By Joel Popoola
One of the world’s biggest ever data leaks has revealed the lengths some of the richest people on earth go to hide their money – and with depressing inevitability, Nigerians are amongst those accused of corruption, money laundering and international tax avoidance as a result.
The 336 politicians said to be named in the 12 million documents which make up the so-called Pandora Papers are said to include a number of high profile Nigerians, including current and former state governors, past and present lawmakers, and even a senior judge – all of whom now stand accused of setting up shadowy shell companies in notorious tax havens to hide their wealth.
Among details to have emerged so far is news that powerful Nigerians have bought UK property valued at £350m using 166 offshore companies.
Peter Obi, ex-governor of Anambra State, was the first to be publicly named in the papers as being connected to a series of offshore entities based in the countries frequently accused of turning a blind eye to – or purposely profiting from – the wealthy and privileged using their financial institutions to hide cash and avoid the attention of the authorities.
Moving money offshore is, of course, not in or of itself illegal – and there are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons for doing it. Not everyone named in the Pandora papers has done anything wrong – and there is no evidence that Mr Obi, a noted advocate of openness and transparency, has.
But Nigerians are bound to be asking how someone on, say, a governor’s salary equivalent to £5000 can afford a multi-million pound London property portfolio.
Even if the Nigerians named in the Pandora Papers have done nothing wrong, just being caught up in the scandal diminishes both their reputation and that of our entire political process.
And this is probably why the recently released Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey found that 63% of Nigerians rate our government’s performance as “poor” on corruption.
But for political elites the most important lesson of the Pandora Papers is this: Transparency is no longer a choice.
This is not the first time the financial secrets of the rich and powerful have been placed in the public domain. It will not be the last, nor will it be the biggest. The Paradise Papers. Offshore Leaks. Panama Papers. Wikileaks.
Your financial shenanigans could be next.
Therefore they need to embrace what I call the transparency dividend – the benefits that can be accrued through total transparency.
Under the radar, Nigeria is taking important strides towards accountability and trust. Indeed, international observers recently described the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as “robust and effective”.
Much of this has been enabled by digital technology which allows for enhanced record keeping, more robust financial auditing and greater accessibility of information.
But political individuals need to take the same steps towards transparency as political institutions.
At the digital democracy campaign I lead, we have been trying to give politicians the tools they need to build back the trust which is so badly needed in the Nigerian democratic process and to enhance both their reputation and that of the entire political system.
We have created an free mobile app called Rate Your Leader, which was designed to reconnect electors and the elected, opening direct channels of communication between people and to their elected officials – giving local people the kind of access previously only enjoyed by funders. Our abuse-proof technology ensures that this communication is always civil and courteous.
Rate Your Leader encourages politicians to explain the decisions they have made and the reasons for making them directly to the people they affect. 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.
Another recent survey reported that almost half of Nigerians believe that corruption cannot be defeated.
I believe it can be.
But events like the leak of the Pandora Papers do not help. They contribute to a culture in which we expect corruption from our leaders.
Which is why politicians need to take simple steps to demonstrate their transparency and accessibility.
If they don’t, it won’t be long before someone else takes steps to demonstrate the opposite.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and creator of the Rate Your Leader app. He can be reached via @JOPopoola
NSCDC Partners NECO for Hitch Free Exams
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the National Examination Council (NECO) to ensure a peaceful and hitch-free examination.
The process of the memorandum signing was contained in a statement signed by the Corps’ Director of Public Relations, DCC Olusola Odumosu, and made available to the National Association of Online Security News Publishers (NAOSNP).
The noted that the Commandant General of NSCDC, Ahmed Abubakar Audi, while receiving NECO Registrar, Professor Dantani Ibrahim Wushishi at the Corps National Headquarters, said that the visit was prompt, timely and very germaine to schools’ security which encompasses that all measures be taken to combat threats in our educational environment.
He congratulated the Commandant General for his well deserved appointment and commended the Corps for its partnership over the years which he hopes to sustain in his own tenure.
The Registrar solicited for more support and cooperation in ensuring that the NECO examination is conducted in a peaceful, secured and serene atmosphere, reiterating that, NECO is like a threshold for children’s progress and national development.
According to him, the examination conducted at secondary schools terminal level helps students to become professionals that will have the opportunity to contribute their quota to the development of the nation.
He craved the support of the Corps to safeguard materials for the examination and to also assist in conducting the test in a very secure and safe manner.
Prof Wushishi commended officers and men of the Corps for contributing to safety and smooth conduct of previous examinations and expressed hope that this year’s exercise will not be different.
“We take our activities seriously, ensure students during examinations are protected jealously more than legal tender which is the currency.
“We are here to seek your assistance and sign a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) for you to participate fully as you used to for a peaceful and hitch free examination.
“We felt it is important to come to you as our partner over the years to safeguard materials and also assist us to conduct examination in a very secure atmosphere across the country,” Prof Wushishi said.
The Commandant General on his part welcomed the delegates and assured them of the Corps’ readiness to ensure a safe examination environment for students.
