Events of the Year: Scandals

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Kidnapped Chibok girls
Kidnapped Chibok Girls

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By Fidelia Salami  |

AS usual, Nigeria had its own share of scandals in the year 2014. One of the darkest periods in the history of the country was the wave of cold-blooded killings and kidnappings of civilians by Islamist militants, who until end of the year, were still holding hostage more than 200 schoolgirls whom they abducted April 14, at Chibok, Borno State. The saga generated so much noise that shocked the whole world.

On August 28, there was a scandal about the new Nigerian National Identity Cards which was launched by President Goodluck Jonathan, with branded logo of the American firm, MasterCard. It sparked outrage across the country amid fears of serious security and economic breach. Several Nigerians called for the immediate stop of the deal. An anonymous source said, allowing MasterCard’s emblem on the Nigerian National Identity Card could only compare to the trans-Atlantic Slave trade abolished in the 19th century.

One of the biggest scandals was when the South African government seized a total of $15million from Nigeria government representatives on separate occasions on the suspicion that the money was meant for illegal arms deals. Nigeria said the deals were legal. The first transaction raised so much dust because it involved the use of a private aircraft belonging to Ayo Oritsejafor, a pastor and president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN. The aircraft was seized on September 5, for illegally transporting $9.3 million cash to South Africa. The money which was packed in several suitcases was discovered at the Lanseria Airport following a luggage search. The money was ceased because it was not declared to South African Customs as required by the law. While the dust raised by that was yet to settle, South Africa confiscated a second tranche of funds meant for arms purchase to fight the extremist Boko Haram sect. The $5.7 million wired by the Nigerian government through a bank to an arms dealer in that country was also seized.

In the oil and gas sector, the Nigeria Oil Bloc corruption scandal in which Claudio Descalzi, the chief executive officer of ENI, was probed barely four months after assuming office almost razed hell. ENI, Italy’s biggest listed company, is still under investigation by authorities for alleged corruption relating to the United States $1.3 billion Malabu Oil Deal in Nigeria’s Oil Prospecting Lease, OPL, 245 in September 2014. The Milan prosecutors, who recently opened a probe into the acquisition, had placed the company, Paolo Scaroni, its former chief executive, Claudio Descalzi, incumbent, under investigation for alleged international corruption surrounding the deal for the Oil Prospecting Licence 245 offshore oil field concession.

Exactly two weeks after, Italian prosecutors accused Eni of paying $533m bribe to Nigerian politicians and others to purchase an oil field in 2011, United Kingdom-listed independent oil and gas producer, Afren Plc, dismissed Osman Shahenshah, its chief executive officer, and two others over payments involving Oriental Energy Resources, a Nigerian oil firm. The review found that Shahenshah and Ullah had agreed with Oriental to receive 15 percent of the net cash flows that was due to Oriental from the Ebok oil field for five years from 2013 in exchange for $400m in funding by Afren. Oriental paid $45m in 2013 into a special purpose vehicle owned and controlled by Shahenshah and Ullah, who used the funds to pay bonuses to themselves and selected employees of Afren, according to the review. The Royal Dutch Shell was also implicated in the Oil Bloc OPL 245 scandal.

Another big scandal was the employment test for recruitment into the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, conducted across the country turned deadly as stampede at three centres claimed the lives of 16 applicants and left scores injured. Eight people died during a stampede at the National Stadium Abuja, five lives were lost at the Liberation Stadium, Elekahia, Port Harcourt, while three applicants also died in Minna. However, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, confirmed that seven people were killed and 40 were injured in the stampede in Abuja. The 60,000-seater Abuja stadium was filled up.

Churches were not left out of scandals. On September 12, a building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations headed by Pastor T.B. Joshua collapsed killing more than 115 people, including more than 80 South Africans. The six storey guest house was undergoing reconstruction when the incident happened.

Earlier in the year, it was Chris Oyakhilome, founder of the Believers Loveworld Ministries, also known as Christ Embassy, who had faced divorced scandal. The development on the matter worsened as Anita, wife of Oyakhilome, filed for the dissolution of the marriage on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour” and “adultery” on April 9, 2014. Two days after it was reported that Anita had filed for divorce in London, Christ Embassy deleted her pictures and personal information from its official website.

On November 20, honourable members of the National Assembly had to scale the fence like criminals to gain access to the Assembly premises in order to consider the request of President Goodluck Jonathan for the extension emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. The police had forced the action by shutting and blocking the gates in order to prevent Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, and his supporters from getting to building. The Police also tear gassed the Assembly members.

— Jan. 5, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT

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