Our own Pandora, by Wole Olaoye

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Pandora Papers

Thanks to PREMIUM TIMES and its global partners, in what has now become the journalistic equivalent of a tsunami, we now know that for many of our politically exposed people and our business elite, charity begins and ends. abroad.

Repeat after me: I won’t be anybody’s fool; neither now, nor tomorrow, nor ever!

The world inherited the word Pandora from the ancient Greek poet Hesiod. In the poem “Works and Days” he tells the story of Prometheus and Pandora. Prometheus had tried to deceive the gods, whose prefect was Zeus. In retaliation, Pandora and the “tribe of women” were sent into the world. The jar given to Pandora by Zeus was accompanied by instructions that it should not be opened.

Pandora (meaning “all gifted”) was the first mortal woman ever to be created – the ancient Greek version of Biblical Eve. Epimetheus forgot his brother Prometheus’s warning and made Pandora his wife. She was carrying a jar that contained curses and one last unknown item, which many commentators interpreted as hope.

Before the arrival of Pandora, man had lived free from evil, toil and disease. One day she could no longer contain her curiosity; she lifted the lid of the storage jar. This is how terrible things, including disease, war, vice, toil, and the need to work for food, were released. There was only one last item left before the jar snapped shut, but the deed was done. Evil had entered the world.

The world has borrowed the expression “Pandora’s box” to describe any source of important and unexpected problems, a Gordian knot, a pot of problems, a box of worms, a cabinet full of skeletons.

Politicians all over the world are thick-skinned. They ignore criticism with the ease of a duck shaking water. On the other hand, if they are threatened with opening their Pandora’s box, they become really attentive. But if you think you can upset them by making known their hypocrisy and betrayal, you are grossly mistaken. No public official, especially a politician, would readily admit a violation of the law, unless he or she operates in climates where the institutions of governance and law enforcement are deeply rooted.

Thanks to PREMIUM TIME and its global partners, in what has now become the journalistic equivalent of a tsunami, we now know that for many of our politically exposed people and our business elite, charity begins and ends overseas. .

The investigative project, known as Pandora Papers, was facilitated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The group, made up of more than 600 journalists from 150 news agencies around the world, obtained a cache of 11.9 million confidential files, which journalists spent two years studying and sorting. The Pandora Papers hit the headlines more than five years after the 2016 Panama Papers revelations.

In 2018, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, said: “The assets of every civil servant must be declared publicly so that people can ask questions and ask: what is legitimate? Now he’s struggling to answer that question, following revelations that he and his relatives have invested more than $ 30 million overseas. He has so far ignored press inquiries into the matter.

Period work has generated a worldwide roster of politically exposed people, who have hidden their loot in foreign climates. The jury is out on whether many of them acquired their wealth legally or not, but the list also includes fugitives, crooks and murderers. The Pandora Papers investigation is even bigger than the Panama Papers scandal, which erupted in 2016, and covered approximately 11.5 million files totaling 2.6 three terabytes of data.

More than 100 billionaires (in US $) are included in the leaked data. So are well-known celebrities, religious leaders and business tycoons, who use shell companies and incognito bank accounts to conceal their wealth and, in many cases, avoid paying the required tax in their home country. ‘origin.

Of course, creating or benefiting from offshore entities is not a criminal offense. Indeed, some people may have admissible security reasons for doing so. However, the stealth or confidentiality governing operations is predictably attractive to well-connected cash looters, tax evaders, con artists and money launderers. The Pandora Papers exhibit many of these people.

How much does a human being need to live comfortably? Is a rich man forced to hide a good chunk of his fortune in secret accounts to avoid paying taxes that could improve his home country? Is it morally justified to indulge in subterfuge even if no law is broken? It seems that it is the poor who ask such questions. The ultra-rich, from every continent in the world, seem immune to the noise that Pandora’s revelations have generated.

In 2018, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, said: “The assets of every civil servant must be declared publicly so that people can ask questions and ask: what is legitimate? Now he’s struggling to answer that question, following revelations that he and his relatives have invested more than $ 30 million overseas. He has so far ignored press inquiries into the matter.

