Nigerian economy in the stranglehold of economic mafia


Sheriffdeen Tella

The hazy way the Nigerian economy looks these days is suggestive of not just the presence but the stranglehold of an economic mafia in control of economic policies and implementation. It is a shadow but powerful government. The mafia seems to have turned the ministers into onlookers or at best, announcers of the mafia’s policy bulletin.

For instance, the Minister of State for Petroleum cannot tell us exactly the quantity of petrol Nigerians consume daily. Thus, when the mafia group gave a fuel consumption figure of almost 70 million litres a day, there was no grumble from the government when it is very clear that most industries, Ministries, Departments and Agencies and housing estates use diesel-powered generators. Petrol is not used for commercial but household activities. The figure was accepted and used as the basis for subsidy payment.

The minister cannot confirm when petrol will be available to clear the massive queues in petrol stations across the major cities of the country; neither can he confirm the official price of the product. The mafia has taken over the supply and pricing of petroleum with pump prices varying from N250 and N400 or more per litre. The petrol stations, unlike in the past when they maintain the official price on the meter but sell at different prices, now boldly display the unofficial prices with nobody to challenge them.

The Central Bank of Nigeria continues to tell us there are enough new currencies with the banks but banks still dispense new and old notes in many of their automated teller machines and sometime only two out of five such ATMs are dispensing due to shortage of any type of currency. The new currencies are already being sprayed at elite parties unhindered. The CBN Governor is not sure of what is really responsible for the worthlessness of the naira, which value was less than N200 to $1 when he took over and is now going to N800 to $1! Initially, it was a particular Bureau de change but later he hung the blackboard on the neck of students who have and are travelling aboard. This again has been found to be false.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning was confused about when the tenure of this government would end. She announced that fuel subsidy would end in June 2023 when May 29 is the handover date of the government she is serving. She cannot be talking for an incoming government unless there is a shadow government that told her to say so. It is not a matter of government is a continuum when you are not sure your party will win the forthcoming elections. Even if the party wins, policy can change. Also, under normal circumstances, no government will clearly state that it will finance about 60 per cent of its annual budget through borrowing! This is an ex-ante statement, not ex-post. But that is what the 2023 budget is all about. More ludicrous is for the minister to state that the government is borrowing to finance petroleum subsidy! Subsidy is normally provided from some surpluses or reserves.  All these are indicative of the fact that a shadow government is behind the scenes, dictating the pace.

Whenever mafia is mentioned, we look at it from the angle of drug trafficking or from political bigotry, but this is not always the case. The word mafia was coined for an organised international body of criminals with ruthless behavioural code. That is within the context of broad definition in the oxford languages but in a simpler form, it can refer to a group regarded as exerting a hiding sinister influence.

Wikipedia explained that mafia as a word was derived from the Sicilian adjective mafiusu which can roughly translate to “boldness” or “bravado”. By extension, we can argue that members of a mafia are selfish, ruthless and demonic in matters that negatively affect their personal existence. They can sacrifice anything, anyone or anybody and even their nation for personal comfort. Patriotism to them means loyalty to themselves or at best, to their nuclear family. That is why they can kill anyone trying to block their ways. They trade in killer products like illegal drugs and killer services such as kidnapping. Their religion is money, their tribe is power, and their modus operandi is ruthlessness.

Of course, mafia groups can be found in any form, any profession or any vocation. So, talking of economic mafia is like reference to drug mafia, political mafia, financial mafia and any mafia one can think of. The bottom line, however, has to do with money and the financial mafia is somehow always in the picture playing the role of receiver; albeit, it can act on its own, holding the nation’s financial system by the jugular.

Never mind why we have to go through this extent to explain mafiaso. It is worth it, given the extensive damage mafia’s activities have unleashed and still unleash on hitherto prosperous businesses and economies in Nigeria and across the world

The Nigerian economy has always been monitored by the economic mafia and sometimes when it attempts to take over but is rebuffed by incumbent ministers with the support of the President and civil society, it tactically withdraws and bids its time. Under this government, they saw weaknesses everywhere, including in the presidency and the civil society or the Nigerian public who have been thoroughly demoralised and overwhelmed. When Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as the Minister of Finance and minister coordinating the economy, confronted them on the bogus request for petroleum subsidy claims, her mother was kidnapped and other attempts to break her will were set loose but she resisted and got the support of the government with the immediate deployment of necessary security apparatus. Eventually, they backed down, got half measure and were satisfied. They are now in control!

At the continental level, the economic mafia is international in composition and technologically advanced. That is, they are private multinational businesses without physical offices and sometimes with the tacit support of the home government. Those operating on the African continent are largely found in the physical resource areas of each viable country and in the financial market for easy transfer of funds from their illegal activities. Of course, they work in collaboration with the local mafia.

They are entrenched in our oil industry, making sure public refineries are not working and the operations of the proposed private ones are delayed. They have perched on the iron and steel industry and currently advising the government to go into the concession of the iron and steel industry so that the government, after spending huge funds to bring the project to over 80 per cent completion, will be collecting meagre rents. Hopefully, the government will go into partnership with a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding that benefits the country as part-owner and compels Nigerians working in the public-private partnership steel project to receive in-service training locally and internationally toward technology transfer.

With the recent detection of a special type of lithium mineral in Nigeria, we should expect more of such international mafia in collaboration with local ones and with the intent to dislocate settlements and citizens for economic exploitation. This is already happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the same type of lithium was found.

It looks certain that the local and international economic mafia is already in touch with the political mafia to control the outcome of the forthcoming elections in their favour. All the interviews at Chatham House, United Kingdom are being analysed by experts for character determination, detection of lies in statements made and other important factors. If the collaboration of the mafia group is able to bring in the person considered as good for their business, the status quo, that is, what prevails now will subsist. Otherwise, with the content or character analysis, the mafia organisation may have to influence the choice of ministers to assist them to achieve their goals. Nigerians have to analyse the parties and their candidates properly for appropriate choices in the coming elections to dislodge, avoid and prevent the further entrenchment of the mafia groups. This is not a matter to be solved by prayers and amen. Let us walk the talk.


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