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Abacha’s man goes to jail, what next?
A Court on St Jersey Island, United States, last week sentenced 53-year-old businessman Raj Blojwani to six-year imprisonment for defrauding Nigeria of about 100 million US dollars (nearly N15 billion). The crime is said to have been committed between 1996 and 1997 when late General Sani Abacha was Nigeria’s Head of State and the man himself is said to have been a close friend of Abacha’s.
The court based its judgement on evidence made available to it, which exposed the massive looting of Nigeria, through a racket in which the convicted businessman and Abacha were the masterminds. It involved the purchase of military vehicles. Working with Abacha and others, Raj Blojwani who won the contract for the supply of the vehicles inflated their prices up to five times. The excess money realised from the deal - $100 million was then shared between the conspirators. Blojwani alone is reported to have cornered $43 million (about N6.45 billion) from the deal.
The immoral conduct of the men involved in this grand fraud was neatly summarised by the prosecution advocate at the trial, Mr Mathew Jowitt, who said: “The frauds committed in Nigeria, the criminal proceeds of which were received, possessed and handled by the defendant in Jersey, were not frauds against fellow businessmen, or a limited class of investors. They were frauds against a nation, and against its people. A people who, it is a matter for judicial note, rank amongst the most impoverished in the world. This was money which the people of Nigeria could not afford to lose”.
Nobody could have been a better advocate of the Nigerian people than Jowitt. Corruption in Nigeria has reached a dangerous proportion where people entrusted with public funds just cart them away with impunity and without shame. For us at Peoples Daily, this is a matter of serious concern. No nation can survive the rampaging dimension that corruption has assumed in Nigeria today.
We are particularly concerned that for all the publicity that was given both locally and internationally on the looting that went on in Abacha’s ill fated government, Blojwani is the first person to face jail over the free-for-all looting of Abacha days. Abacha could not have stolen all the money alone. He worked with crooked Nigerians and international adventurers like Blojwani.
Ironically and most unfortunately, today we know that Abacha stole so much money only because he died in office and could not or did not have time to cover up the monumental mess. There are some smart alecs around who worked hand-in-gloves with Abacha to defraud Nigeria. They still are very much around and are even scheming to corner power come 2011.
The jailing of Blojwani is yet another opportunity for Nigerians to ask more questions about the Abacha and post Abacha eras. Who were Abacha’s collaborators in the heinous crimes against our fatherland? How was the $100 million shared.We know the convict got about $43 million. What was Abacha’s share? How much did other conspirators get and who are they? We understand even Abacha’s recovered loot was re-looted. Nigerians must be prepared to face the menace of corruption squarely by demanding transparency in the handling of public funds.