’Tunji Ajibade: firstname.lastname@example.org; 08036683657
Some of us aren’t hearing such news for the first time. “FG demands fresh $2bn tax arrears from MTN”, The PUNCH reported on September 4, 2018.
It added that the “Federal Government has ordered Africa’s leading mobile operator MTN to pay back taxes of $2 billion”. Days earlier, the Federal Government had ordered the same South Africa-owned company to return $8.13bn to Nigeria. The Central Bank of Nigeria alleged that MTN illegally took this amount away.
It also fined four Nigerian banks said to have collaborated with MTN in the transfer saga.
The CBN says MTN cheats. MTN says the CBN gets its numbers wrong. The matter isn’t settled yet. Meanwhile, the mathematics of the actual amount isn’t what I’m interested in. (My interest is that if a kobo that’s ours has been taken away, it should be returned.) I couldn’t have been interested in the mathematics anyway, because I’m not a mathematician.
I am a wordsmith, a field that I enjoy so much that I wonder why anyone should like mathematics. In fact, I doze off when things mathematics and things concerning figures are at stake. That’s a joke though. I hold mathematicians in something close to awe. In any case, if the CBN didn’t house top mathematicians, we wouldn’t know the exact amount that some corporate body allegedly took away from Nigeria.
I’ve inferred that the news about foreign companies cheating Nigerians has been around for a while. Why should the latest version be of interest?
Here, I focus on every foreign company that has been using different means to take away what belongs to Nigerians. How is it possible? Nigerians collaborate with them. Sometimes, I’m concerned about the kind of pretence that I find in our banking system.
They know those who cheat big time and those who collaborate with them, but they put ropes on the necks of innocent Nigerians. I have had reasons to stand in a banking hall while discussing with a friend, and in the presence of bank officials, point out that they harass Nigerians under the guise of verification, meanwhile, they are the ones who show the way to those who dupe our nation.
The latest accusation by the CBN against four Nigerian banks that allegedly collaborated with MTN is one confirmation, this in addition to many bank officials that the EFCC has prosecuted for diverting bank funds into their own pockets.
I had at a time noted on this page how a bank made it so tough for me to cash a cheque, taking a whole month before I could have access to the cash. This bank had compelled me to open a current account with them, informing me in the process that they automatically opened a savings account for me also.
The process was long because I was in transit and the documents demanded were not with me. But I had to make
them available before the transaction sailed through.
About a year later, I returned to the same branch to confirm if I could use the savings account that they had automatically opened for me and which number I was given at the time. I was told that I had to bring some documents, almost the same documents that I submitted earlier, before I would be able to operate the savings account.
I couldn’t understand the logic in this. I still run the current account. The bank collected all the documents it wanted when it opened the current account. They have my BVN, yet I was required to bring more documents in order to operate the savings account.
Of course, I walked away, reminded once more about the pretence that our banks engage in. It’s easy for them to let MTN walk away with billions of dollars without subjecting the company to any affirmation process from the CBN, the EFCC or the FIRS before they approved the transaction, but they harass Nigerians who have purely legitimate business to transact. If found culpable, all bank officials involved in the MTN case should be held accountable for their roles.
But this problem is endemic, and there are consequences for the nation. When a Nigerian profits by assisting foreigners to loot, they teach other Nigerians the wrong set of values. Has the reader seen bankers who are paid salaries but who live as though they belong to the class of the richest man in Africa? Often, the source is the
backdoor collusion with foreign companies to fleece us.
By flaunting ill-gotten wealth, they contribute to demeaning our values. But to those involved, collaborating with economic saboteurs for their own cut and with which they take care of their own families at the expense of the nation is good business. The same happens in other areas of our national life.
For their own cut, officials at our borders look the other way as people bring in smuggled items. The last time a journalist in Lagos conducted an in-depth investigation and reported his findings on the matter, the same officials battered him physically, turning him into a wreck.
Public officials teach foreigners how to inflate contracts awarded by government. Officials that regulate mobile telephone companies take their share, look the other way while those companies cheat. Officials that regulate the oil and gas industry do deals, sabotage our economy, but they are the best things to happen to our society and are respected in places of worship.
I learnt of a generous giver to programmes and projects in one of the churches. He had an issue with another church member overpayments for his personal project. Church elders were invited to intervene. They soon learnt that the generous giver made use of the bank account of the other church member to receive payment in a business deal he had in oil and gas.
It seemed his accuser wanted to hold on to part of the money in the account as part payment for the project he executed for him. Of course, eyebrows should be raised as to why a churchgoer was engaged in a legitimate business but he chose to not use his own bank account for the transaction. None of the church elders raised eyebrows as any serious church should for the purpose of establishing compliance with biblical righteousness by the two parties involved.
In the end, the accuser received the blame.
Generous givers in places of worship have become gods. It doesn’t matter that they may engage in illegal deals, colluding with saboteurs, denying the nation of what belongs to it.
The problem is compounded because, here, everyone with a viable public platform wants to use it for personal gains. People compromise the system so that it yields corrupt gains. But the same people are among those who blame government for all things that don’t work.
If anyone sits anywhere, sabotages us, and still blames the nation for not meeting their aspirations, I think the state should go after such with full force. When they are stopped from making this nation bleed, we
will make progress.
For it is not possible to make progress when a majority in privileged positions use them to teach Nigerians to not
believe in honest work and honest pay. They compromise the system such that nothing works as it should. They give the nation a bad name in the international community, making Nigerians who live clean suffer for acts of criminality perpetrated by others.
A study, titled, Multinational Corporations and Their Effects on Nigerian Economy, which was conducted by Prof. J. Eluka-led team at the Department of Management, University of Nigeria, reveals that multinational corporations have done more harm than good to the Nigerian economy in terms of profit repatriation. That’s instructive.
But the damage isn’t limited to that. There’s also foreign companies’ immense contribution to environmental degradation, human rights violation, nontechnology transfer, bribery and corruption etc. Eluka et al. further state that most of these corporations are imperialistic and parasitic in nature.
They conclude that since these businesses are a component of the society, they must subject themselves to the fair requirements of the society because they raise huge capital from their operations in the society.
My addition to the submission of the scholars is simple: Every Nigerian who benefits personally by
collaborating with foreign looters who milk us dry must be brought to justice.