met with Ribadu either to show off or to taunt those who knew he was showing off.

Then his successor Uba Sani cried out when El Rufai’s sins blazed forth like a fire that wanted to consume the state. Ezekiel the prophet wrote about a city being a cauldron and people as flesh in the heat. Governor Sani did not want that. All state stakeholders were invited to see. El Rufai is his friend. But the state is more important than a man, especially if he was setting the state on fire. The labour unions wanted to go on strike. They had to see the books and the rot of his predecessor. When they saw it, they winced, and decided to halt the onslaught.

Labour was part of the townhall meeting. The governor could not bear the pain alone in his liver. His revelations generated a collective sigh in the state.

The irony is, among the political elite, the religious leaders and the military and intellectual classes, no one has faulted Governor Sani. In all, the only person defending EL Rufai is El Rufai. Hence all those in the indictment, including a certain gentleman named Jimmy Lawal, who held an amorphous office of senior adviser/counsellor was, like a tortoise in an African tale, present in many of the sordid affairs. Who is an adviser and who is a counsellor? His acts, according to the report, is as questionable as his designation/s.

Unlike others with the outsized ego of an El Rufai in a small body, the former Kaduna State governor did not need anyone to encourage him. He was the man who birthed and cradled. He did not need a court jesters or buffoons to inspire him. He needed no minstrel with a guile, no hymnals of tease, no ministers of affection and no drumrolls of flattery. He was his own bouquet. If he falls, he will be like the mighty tree crashing alone on a forest glade.

There is a lot of work to do in the state. After such depredation, the new man in the saddle has set out on a repair mode. His own flight has to be turbulent, the rough air of redeeming the state debts, of revamping the projects, of getting the pensions to the retirees. Imagine on the former governor’s watch, billions of naira allocated to the aged did not go to the fellows with the hoary crowns. The work has begun for a new turn.

The language of the report was instructive. In the many loans, the only one that was used for what it was earmarked for was the N1 billion for the purchase of security vehicles. Each of the others, including N14.3 billion, N10 billion, N17.5 billion, N7.5 billion, N18.043 billion, N10.5 billion, N20 billion, $129.8 million, $209 million, $26 million, $350 million, $130 million, $62.8 million, $150 million, $20 million, $80 million, $280 million, $470 million, $494 million, $494.6 million and $16.8 million, was accompanied with such a phrase as “they were not utlilised for what they obtained for.”

The report says, “the debt management unit seems not to be aware of some of the loan facilities… “But a reckoning is afoot, and the nation waits what will happen now that the report is being forwarded to the EFCC. Is this history repeating itself? When he assumed office, EL Rufai took his predecessor to the EFCC. According to the House report, the state has never been so indebted in its history, and the hermit man had virtually no debt to pay when he assumed office.

This is not a time for the former governor’s secret rendezvous. He should meet the Kaduna people and release his voice box and give account. Not him alone, but all of them abroad.

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The opinions and views expressed in this article belong solely to the original author and other contributors. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or opinions of Neptune Prime.

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