Naira notes: PHOTO: Kobor Amos
This all started when some Nigerians thought it wise to stash their looted money in septic tanks and coffins of their dead relatives. Others who owned large farms buried theirs deep in the ground. However, over time, this incredulity has replaced credibility and led to Nigeria becoming the stuff of fables rivaling the ancient, mythical gold city.
In the early days of the Buhari Administration, when it was still flying the anti-corruption kite, there were a few cases of whistleblowers who exposed culprits guilty of looting the nation’s funds. There was a time, whilst in plenary, a federal lawmaker stated that although some Nigerians keep money at home, buried in their compounds and farms; other honest, hardworking Nigerians have no fear keeping their money in the bank. More so, these days with the quasi-cashless system where your ATM card, bank mobile app and USSD transfer options can sustain your transactions without you spending actual money, nobody has any need to stash cash at home. Well, except for those who have unexplainable wealth.
Such Nigerians, after decades of looting the national treasury and state coffers, no longer trust the bank as a safe place to keep their money, because anti-graft bodies such as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) can track their loot, especially with their Bank Verification Number (BVN). Secondly, the Anti-Money Laundry Act has become a nemesis to these looters, as the law enforcement agencies can easily secure temporary and final forfeiture orders from courts to block and freeze bank accounts traceable to citizens under financial investigation.
Similarly, it is no longer safe for them to ferry their stolen money to the so-called “Safe havens” found in Swiss accounts or other offshore accounts. This is one major reason why, when they come into questionable wealth, these Nigerians steer clear of the banks. You may ask, why not invest in something? Well, you can take a cue from some high-profile cases going on in the country where law enforcement agencies now target the assets of those who run afoul of the law.
As the looters try to proffer solutions and think up ways to manage their “unfortunate situations” in the hands of the Laws of the Federal Republic, the Central Bank of Nigeria pulled a fast one. I must say this: Whoever came up with this currency change policy knows where all the skeletons/bodies are buried. But hey, before anyone praises the apex bank for this masterstroke of genius, let us bear in mind that the “Capo” at the CBN had tried to contest for the recently conducted presidential primaries but his aspirations were nixed. Many believe this latest move is his way of getting back at the “moneybags” and influential politicians who truncated his ambition. Anyway, I digress.
As I was saying, the currency change policy came as a bolt from the blue. Also, the Federal Government’s decision to change the Nigerian currency notes in so short a timeline, given for the swapping of old notes for new ones caught those with stashed funds “offside.”
They tried to kick against it. They pooh-poohed at the idea giving some outlandish reasons. The Minister of Finance, herself, also pushed against it stating some flimsy excuse that she was not carried along. But the President gave his blessings and there was no stopping the CBN.
Trust my Nigerian people! Same people who came up with keeping their money where no one can reach, which was how the primitive idea of burying money became popular?
Given the gargantuan looting that has gone on in the country for decades, every square metre of ground is potentially littered with buried bales, cartons and Ghana-must-go-bags of ill-gotten naira cash. There is possibly more money hidden in the ground than in bank vaults. In fact, some of these owners (or looters) have forgotten where their treasures were buried.
Therefore, it was panic stations for national looters. Some of them who remember where they buried their loot have gone to bring them out. These days, deposits arrive in banks in convoys of large bags, and pictures have emerged showing a lot of old currency notes destroyed by dampness, nibbled away by rodents and/or looking unbelievably filthy.
It is safe to say that in Nigeria, it is not only crude oil that lies underneath the soil. Naira! millions and billions of naira are buried underground across this land!
Without sounding ironic, Nigeria is a treasure land. In fact, two weeks ago, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, the umbrella body for Fulani herdsmen that roamed the forests of the Sahel and extensively in Nigeria, raised the alarm that some of their monies are buried in the forest and the fear of bandits and insurgents would not allow them to exhume these buried treasures and exchange the currency under the limited timeline! They craved an extension of the deadline.
Therefore, in this festive season, it is my advice that Nigerians should include treasure hunting – of hidden ill-gotten naira – in their activities. This time, finders will be keepers. There will be no returning money found to His Majesty’s Government, because no government body or agency and/or banks could account for the hidden treasures.
So, folks, bring out your spades, shovels and forks (you can do well to use your hands, if you can stand the filth and dirt underground), let’s go digging for treasure in el nairado.