Opportunity Cost of the Stolen N8b at the Central Bank of Nigeria, Ibadan

For the past two days, the Nigerian social media, television stations, newspapers and other news outlets have been abuzz with the story of the arrest of some eight senior officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Ibadan branch, for conniving among themselves to steal N8 billion Naira from the branch. The allegation detailed how the officials, in charge of sorting and destroying mutilated and unusable high denominations of the Nigerian currency were, over a period of two to four years, switching high-denominated currencies meant for destruction with lower-denominated ones.

Many Nigerians, in their reactions, have either faulted the former CBN governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, for not detecting this crime earlier, or praised the 8 alleged criminals for “getting their share of the national cake”, others have dismissed the whole crime as a CBN affair, therefore not in any way of any immediate concern to the entire Nigerian citizenry.  In their opinion, the loss of N8b can only impact the apex bank’s profits, and has nothing to do with Nigerians. Unfortunately, they are very wrong. Let us review ways the money could have been beneficial the ordinary Nigeria.

One of the allegations made against Lamido Sanusi which led to his sack was that he was making financial donations to some universities and polytechnics from profits of the apex bank. There was a specific allegation of N500m gift to a particular university in the northern part of Nigeria. Now, assuming that this N8 billion was not lost to these criminals, the CBN’s profit at the end of any of those years would have increased by a particular amount - or something close to it - and its financial assistance to education institutions, community healthcare programs, and small business organizations would have increased. For example, listed next are some ways the CBN could have expended the N8b excess profit if it had not been serially stolen by those Despicable 8:

  1. Ten boreholes in each of the 774 local government areas, at a cost of N1m per borehole, will cost N7.5b. This will improve the health of some people, and prevent waterborne diseases for years.
  2. A primary care clinic in each of the 774 local governments at a cost of N10m each will cost a total of N7.74b, and save many lives for years to come.
  3. Were the CBN to dole out N1b in scholarship funds to each university, 8 universities will benefit; if it were to donate N500m for establishment of a research center per university, 16 of such centers will be built in 16 universities. Suppose the Apex bank were to allocate N250m in equipping universities with high-tech science equipment, 32 universities nationwide will smile to the bank; Were the CBN to give N100m each to Polytechnics and colleges of education, 80 of such institutions will benefit.
  4. Now, If the bank were to recognize and extend its generosity to secondary schools nationwide, and decided to give N50m to such secondary institutions, 150 of them will be giddy with joy.

I could go on and on with examples of how the missing N8b can benefit Nigerians of every region and ethnic nationality, and so also could someone else; but, unfortunately, many Nigerians do not believe that some of these thefts negatively impact on their lives and well-being just because it happened in some isolated industry, company, or community by some unknown civil servants. They believe that only corrupt activities by politicians at every level affect them. Not so.

The sooner we begin to realize that any amount of money stolen from any public institution, be they banks, hospitals, manufacturing companies, or from the school principal’s office directly or indirectly affects you as an individual, regardless of your ethnic origin, the people will increase their efforts to fight corruption

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