Invictus Obi, Real Name Obinwanne Okeke, Facing Trial in the United States
From the legend Samson Siasia to Invictus Obi to the newly wanted 80 Nigerians involved in frauds estimated at over $1.1 billion, Nigeria’s name is gradually becoming synonymous with fraud and corruption.
In the space of one month, Samson Siasia was handed a lifetime ban by FIFA with 50,000 dollar fine for bribery and an attempt to fix a football match. Barely 24 hours later, Obinwanne Okeke, popularly known as Invictus Obi, a former Tedx speaker and Forbes under 30 Africa’s most promising entrepreneur, was arrested in the U.S and currently being charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
In one of the cases being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Invictus Obi is being accused of fraudulently wiring $11 million from Unatrac Holding Limited bank account, the export sales office, Caterpillar heavy industrial and farm equipment, in the United Kingdom.
A week later, another set of Nigerians, in fact, 80 Nigerians both in the United States and Nigeria, were accused of carrying out over $1.1 billion frauds, mainly wire fraud and online romance.
The question is when would all these stops?
Please, no generic response of when unemployment eased in Nigeria as almost 20 people that have been arrested out of the 80 were Nigerians living in the US for more than a decade with citizenship or permanent residence, hence, nullifying the pervasive poverty/unemployment excuses.
Even Invictus Obi had his Bachelor and Master Degree (MA) in International Relations and Counter-Terrorism (cum laude) from Monash University, Australia. One of the most expensive universities in Australia.
It is obvious the issue is not entirely poverty or the high unemployment as most Nigerians have been postulating but a broad mental decadent that placed monetary worth over honesty or even humanity. Nobody knows Invictus Obi until he was able to buy his way into Forbes and other top platforms.
“Indeed, across Nigeria, we worship money. That is our national problem,” Ndubuisi Ekwekwe, the Chairman of Famcro, said in a Linkedin post.
“But the FBI arrests of many Nigerians (especially men from the southeastern part) take this to a new level. It is very shameful, and all of us should be ashamed of how we have gone this low as a nation – at home and abroad.
He explained that “there are consequences to all these things: the lowest among us sets the denominator on how people see us. Who told you that a New York company will hire you to serve as its CFO after Invictus Obi mess even though you were in the game a few days ago?
“And today, a U.S. investor planning to invest in a startup in Lagos pulled out after reading the Jumia mess. The investor, an American and a former schoolmate, has lost confidence in the numbers which the startup had shared.”
Similarly, local businesses and freelancers based in Nigeria have started losing potential foreign clients and investors, especially after Jumia numbers, the Amazon of Africa, were actually discovered to be inflated as declared by Citron Research in May.
A controversial personality on Linkedin, Jenna Bourgeois, the Chairman of Dynamics Intelligence Nigeria, had announced on Friday that his company was closing its operation in Nigeria due to numerous examples of employees and contractors extorting the company.
He said: “Effective immediately, we will be closing our operations in Nigeria. Over the last year, we have faced numerous examples of employees and contractors extorting the company. While we kept giving Nigerians a chance to gain skills and employment, we cannot run a company when we can’t trust the people who work for us. Any company interested in conducting business in Nigeria can reach out to us to learn how to avoid being scammed by technical resources. It is a kick in our face that we spent so much time trying to give Nigerians the benefit of the doubt to have this happen. Customers who wish to outsource, are well advised to seek an India-owned company for the best results.”
While few people that have worked with him have attacked his business approach or blame his failure in Nigeria on poor managerial structure, some of the comments from Nigerians were shocking.
For instance, Akin A, an experienced Accounting & Treasury Control Officer, commented by assuming he understands what Jenna needs and suggested a “decisive restructuring and effective business & financial control mechanism.
He supported that statement with “there are MNCs that have been operating in Nigeria for over 40, 50 & 60 years, how have they managed to succeed?.”
Here is the answer, they managed by adopting a localisation strategy — adapting to local modus operandi. Sadly, that means bribery and settlement in Nigeria. Shell has been indicted on numerous occasions and recently fighting to have a case presided over in Nigeria instead of the UK where bribery won’t work.