He said that, in an attempt to ensure schools are adequately protected, NSCDC special female squad was established to ensure security across schools in the country.
He stated that the Corps had always ensured safety and protection of examination materials, staff and students and will not hesitate in ensuring that this year’s exercise is a huge success.
Audi appreciated NECO for it’s educational standards in ensuring that adequate knowledge is being impacted into Nigerian students to meet up with international education best practices.
PDP Chairman Not Suspended, Says Ayu’s Aide
The Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy to the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Iyorchia Ayu, Simon Imobo-Tswam, has described as false a report stating that his principal had been suspended from the position.
According to the report, the suspension followed an emergency meeting of the PDP National Working Committee.
The report claimed the Deputy National Chairman (North), Amb. Umar Damagun, had been appointed as National Chairman of the PDP, in an acting capacity.
Reacting, Imobo-Tswam said, “Even though we do not wish to dignify falsehood with a response, an official reaction is necessary in order to stem the tide of misinformation.”
This was contained in a statement, titled, ‘Ayu still PDP National Chairman,’ made available to newsmen on Wednesday.
It read in part, “Dr Iyorchia Ayu, the PDP National Chairman remains the PDP National Chairman.
“Dr Ayu took a well-deserved, two-week leave on 21st June 2022. He will be back next week to resume duties, specifically on July 6, 2022.
“A stickler for due process, Dr Ayu formally handed over to the Deputy National Chairman (North), Amb. Umar Damagun, and the Deputy National Chairman has held forth admirably since that day.
“It was in that acting capacity that he (Damagun) today, presided over the inauguration of the Osun State Gubernatorial Campaign Council, headed by the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, H.E. Douye Diri
“If not that the authors of the mischievous and baseless Facebook posts were out to serve nefarious interests, they would have heard when the acting national chairman, Amb. Damagun, said during the ceremony today: “On behalf of my able National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, I hereby inaugurate you.”
“The general public is, therefore, advised to ignore the mischievous social media publications as they are purely the work of mischief makers and idle minds.”
Corruption Allegations: Senate Orders Fresh Probe of Ex-CJN
The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, on Tuesday, received a fresh order to probe the erstwhile Chief Justice, Tanko Muhammed over the allegations of corruption raised against him by some justices of the Supreme Court.
14 Justices of the Supreme Court had recently leveled allegations of corruption against Tanko Mohammed, which the ex-CJN denied.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has then mandated the Committee led by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele to probe the allegations leveled against the ex-CJN and the crisis presently rocking the judiciary.
Lawan said, “ The chamber mandates the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to go ahead with its assignment in the quest to find a lasting solution to the matter by interacting with relevant stakeholders to address the complaints raised in the petition by the Justices of the Supreme Court.
The Senate “Mandate the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to interface with the relevant stakeholders in the three Arms of Government as well as at the Bar and on the Bench to collate aggregate views and positions on the short term, medium term and long term measures needed to decisively address the crisis facing the Judiciary, including the immediate fiscal intervention as well as long term and sustainable budgetary allocations, required for the optimal performance of the Judiciary, in line with global best practices; and urge the Senate to wish the Hon. Chief Justice well, following many years of meritorious service to the nation and to pray for his good health.”
The Senate noted that on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, Lawan drew the attention of the Senate to the media reports on the state of affairs in the Supreme Court of Nigeria, whereby Justices of the Court, through a petition signed by majority of them, raised issues bothering on deplorable welfare conditions and difficult working environment for the Justices, which was addressed to the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council.
He also noted that the President of the Senate emphasised the need for the Senate to urgently step into the matter as any issue that concerns the Judiciary is an issue of urgent national importance that the Senate could not afford to sit idly by and allow to spiral out of control.
Accordingly, the President of the Senate directed the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to get involved in the matter with a view to unravelling the root cause of the recent development in the Judiciary and how best the Senate can intervene in order to address the concerns raised by the Justices
Lawan noted that Justices were taciturn and reticent in handling issues outside their judicial domain but resorting to such measures in order to protect the Judiciary, required the Senate to rise up to the occasion to ensure that their demands were addressed.
The committee chairman, Senator Bamidele said his team was taking steps to look into the matter as directed by the President of the Senate by making arrangements to interface with relevant stakeholders both at the Bar and on the Bench.
Bamidele said, “The poor welfare of Judicial Officers would affect the delivery of the judiciary in respect of their output and will prevent them from performing optimally.
“The sacred image of the Judiciary, which is the epicentre of the temple of justice should be preserved by the Senate through appropriate legislative measures in order to safeguard this highly revered institution and prevent it from being ridiculed.”
Bamidele added that it is a regret that the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed on Sunday, June 27, 2022, voluntarily resigned his appointment on grounds of ill-health, leaving the most senior Justice to act as the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria. However, this development would not prevent the Committee from going ahead with its assignment in the quest to find a probable lasting solution to the matter.
He stated, “Though Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed has stepped down as CJN, most of the issues raised by the Justices of the Supreme Court and other stakeholders within the Judiciary, still remain and need to be addressed urgently to prevent an eventual shutdown of the Judiciary.”