The late Petr Kolbin, a childhood friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is on the list, along with other associates of the Russian strongman. They have been described as the “wallets” in which Mr Putin is said to have hidden his loot. Also on the list is a woman who has reportedly been romantically linked to Putin in the past.

King Abdullah II of Jordan is said to have secretly amassed $ 100 million in real estate investments in Malibu, Washington and London. He declined to answer any questions regarding the disclosures.

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie bought a £ 6.5million office in Marylebone by acquiring an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands. No crime is insinuated, but the revelations simply show how existing laws can be circumvented to reduce taxes payable. In addition, it is pointed out, and rightly so, that London is home to wealth managers, law firms, company formation agents and accountants set up to help the rich hide their wealth and avoid losing money. pay taxes on it.

According to Transparency International (TI), Nigeria accounts for 35% of Africa’s illicit financial outflows, estimated at between $ 15 billion and $ 18 billion per year. Imagine what could be achieved if that kind of money was invested on the continent. TI advocates that Nigeria strengthen its weak institutions and engender a culture of transparency to secure its wealth.

“Naija no dey carry last” is a popular saying in Nigeria. In every five Africans on the face of the earth, one is Nigerian. In all walks of life, for better or for worse, Nigerians are not child’s play. The country is therefore well represented in the breathtaking list of billionaires. It should be noted that there is nothing illegal about a private Nigerian citizen having offshore accounts, but the law requires full disclosure, especially for those in public office.

Some of the “usual suspects” are on the list. But what caused outrage in the country were the names of people who had advertised themselves as the very definition of morality and good conscience. Former Senate Speaker Bukola Saraki and his wife Toyin are appointed alongside Senator David Mark, who predated Saraki in power. Former Bayelsa Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and his Delta State counterpart James Ibori are there.

Historical investigations have also shown the existence of a network of shell companies in offshore tax havens linked to Aliko Dangote and her brother, Sayyu Dantata. Some offshore companies were linked to Wale Tinubu, the CEO of Oando Plc. The late Prophet Temitope Joshua of the Synagogue of All Nations Church was a member of the club. General TY Danjuma, Mike Adenuga of Globacom, Governor of Niger State Abubakar Sadiq Sani Bello, Chairman of Arik Air Joseph Arumemi-Johnson and his wife, Mary, former Chairman of Bank Hakeem Bello Osagie and the late Ooni of Ife, Okunade Sijuade, are among those identified in the well-documented account.

The list also includes a former governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi; ex-Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah; the interim director general of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko; and Governors Gboyega Oyetola and Atiku Bagudu of Osun and Kebbi States respectively. They all denied any wrongdoing.

According to Transparency International (TI), Nigeria accounts for 35% of Africa’s illicit financial outflows, estimated at between $ 15 billion and $ 18 billion per year. Imagine what could be achieved if that kind of money was invested on the continent. TI advocates that Nigeria strengthen its weak institutions and engender a culture of transparency to secure its wealth.

Incredibly, there are several poor Nigerians who defend their heroes from Pandora from the rooftop and urge them to hide more wealth. Some of these solidarity “shows” are choreographed and bought for remuneration; but, believe it or not, there are still those who believe that the more their political principles are erased, the higher they, the followers, are.

To these people, I recommend the (edited) reflections of a fellow Nigerian, Morack Akin-David, who describes himself as an author and biographer:

“No one is a bigger fool than a person who assumes he’s cheating on others and doesn’t know that others have already lost the very last ounce of respect they had for him… Nothing turns a person into a object of mockery in the public eye as dishonesty. … They litter the public space, hypocrites! Most politicians can no longer be trusted. The words of many religious people can only be taken with a pinch of salt… No fool is greater than one who thinks he is deceiving others, not knowing that he has already been exposed by his follies… ”

Once again, repeat after me: I won’t be anyone’s fool; neither now, nor tomorrow, nor ever!

Amen?

Wole Olaoye can be contacted via [email protected]

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