The U.S has sentenced all the people involved in Halliburton bribery scandal and the company itself paid $177 million and KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton indicted as well paid another $4002 million to the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission. However, no single person has been sentenced in Nigeria 25 years later.
The current Nigerian system is not working and until educated few with the right mindset start calling it what it is we may not get to the bottom of this menace.
Dapo Alade, a software engineer, said “the problem itself is deep-rooted. Some people are still celebrating Invictus Obi knowing he committed fraud or got to his position through fraud.”
He added, “sadly, this country celebrates people with a questionable source of income. We need to be sensitized from the ground up.”
Parents, Pastors, Imams, traditionalists, organisations, and individuals (especially ladies) should start refusing gifts (money, donations, etc) from people with a suspicious source of income.
Until we start shaming fraudsters, denying them any form of respect even with their big cars and houses, stopping them from accessing opportunities and start celebrating hard-working everyday people without ‘purchased influences’ but life-changing contributions, we will continue to lose our young talents to fraud and turn the nation to a home of sympathisers of criminals (they have parents, wife, kids, etc) with no hope of rebranding or redeeming the nation of almost 200 million people.
In The Fight Against Corruption, No Individual is Bigger Than The State – Buhari
In response to the suspended acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, President Muhammed Buhari, lamented that the anti-corruption war becomes endangered “when persons entrusted with the responsibility of that magnitude become suspects themselves.”
Buhari, whose vision is to put an end to corruption in Nigeria, believed that every aspect of the nation’s life is enshrined in corruption and it’s of major concern when leaders of institutions saddled with the mandate to fight the menace are found in the waves of the corruption they claimed to be fighting.
This act is a great abomination not only because it strikes at the root but it also trivialises and undermines the anti-corruption crusade itself, the President explained.
He further said that in a bid to put an end to this great abomination, he had set up Ayo Salami Panel to unravel the mystery behind the mystique of Magu’s alleged involvement in corruption that his administration is fighting.
Buhari said that his administration is ready and willing to go all out in the fight against corruption, and no one is too big nor above the law to become a victim of anti-graft’s sledgehammer.
The president said, “However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touch on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes.
“It is an abomination that strikes at the root and undermines the government’s anti-corruption programme.
“It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a panel headed by the Honourable Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
“We recognise that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
“Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!”
In Search For The New EFCC Chairman, Justice Ayo Salami Panel Advises Buhari to Look Outside The Police Force
Justice Ayo Salami’s panel advised President Muhammadu Buhari to look outside the Nigerian Police Force for the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
A credible source confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari may have decided to follow the panel recommendation to avoid a similar fate to that of Magu, the former chairman.
The source also confirmed that the panel recommendation was a result of sleaze allegations against suspended acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. Also, that search team would be constituted in the next few days to slim down the possibilities of finding the right candidate to bring into reality the President’s vision of a corrupt-free anti-graft agency.
The source further confirmed that “the sleaze and abuse of office allegations against Magu, a commissioner of police, were overwhelming,” and that he may be put on trial.
As advised by the panel, the new EFCC chairman should be in interim position for two years.
It was suggested that the recommendation from the Justice Ayo Salami panel might have pinned Magu, according to Femi Adesina, the presidential spokesman, he advised president Buhari to consider looking into other law enforcement or security agencies, as well as considering important and diligent staff of EFCC in his plans to appoint the next EFCC chairman, as s provided in the EFCC Establishment Act of 2004.
Following the Justice Ayo Salami panel recommendation, Salami said “Your Excellency, permit me to say that four successive chairmen of the EFCC from inception have been drawn from the police. Therefore, in appointing a new chairman of EFCC, consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and qualified core staff of EFCC as provided in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act 2004).
“It is also important to point out that at the moment, 970 policemen (114 drivers, 641 mobile policemen and 215 operations), are on secondment in the EFCC.
“Therefore, an exit plan for the disengagement of the police and other personnel within two years from now should be considered. This will address the issue of non-promotion of core staff for over nine years.
“Your Excellency, our thinking here is that whoever you are appointing other than a core EFCC staff, should be in transitional capacity of two years during which period, the arrangement would be made for the appointment of any of the core staff who has been commended by National Crime Agency, UK and other international law enforcement for their professionalism”.
