It was supposed to be an internal memorandum but by some divine measure it found its way to the social media. It was a letter authorised by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and signed by Mr. Peter Dama, the Director of Public Relations and Protocol in the Ministry to the Acting Director General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC).The letter was requesting for a loan of over N13m for the Minister and some aides to embark on a trip to China. Sorry it was not a request but a directive by the Minister that the NBC must look for a loan for the trip which the memo said would be repaid when the Ministry budget was released.
When the online medium that broke the story confronted the minister, we saw the usual bluffing and impunity of Nigerian officials, “I don’t owe you any explanation”. When the reporter asked the minister if he owed the people of Nigeria any explanation as to how he spends their money, “I don’t” was his response.
The implications of the leaked memo was later to sink on the minister later and he has been offering explanation as to the curious memo which should be an embarrassment to the administration that is smarting from the savage attack by British PM, Mr. Cameron that the country is “fantastically corrupt” in spite of the media trial of only opponents that is going on in the name of anti-corruption war.
The minister’s explanation is reproduced below:
“My attention has been drawn to a letter I endorsed to the Ag. Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission requesting for a loan of N13,120,470.00 to cover tickets and travel expenses of a five-member delegation being led by the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture to Beijing, China, which was mischievously leaked to the social media by staff of National Broadcasting Commission.
- The loan being requested for is for the Ministry to meet up its obligations to enable the Minister and members of his delegation attend an all-important Conference on Tourism for Development in China that is meant to benefit this country.
- The loan is not meant for the Honourable Minister alone as personal expenses, but for the expenses of all members of the delegation.
- The Conference, which is being organised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation in conjunction with the Government of the People’s Republic of China, under the overall theme, “Tourism for Peace and Development,” will feature amongst others discussions on major issues for sustainable development including the contribution of Tourism to poverty reduction and peace.
- The Conference will also feature discussion on major issues that have direct bearing on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), poverty alleviation through Tourism and the linkage between Tourism peace at the National and International levels.
- China on this occasion as chair of G20 will also host the 7th T20 Ministers meeting under the theme “Sustainable Tourism, An Effective Tool for Inclusive Development.’’
- The Conference is a veritable platform to develop synergy and partnership with players in the global Tourism Industry, which will go a long way in boosting our drive to diversify the Nigerian economy.”
Sound and fury signifying nothing. The explanation did not address the salient issues involved in this scandalous request. The minister’s action is a clear violation of the provisions of the law of budgetary appropriation and that of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), since NBC ought not to have any fund to lend to anybody as it is not a financial institution. Even when TSA was not operational, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and his party when in opposition coined the phrase “NNPC has become ATM” and were not expected to turn parastatals to ATM now that they are in power.
Is the NBC now a bank with its Acting Director-General as Managing Director who can be approached for unsecured loans? Are we going to know how many of such requests (directives) that the minister has issued to the NBC before the leaked one? How many similar memos has the minister issued to other agencies and parastatals under him in this new vista of corruption?
We are being made to understand that the minister is now probing the NBC so the person who leaked the letter can be punished. This is what Yoruba call “aitete mole, ole nmoloko” (the non-speedy arrest of a thief emboldens the thief to go after the owner).
If indeed we are shaking off the ‘fantastically corrupt” label and the anti-graft war is holistic, it is the minister that should be in the dock now to be exposing such clear case of corruption of the system in clear breach of the administration posturing of installing a transparent order.
Perhaps this is the chicken coming home to roost. It would be recalled that in the days of ministerial screenings, there was an avalanche of corruption allegations against some of the ministerial nominees which were largely ignored. In fact, one of them had to be cleared solely by members of the ruling party alone because the opposition party boycotted his screening because the allegations of corruption against him were swept under the carpet.
The Holy Book says if judgement is not speedily executed, the hearts of men are set to do iniquity. When you created sacred cows, you have double-standards.