Philanthropists As Fraudsters

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BEFORE millions of Nigerians, via live television, in the presence of the President, Nigeria’s men and women of means stepped forward to announce donations to victims of the flood that ravaged the country.

It was the worst flood in more than half a century. The sombre gathering only came to life as billions of Naira (some in foreign currencies) was listed as pledges from individuals and organisations.

The donations totalled N11.35 billion; money could bring relief to the victims. More than seven months after the November 8 event, donors have defaulted. The Presidential Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Committee is threatening to name them after a June 30 deadline.

The committee has asked them to “respect themselves and maintain their honour and integrity”, by redeeming their pledges. It is amazing that the committee still associates the defaulters with “honour and integrity”.

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They were not forced to give the money. They saw an opportunity to make a name; they milked the mileage and incentives without contributing their pledges.

If the committee checked it would have known that some of the defaulters have a serial history of acting in this manner. From launchings in their home towns to other charities they pretend to support, they are used to making pledges without plans to redeem them.

Unfortunately, they get away  with their disrespect for the public. Why would anyone exploit the flood incidents for publicising himself? There is another side to the welfare of flood victims, the resources allocated to them are not getting to them.

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Weeks back, some victims in Adamawa State said they got only N200 each from the State. Would that buy seedlings or repair anyone’s abode? The whole management of the resources for flood victims is over-due for investigation. So much went wrong and the default in pledges is only a part of it.

There is more fraud involved. The committee revealed that some of the defaulters were already enjoying the tax incentives that accompanied their pledges. Their motivation for making pledges is obvious.

Does that not show how resolved these people of “honour and integrity” are to default? Isn’t it possible they forged  proof of payment to access the incentives?

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It is time we started treating criminals in high places with the ignominy they deserve. It would not be adequate to receive their pledges when they pay. Those who received tax incentives without paying should be punished for fraud to deter others.

In future, more stringent conditions should be laid out for participation in these public events that are becoming breeding grounds for scandals. If sanctions that await defaulters are stated and implemented, they could check the appetite of fraudsters masquerading as philanthropists.

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