Call it Panama Tsunami. The world stood in awe throughout last week following startling revelations in the media from leaked files belonging to Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama.
The files, seen and reported by social media and other channels, showed how Mossack Fonseca, reputed as one of the most secretive companies in the world, helped clients register offshore entities, some of which were used to launder money, evade tax and dodge sanctions.
The trove of 11.5 million files showed how a global industry of law firms and big banks sell financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers, as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars numbering about 128.
The revelations were among the findings of a lengthy investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and more than 100 other global news organisations, which lasted a year
In Nigeria, many of those indicted are already shedding crocodile tears wondering how their secret dealings were exposed. They include; former Senate President, David Mark, sitting Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former Delta State governor (now in UK Prison), Chief James Ibori, billionaire oil magnate and former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma, former Group Managing Director, NNPC, Funsho Kupolokun, businessman/industrialist, Aliko Dangote, reputed as the richest man in Africa, as well as Dangote’s relative, Sayyu Dantata, owner of MRS Holdings (a leading West African oil-marketing firm, which acquired Chevron-Texaco’s downstream assets in 2007) and their business allies. Although Mark, Kupolokun and Saraki have denied the allegations others are yet to respond. Even at that, Nigerians are not taken in by the denials, which ordinarily would be expected from such politically exposed individuals.
But, do all these people pay their tax in Nigeria or are they hiding assets abroad? That remains a question only they and the tax authorities can answer.
It is understandable why some of them denied the allegations. If they don’t, they would be accused of being guilty of the Nigerian Constitution, the Code of Conduct Act and Money Laundering Act respectively.
For instance, Section 6(b) of the Code of Conduct Act says a public office holder shall not, “except where he is not employed on full‐time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade”.
Part 1, Section 7 of the same Act provides that, “Any public officer specified in the Second Schedule to this Act or any other person as the President may, from time to time, by order prescribe, shall not maintain or operate a bank account in any country outside Nigeria.”
I am sure there are more Nigerian politicians and businessmen in the unfolding list. We would love to get more insight and the names of other politicians involved without bias. A common proverb says unless the wind blows, you won’t know that pastors and imams wear trouser under their white flowing cassock.
Elsewhere in the world, there would have been outrage against corrupt officials who stole money and hid it in Panama and other tax havens.
In Iceland, a mammoth crowd demanded the resignation of their leader over his involvement in the Panama scandal and he resigned. Mr. Gonzalo Delaveau, Head of Chile chapter, Transparency International, resigned his position while Chile’s tax authority said it would begin investigations into Chileans mentioned in Panama Papers. Micheal Grahammer, Chief Executive of Hypo Landesbank Vorarlberg, an Austrian bank, mentioned in the massive fraud also resigned. Other countries are equally up against their politicians on this matter.
Here in Nigeria, those mentioned including Saraki have refused to resign. Curiously enough, President Muhammadu Buhari and anti-corruption agencies have kept sealed lips over the matter. As usual, our big-time politicians will get the red carpet reception and nothing will happen.
Is it not unfortunate that thieves who stole Nigeria silly and lodged their loot in foreign lands are not bothered? Buhari seems to be only interested in tracking down the wrong doings of his perceived enemies. As a criminal, all you need do to be in the good books of the government is to support the administration or join the ruling party.
Again, is it not unfortunate that whilst the huge fraud is being exposed, Nigerians are suffocating in their homes? No petrol, electricity, water, good roads, rail line and jobs, all we have are Panama stories.
But come to think of it, how did the huge sums of money allegedly stashed abroad find their way to these places? Is it possible to take millions of dollars to Panama, UK, and Switzerland without the Central Bank’s approval? If it is not in the law to do that, how did those indicted take these millions of dollars there? Even if they wrapped it in nylon bags, where were Customs officials in Nigeria and Panama and since there is no direct flight, how about Customs officials in transit airports?
Some countries like Germany paid for the leaked documents and America sees it as a treasure trove. They will mine it and extract huge tax revenues, but for us in Nigeria, it is an amusement treat. I hope the government, police, CCB, and EFCC prove me wrong.
The anti-graft body should take a list of the companies linked to Ibori, Mark, Saraki, Kupolokun etc on this and other reports and find out what has been their businesses. Investigate if any of them has any link to payments abroad which should have accrued to Nigeria and if so prosecute them. While you are at it, charge the cost of investigation to them for having companies in tax havens when our laws prohibit it for public office holders.
Do we need this document to know that Danjuma was given oil wells which he later sold for about $1 billion or that Tinubu milked Lagos State dry or that Obasanjo Farm could not have been acquired using legitimate earnings or that Amaechi emptied Rivers treasury to finance Buhari’s election or that the federal government under former President Goodluck Jonathan used some part of the security vote to finance the 2015 presidential election?
To say the truth, anybody with a discerning mind will not be surprised at these revelations. We know that one day it will get to this level. That one day the hidden truth will be unearthed and made public. That one day Monkey will go to market but will not return.
Our legal system is skewed in favour of the rich and against the poor. Instead of politicians and senior public officers to be punished, people who stole common fish and meat are quickly tried and sentenced. So there are two laws in Nigeria; one for the rich which is not binding on them or applied and the one for the poor that has immediate punishing effect. Lawyers and judges use, interpret and apply the law the way it suits them based on who is involved and how much he can dole out. The same lawmakers see this injustice as normal, acceptable, modern and humane. Citizens are shy, maybe are cowards, to stage endless protests until injustice is eradicated. What a nation. I weep for this country.

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