Residents of Zaria Road, Sabon Tasha, a poor suburb of Kaduna, have no sympathy for their neighbour from whose house the staggering sum of $9.7million and 74,000 pounds was recovered last week.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, last Friday announced it recovered the money (about N3 billion in total) from a house in Sabon Tasha belonging to the former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Andrew Yakubu.
Mr. Yakubu, who reportedly admitted owning the money, has since been arrested and is in custody of the EFCC. The Federal High Court in Kano presided over by Justice Zainab Abubakar on Tuesday gave an interim order for the forfeiture of the money to the Nigerian government.
When a PREMIUM TIMES reporter visited the area on Tuesday, the residents generally expressed shock and outrage over the discovery in their neglected community. Many of the interviewees spoke in a mixture of English and pidgin.
Grace John, a private school teacher, first directed her anger at petty criminals she said daily terrorise ordinary residents of the area instead of going after the likes of the former NNPC boss.
“There is a street nicknamed ‘Black Street’ in this community. There is no kind of crime that does not happen there. Why is it that they didn’t discover that house where this money was hidden?” Ms. John said.
“They should have gone there instead of breaking into the homes of innocent people who struggle everyday to survive the harsh economy caused by people like Andrew Yakubu”.
She could not restrain her disgust for the embattled former boss of the state oil firm.
“The man is wicked. I pray that nemesis will continue to catch up with his likes,” she said, snapping her fingers.
Blessing Luka, a fruit hawker, pointed morosely at the irony of the discovery in a neighbourhood she said is without water, good road and hospital, and has a large number of unemployed and vulnerable youth.
“Yet, the money that would have been used to solve these problems and many other social and economic problems were stolen by one corrupt person and hidden under our nose”, she fumed.
Ms. Blessing, a widowed mother of five, said she knew Mr. Yakubu and had made several attempts to get him to support her trade.
“His boys will tell me come today, come tomorrow. Asheh plenti dollar dey for the house. Na wah ooo, rich people wicked oo!
“Wetin pain me be say this man for give me N10,000 to use am sell orange take feed my children and pay for their school fees and house rent before government collect everything!”
Florence Udogu said she felt bad when she heard the news of the discovery. She said even though it was a stolen money, it should have been invested in establishing an industry.
“He even has the dirty mouth to say it is a gift or a donation. Who is he fooling? He brought all these stolen money and hid it within our reach and left us in poverty and illness. But our God is alive and will continue to expose these corrupt politicians and government officials,” she said indignantly.
“We hear say the man dey save the money to contest Governor of Kaduna State, when even we wey dey stay near him house dey hungry. God catch am. Na for that prison him go die put”
Jacob Dominic, a commercial tricycle operator who took our reporter round the slump, said.
“Na so bad name go dey follow him family. Ole! That is why dem wan kill Baba make him no catch them go prison.”
Andrew Abdul, a private legal practitioner who resides in the area, said he was shocked at the the level of corruption in the society, even as he awarded a pass mark to the EFCC as a corruption fighting agency. He said all stolen money recovered should be invested in the economy and infrastructural development, especially in communities such as where Mr. Yakubu’s loot was discovered.
“The discovery of such huge amount of money hidden in an unexpected location has further exposed the level of selfishness, self-centredness, indifference and greed of some Nigerians”, the lawyer stated.
“Whatever is the source of the money or reason for saving the money is questionable. As a public officer, any money collected as gift should be declared publicly at the point of collecting it,” he said.
He advised the National Assembly to enact a law setting a ceiling on amount a public office holder or an individual could keep in their accounts without investing it into an economic venture.
“If somebody has that kind of looted money or even if it is a gift as Mr. Yakubu claimed, why can’t he help the poor community where he stashed the money?”, said Idibia Gabriel, a journalist who resides in the area.
“Some people said that if they had known about the hidden loot, they would have struggled to get something for themselves before the long arm of the law caught up with the former GMD”, he said, chuckling.
“Some said if they were Mr. Yakubu, they would have invested the money for people to benefit rather than keeping it,” he said.