30 in lagos

Of Termites, Monkeys and the rest of us

5 months ago
Herald News

Only recently, some fantastically inept people tried to drag the name of termites into disrepute. The cast was done to drag them in the mud by alleging that they ate N17billion worth of project vouchers.

From all indications, these are some of the things that make Nigeria thick and bubbling among the committee of nations – sadly for negative reasons this time around.

Managing Director of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSTIF) told a gathering of Senate Public Accounts Committee hearing that termites ate the NSTIF’s vouchers inside a container.

The termites were so daring that they went all the way to devour the documents without any leftover. It would be recalled that the Auditor General of the Federation’s 2018 audit report had said the Fund could not provide documents to support the payment of these sums to some companies and individuals. In their wisdom, all the transactions were perfected manually such that there was no electronic version or copies to prevent loss of documents. How unthinkable it is for a vital Federal Government agency to function and operate daily in such manner? 

The said amount, according to the AGF’s report was paid to different companies and other individuals; and even at that, all the relevant vouchers used for the various payments were all in one container – too bad they could not escape the wrath of the termites.

In their wisdom too, and since the committee will find it a herculean task to summon termites to defend themselves, they resorted to bulk-passing; they opted to accuse the ancient creatures of being responsible for the misfortune.

Termites are small, pale soft-bodied insects that live in large colonies with several different castes, typically within a mound of cemented earth. These creatures feed on wood and can be highly destructive to trees and timber. It is interesting lately that in Nigeria, they can now be seen to be destructive to vital documents that are kept in highly secured government facilities.

This, of course, will not be the first time in Nigeria that officials tried to shift the blame for missing monies to animals, capitalizing on the biological fact that their language and that of human investigators are not mutually intelligible. About few years ago, a finance officer at the Kano Zoological Garden tried to tarnish the name of gorillas by alleging that a gorilla ate N6.8m.

The official said, most ridiculously, that the gorilla sneaked into their office, carted away the money and swallowed it. Before public uproar forced them to retract, Kano State Police Command initially lent credence to the story by stating they would arrest the gorilla. Earlier around 2018, there was a story when JAMB Makurdi office staffer, one Mrs. Philomena could not account for N36m of the board’s money, she alleged that a snake swallowed it. She practically brought the name of snakes into public ridicule.

And without remorse, the tradition of blaming animals and other creatures for our gross ineptitude and endemic corruption is, to say the least, gaining traction at every twist and turn; it is gradually being accepted as norms and part of our value system.

The justification no doubt is premised on the fact that animals do not and cannot make their speeches comprehensible to the humans. This, however, is not enough reason to make unfounded, ridiculous allegations against these creatures and or assassinate their character willfully. This is another form of abuse. It is not their fault that the human ear cannot interpret the language of other animals. We hear birds singing, cocks crowing, dogs barking, frogs croaking, cats mewing and sheep bleating, but we do not know what they are saying to one another.

Certainly, were they to be aware of these grievous allegations against them, who knows, may be they would have resorted to protest in whatever way they can.

The situation is made worse by relevant authorities’ seeming inaction to condemn and prosecute culprits to a logical conclusion – thereby dissuading other potential animal accusers in the future. Suffix to reiterate that government’s apparent laxity is of no help either, to put a resounding stop to these 21st Century malady.

NSTIF officials claim that termites ate their vouchers; and going by the campaign by the present administration on the need to embrace digital economy, it is only expected that agencies of government will take the lead – in the quest for digital economy – outright deployment of cloud-based facility to enhance productivity and efficiency in service delivery.

The earlier this trend is halted, the better for our collective consciousness and responsibility.

Michael Ayotunde – detuns04@gmail.com

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