Justice Ayo Salami appreciated the president for giving members of the panel an avenue to serve the country.
Ezekwesili Presents Research Findings on Fixing Nigeria’s Politics
She stated this at the public launch of #FixPolitics, where she presented findings from her fellowship research on how to fix politics in Nigeria and Africa more broadly.
Ezekwesili invited 124 Nigerians from diverse fields of endeavour and geopolitical zones to collaborate on designing the research findings over the last one year as a Work Study Group. The group is the co-leadership organ responsible for an integrated citizens-led actions to fix the broken political system.
She pointed out that politics in Nigeria was not fulfilling the core requirement of a democratic system, which was to provide good governance for the common wellbeing of citizens.
“My research findings primarily reinforce that the poor state of affairs in Nigeria is the consequence of the quality of politics at play. Politics is at the heart of everything any society can or will become. The essential process of democracy is not complete without politics,” the 2019 Nigerian Presidential candidate said.
In her study, she established primarily that in a democratic system, “there are three triangular pillars which determine the kind of outcomes that politics will produce for the people.
Explaining the concept, the former World Bank vice president said, “On the right angle or demand side of the triangle is the electorate; on the left or supply side is the politicians, political class and parties; and at the top is the regulatory – constitutional, legal, electoral and institutional context within which the politics happen.”
According to her, these tripod pillars create an interconnecting network of actions that determine the outcomes of every political system.
“Every pillar or angle of the triangle must function effectively and concurrently with the other two to enable the right quality of politics that will deliver strong economic performance for a people.
“In evaluating the outcome of politics in Nigeria and Africa, my study established that the quality of the electorate, quality of political class and quality and lack of independence and capacity of political institutions constitute a structural and systemic problem for democracy and must therefore be fixed by citizens,” Ezekwesili said.
She also said, “The research found that Nigeria is ridden with politicians without competing ideas of how to solve the problems of citizens, who lack a culture of public service and subordinate the common good to their personal and narrow interests.
“The constitutional, legal, institutional and regulatory environment is compromised by the political class to more frequently act without independence, fairness and adherence to the rule of law. The political space is thus completely monopolised by the supply side of governance, that is the political class, thereby causing political, economic and social stagnation for the nation and people.
“Currently in our politics, voters generally lack the level of influence necessary to compel the right political processes and good outcomes that serve the good of all in society.
“The bright prospect is that evidence from the #FixPolitics research shows that citizens are the only angle of the triangle that can act and propel systemic change by collectively and decisively acting for their common good.”
To alter the status quo, Ezekwesili said only the electorate “have the incentive to correct the abnormality in a political system.”
She added, “It is the collective effort of citizens that can change the quality of political class and compel the kind of constitutional and electoral changes required to achieve good governance.”
Delivering a keynote address, former President Felipe Calderon of Mexico said there was an enormous gap between the interests of the citizens and that of the politicians, which he saw as a major problem to a democratic setting.
“To fix politics in Nigeria, the citizens and the politicians must work together and represent the same in practical life,” he said.
Calderon further said that “citizens must change their perception of politics and political participation rather than holding to a view that politics is for corrupt and dishonest people.”
According to him, corrupt people are quite the opposite of what politics stands. “To fix politics is what happens when the people participate and take responsibility to provide political participation with ethical sense and ethical parameters,” Calderon added.
In a goodwill message, former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda, said politics should be seen as an inclusive love affair and if institutionally implemented, “Africa will witness a great change in its democratic system.”
While dissecting the dynamics of democracy, three intergenerational panels with discussants like Prof. Atahiru Jega, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Aisha Yesufu, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Jude Abaga(also known as M.I Abaga), Cynthia Mbamalu, Yemi Adamolekun, Samson Itodo, among others, agreed that there was an emerging consensus to fix politics in Nigeria as the status quo was untenable and unsustainable.
Speakers like Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Ayo Sogunro, Ndi Kato, Adewunmi Emoruwa, and Dr. Usman Bugaje highlighted that “there is a need for young people and women to fully engage in partisan politics, create platforms for political engagement, use politics as a tool for framing a shared vision based on a new dominant value orientation of public service, connect the elite with the grassroots and mobilise the Nigerian public to mount pressure on the legislature for the right constitutional and electoral changes.”
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