Nigerian politicians and their private jets are stuck at home like all other ordinary Nigerians with ill-equipped hospitals all around them amid COVID-19 pandemic as their billions of stolen assets sit idle abroad, unable to serve them any good in their own country.
“It is bad, they cannot go anywhere. It’s not just their money they cannot access, they cannot access their medication,” said a Lagos resident who pleaded to remain anonymous.
“Even with their private jets, they cannot fly because there are flight restrictions everywhere,” the resident who is close to top Nigerian politicians in Lagos and Abuja, said.
“They did not build our hospitals, they stole all the money and took it abroad, they sent their children abroad and when they are sick, they quickly fly abroad. Even the President frequently flies to London to be revived. But with COVID-19, they cannot go anywhere. They are now stuck at home like other poor Nigerians who have been dying from preventable diseases for a very long time,” the resident added.
“It is a bad thing COVID-19 is killing Nigerians but I hope the big thieves in our country will learn a big lesson – the futility of stealing everything from here and investing it elsewhere.”
Corruption is gargantuan in Nigeria. Politicians often share oil money in Abuja for their states and state governors have a monthly allowance known as security vote with little accountability and oversight.
Security vote in Nigeria is a monthly allowance that is allocated to the 36 states within the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the sole purpose of funding security services within such states. The monthly fund runs into billions of naira and vary based on the level of security required by the individual state.
Many politicians, from the President, to the ministers, state governors, lawmakers and speakers of houses of assembly embezzle or convert public funds to private money.
Once the money is stolen, the politicians share part of the money with officials at the assets declaration bureau. That office is meant to check politicians’ assets when they get elected and when they leave office. But it is mired in corruption and almost no one of substance has been successfully prosecuted.
The few politicians who are charged in court often offer indirect bribes to judges through lawyers and their cases get dismissed.
Once their cases are dismissed, they often claim vindication and refer to the judgements as a proof they are clean. In a highly corrupt system, stealing more means giving a bigger bribe and getting let off the hook.
With money stolen at federal, state and local government levels, there is often little left to invest in infrastructure, and even the little that is meant for infrastructure ends up being shared between a myriad of middle men and women and the real contractors.
As a result, the roads are in tatters, the hospitals are not adequately funded, the schools have been abandoned and research is virtually never funded.
With education and research in shambles, most of the medication that Nigerians use comes from abroad – The United States, Europe and Asia.
But big Nigerian politicians who travel abroad on first or business class every two weeks do not care. Once they have a headache, they fly to the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, India and to a cornucopia of other places.
They send their children abroad to study in America, Europe or elsewhere in Africa, like in Ghana.
And because there is hardly electricity in Nigeria, politicians buy all the generators and fuel them daily. They have a lot of money and can spend on generating their own electricity.
This all happens while the poor languish in squalor and hopelessness and die from little ailments that could have easily been diagnosed and treated with a visit to the doctor.
But COVID-19 has changed all of that. Airports around the world are shut and everyone has been ordered to stay home. Nigerian politicians are hurting in such circumstances, unable to access their cash abroad and unable to see their doctors in the United States, the United Kingdom, Dubai and elsewhere.
The hospitals back home have not been funded and research had never been a priority. As a result, many are now stuck in their houses in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, and elsehwere.
Nigerians who spoke with TODAY NEWS AFRICA said many of the top politicians are very miserable at the moment and are praying the country lift travel restrictions soon so they can travel abroad.
But a statement by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Saturday indicated that the airports may still remain closed for some time.
“The attention of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has been drawn to a statement released by a certain Tayo Olu today, May 16, 2020 to the effect that the Federal Government of Nigeria, through FAAN has released a post- Covid 19 travel guideline for air travelers. We want to state emphatically that although FAAN is carefully and seriously working on a guideline, the release did not emanate from us as it is still a work in progress,” FAAN said.
“Consequently, the Authority will like to enjoin air travelers and the general public to disregard the content of the said release,” FAAN said.At the appropriate time, FAAN will release the post Covid 19 travel guidelines via our official communication medium.”
COVID-19 has exposed the futility of stealing all the money from Nigeria and shipping it abroad while investing nothing at home.
Simon Ateba publishes TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C., U.S.A.