Nonetheless, the reports have persisted, some providing what appear to be credible details of the deal. The social media circle has been awash with discussion of the alleged order when the reports broke last week.
Britain’s The Independent newspaper quoted an official of the firm Gold and Co, United Kingdom, Amjad Ali, described as its CEO as saying that the Dubai-based company was world-renowned for producing high quality gift items and memorabilia. The publication further quoted Mr Ali making reference to a process of fulfilling an order from the Nigerian Government for 53 gold-plated iPhones at the cost of about seven hundred million naira. Although Mr Ali did not state when the order was received, or disclose the identity of the agency that contracted his firm, he described many features, including the Nigerian coat of arms, that he said were required to be engraved on each item.
The businessman Ali may be making an honest advertisement for his firm’s capacity to do such business engagements, and may be oblivious of the uproar his comments could cause in a country still struggling to fight corruption and put the education sector in good shape, among numerous other challenges. Not surprising, Nigerians roundly condemned this apparent waste and insensitivity. The Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, was quick to refute Mr Ali’s claim and deny any government involvement in the matter.
Mr Maku noted that the Presidency had no hand in it either. The firm involved also later issued a disclaimer on its own statement, asserting that Mr Ali was misquoted and only referred to producing items with the Nigerian coat of arms and insignia. Curiously however, the firm revised its statement to state that the special iPhones were in fact ordered by an individual Nigerian, who it did not name.
Only the government can lawfully use the official coat of arms. This is a well-known fact, and it is the reason fraudsters succeed in their nefarious activities when they use the coat of arms in dubiously to present official documents. If a private individuals has gone as far as freely commissioning products with the nation’s coat of arms without government approval, then the action warrants a criminal inquiry. The government should be interested in finding who this individual is, and not seek to parse public concern on this scandalous issue, as Mr Maku appeared to do. There is a definite need for the police to investigate this purchase order and find out the motives behind it. The apparent lack of concern by the authorities leads cynics to believe that there is more to the story than meets the eye.
Nigeria has several legitimate millionaires, all of whom openly engage in philanthropic activities and none of whom would need to hide the fact that they wish to spend such money. Who then is the mystery buyer? Anyone who plans to give away over 680 million naira to celebrate his country’s independence should be proud of his contribution, not hiding the fact.
The concerns expressed in the social media were justified even though there is no reason, at this time, to suspect that the executive arm of government may be involved in the purchased order. Government Agencies especially those known to be the government’s cash cows, have a reputation of procuring expensive gifts on occasion to government officials and visiting foreign dignitaries. The authorities owe an obligation to get to the bottom of this matter and reveal this unusual provider to the nation.