By Joel Popoola
With a Prime Minister under police investigation and £4.3bn of COVID-19 fraud, can Britain continue to call Nigeria “fantastically corrupt”?
The next time a member of the British establishment describes Nigeria as “a failed state” perhaps we should remind them of the time a government minister resigned after admitting to overseeing a £4 billion fraud – and it wasn’t even the biggest political scandal that week!
In London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson – recently censured for accepting in the region of 62m Naira to refurbish his flat from a wealthy backer – stands accused of hosting boozy parties during COVID-19 lockdown.
One such incident – for which his secretary invited attendees to bring alcohol to a gathering in the Prime Minister’s house – saw Johnson insist that he believed himself to have been at “a work event”.
Johnson now stands accused of enjoying a birthday party during a time when up and down the UK – and around the world – parents were telling their children they were not allowed one. This was even a time when the Queen sat alone at her husband’s funeral to obey social distancing requirements.
Had no-one told Johnson it was his birthday? Is him being presented with a cake and serenaded a regular workday occurrence?
The British Prime Minister is now subject to a police investigation.
I’ll repeat that.
The British Prime Minister is now subject to a police investigation.
While all of this was going on, Finance Minister Lord Theodore Agnew stood up in Parliament to announce that no less that £4.3bn of public money set aside for COVID-19 assistance for businesses had been lost to fraud.
The admission came after the New York Times described the UK’s pandemic spending as being characterised by “waste, negligence and cronyism”, leading to a situation where “politically connected businesses reaped billions”.
The American newspaper has estimated that “about half” of the UK’s pandemic spending went to “companies with political connections, no prior experience or histories of controversy.”
These included contracts for one company currently on the receiving end of two global corruption probes, and a $470m protective equipment contract to a pest control firm who supplied 600,000 unusable face masks.
At least Boris Johnson has not publically accused Nigeria of being “fantastically corrupt” as one of his predecessors did!
Lord Agnew – the government minister with the responsibility for fighting financial fraud! – admitted that “schoolboy errors” saw 1000 “ghost” businesses given public money.
UK government figures suggest that overall £5.8 billion was stolen from pandemic relief schemes by people claiming cash they weren’t entitled to.
Again, imagine the response in Britain if a Nigerian politician admitted this!
But here perhaps Nigerian leaders could learn something from their British counterparts.
Lord Agnew was not personally to blame for this fraud – presumably he did not order his officials to allow it – but he accepted responsibility for it and immediately tendered his resignation.
This prompted praise from opposition parliamentarians, with one calling him “a minister who felt his integrity could no longer ensure he remained a member of the Government.
“Can I just take this opportunity to say on behalf of these benches how much we appreciate the honour and integrity that has just been displayed by the minister”, said another.
This shouldn’t need saying, but people appreciate openness and transparency from their leaders.
At the digital democracy campaign I lead, we aim to give them the platforms they need to deliver it.
We have created a free mobile app called Rate Your Leader, which was designed to reconnect electors and the elected, opening direct channels of communication between people and their elected officials – giving local people the kind of access previously only enjoyed by funders.
Rate Your Leader encourages politicians to speak directly to the people they serve and explain the decisions they have made and the reasons for them. If the voters don’t like the answer they get, they can rate their politicians badly.
This leads to greater levels of trust in a political class that the voters can see are working for them, and accountable to them.
Digital technologies like Rate Your Leader put transparency and accountability and your fingertips. Direct communication from politician to person, peer to peer.
We’d be happy to offer Boris Johnson a free account. But we must warn him, if he continues to break the rules he made – in the rooms he made them – he is unlikely to be rated very highly.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and creator of the Rate Your Leader app. He can be reached via @JOPopoola
LSSTF’s Balogun Tours EPAIL Facility, Commends Management for Contributions to Security
The Executive Secretary/CEO of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), Dr. Abdurrazaq Balogun, has paid a visit to the Equipment and Protective Applications International Limited (EPAIL) mega factory, with the Chairman/CEO of EPAIL expressing delight at the Fund’s visit while conducting his guest on a tour of the facility.
During the visit, the ES witnessed the production of security equipment such as armored hard body for vehicles, ballistic plates, helmets, vests, etc. from scratch using locally sourced materials. A test was also conducted on one of the locally made crowd dispersal water cannon and other crowd control equipment.
Speaking on the visit, Balogun said: “The security challenges in the state continue to increase as a result of the harsh economic situation in the country hence the visitation which was in furtherance of the Fund’s commitment to continue to source for and provide the required equipment and home grown state of the art security gadgets and technological solutions that meet international standards, fit for our terrain and useable by security agencies to combat crime in the State.”
The LSSTF CEO also commended EPAIL Nigeria for its outstanding work and contributions in the area of security, noting that “The importance of a strong and formidable security outfit cannot be overemphasized as it is one of the hallmarks of a thriving society. As we approach the 2023 general elections, it is critical that we strengthen our security agencies to enable them proactively combat crime and maintain law and order in the State, therefore we call on our donors to do more by way of contributions in cash or kind to the Fund towards improved security in the State in our collective self-interest”.
Subsequently, the Chairman of EPAIL thanked the Executive Secretary of the Fund for his visit and pledged his continuous support to the Fund.
Many Feared Killed As Explosion Rocks Kano
Many are feared dead after an explosion on Aba Road in the Sabon Gari area of Kano State.
While details of the blast are still sketchy as of the time of filing this report, visuals from the scene showed that many buildings, one of which is suspected to house a primary school, were affected.
One of the videos that surfaced online also showed injured schoolchildren being moved from the scene of the incident.
Parents were also searching for their children.
One of them was heard shouting “my children”.
Meanwhile, the Kano State Commissioner of Police, Sama’ila Dikko, has clarified that gas and not a bomb exploded in the state on Tuesday morning. He made the clarification during his visit to the scene of the incident.
Dikko, who spoke in Hausa, also confirmed that four persons were dead.
News of Closure of Ogui, Trans-Ekulu Stations Fake – Enugu Police
The Enugu State Police Command has said that the news making the rounds in the closure of Ogui and Trans-Ekulu police stations is fake, urging the public the disregard the false publication.
A statement by the Command’s PPRO, ASP Daniel Ndukwe, and made available to the National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP), quoted the Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Lawal as describing the story as not just unfounded, and a figment of the publisher’s imagination, but also a misinformation targeted at creating panic among peace loving citizens of Enugu State.
The statement also expressed the CP’s resolve to continue to “deliver the statutory mandates of the Nigeria Police Force in the State, including ensuring that Police Stations remain opened to members of the public and maintain robust crime detection/prevention patrols and visibility policing of their assigned areas of responsibilities.”
CP Lawal therefore, urged the “general public and residents of Enugu State in particular, to disregard such untrue publications and continue to promptly report security situations and criminal activities to Police Stations nearest to them, noting that Police Stations in the State remain open to the general public on a twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week (24/7) basis.”