It was the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, who first began to call Nigeria a zoo. Kanu holds that nothing ever works in the ‘zoo’ and that nothing will ever function properly!
The Zoo Story we must recall is a 1958 one-act play written by an American playwright, Edward Albee. The play explores themes of isolation, loneliness, miscommunication as anathematization, social disparity, and dehumanization in a materialistic world.
Whether the zoo stories Nigerians have been fed within the last few years are real or miscommunicated, the fact remains that animals are holding their own in the country. From rampaging cows that have destroyed multimillion naira farms across the country to rats that damaged President Muhammadu Buhari’s office in 2017, forcing him to spend three months working from home, the animal tales are plentiful and hilarious.
Recently, the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) told the Senate that termites have eaten most of the vouchers containing details of how N17.158 billion yet to be accounted for was spent. The N17.158 billion, as stated in the 2018 audit report, was the total amount of money transferred by NSITF from its Skye Bank and First Bank accounts into various untraceable accounts belonging to individuals and companies from January to December 2013.
In the 2018 audit report, the Auditor-General’s office raised 50 different queries bordering on the alleged misappropriation of funds by the management of the agency, which is under probe by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts.
The query on the N17.158 billion unsubstantiated transfers made by NSITF reads: “Management of NSITF as shown in statements of Account No. 1750011691 with Skye Bank Plc, for the period 1st January 2013 to 20th December 2013, and Statements of Account No.2001754610 with First Bank Plc for the period 7th January 2013 to 28th February, 2013, transferred amounts totalling N17,158,883,034.69 billion to some persons and companies from these accounts.
“However, payment vouchers relating to the transfers together with their supporting documents were not provided for audit. Consequently, the purpose(s) for the transfers could not be authenticated. These are in violation of financial rule 601 which states that ‘All payment entries in the cashbook/accounts shall be vouched for on one of the prescribed treasury forms. Vouchers shall be made out in favour of the person or persons to whom the money is actually due. Under no circumstances shall a cheque be raised, or cash paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised.’’
To unravel this puzzle, the Senate Committee headed by Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South), questioned NSITF’s past and present management on where monies totalling N17.158 billion were transferred between January and December 2013. Yet, not one of the managements could proffer a reasonable explanation for the undocumented multiple transfers. Meanwhile, the current Managing Director of NSITF, Dr. Michael Akabogu, has said they are not in possession of these documents.
According to Akabogu: “The container the said documents were kept in by the past management has not only been beaten by rains over the years but even possibly eaten up by termites. As directed by this committee, I told the past management officers the need for them to help us out in answering this query with necessary documents which have not been made available for us.”
But in his submissions, the Managing Director of NSITF from 2010 to 2016, Mallam Umar Munir Abubakar, said he was unaware of the query and had no explanation for it since the audit was not carried out during his tenure. His successor, Mr. Adebayo Somefun, who was head of the agency from May 2017 to July 2020, added that those in the account section should be able to trace the documents, which the current General Manager of Finance claimed were locked up in an abandoned container within the premises of the NSITF in Abuja.
Riled by presentations of the past and present NSITF officials, the Committee Chairman, Senator Urhoghide, ordered them to unfailingly reappear before the committee with all the requested documents on Thursday, September 22, 2022.
But then, it’s not only termites, rats, and cows that flaunt themselves in Nigeria. In February 2018 a sales clerk was suspended from her job after claiming that a snake had swallowed N36 million, or approximately $100,000. Just weeks later, a senator was ridiculed for suggesting monkeys stole N70 million, or about $194,600, from a farmhouse.
In one instance, a clerk in the office of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, which collects exam fees blamed a snake for swallowing $100,000. Quite a mouthful for a snake. In another instance, a senator suggested that monkeys “carted away” $194,600, from the farmhouse of a colleague accused of misappropriating funds.
Rotimi Fasan in his February 23, 2022 article in The Punch Newspapers —Nigeria is fighting corruption with corruption— summed up the situation in this manner: “The leadership of the country is most certainly a reflection of the people, the ‘average’ Nigerian who is only waiting on the sideline and bidding their time to help themselves to the very objects of corruption they criticise in the political leaders.
“But after all is said and done, it is those who wield the levers of power, the authority of an election mandate at any point in time, that must account for the state of the nation. They, not the followers who are to follow by choice or compulsion the trail of their leaders, determine the course of events.”
Okenwa is a journalist, lawyer, Publisher of Law and Society Magazine.