For much of last week, culminating in the weekend, the internet was awash with news and pictures from the burial ceremony of the septuagenarian mother of popular Nigerian businessman and socialite, Obi Iyiegbu, a.k.a Obi Cubana.
The burial, which was attended by hordes of Nigerian celebrities from the business and entertainment space lit up the small, otherwise quiet town of Oba in Anambra state in what can only be described as a carnival that lasted for several days.
Obi Cubana and his rich friends put up a formidable jamboree, drawing crowds of people with no nose masks and no apparent care for either the Covid-19 pandemic or the government’s health protocols put in place to check the spread of the virus.
The boisterous celebration which saw notable artists like D’banj and Davido in performance will also be remembered for the wads of naira notes lavishly thrown around at the event. Videos abound online of guests wantonly spraying N200, N500 and N1000 notes at the chief mourner.
Recall that in 2018, the CBN issued a warning to Nigerians against spraying money at parties, insisting that those who flout this warning were at risk of a six-month jail term or a fine of N50,000. A statement by CBN’s spokesperson, Isaac Okorafor read:
“If a celebrant is dancing and you spray him/her, you may go to jail from the party venue, because the law enforcement agents will be there, waiting to arrest you.
The law enforcement agencies must catch offenders and take them to court. Our (CBN) collaboration with the police will intensify as we move to implement the mobile court for offenders.”
The spokesman added that the CBN had concluded the decision to establish mobile courts to prosecute those abusing the naira notes, noting that security agencies particularly the police operatives and officials of the Ministry of Justice would be involved in monitoring the use of the naira at event venues to ensure that the CBN order is enforced nationwide.
In June this year, the CBN reiterated this warning during a sensitization program in Abeokuta, where an Assistant Director at the Currency Operations Department, Aladeen Badajo stated:
“Abuse of the currency attracts a penalty of not less than six months or a fine of not less than N50,000 or both.”
Rather interesting, is the fact that the burial ceremony of the mother of the Cubana Group boss was replete with the police officers and other security operatives, including a well-known Deputy Commissioner of Police and leader of the Inspector-General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team, Abba Kyari, who stated that he attended the burial to honour a good friend.
The heavy police presence notwithstanding, nothing has been said of a possible arrest of guests, either for flouting COVID-19 directives or for blatantly disregarding the CBN’s jail threats for abuse of the naira.
This is not the first, second, third or even tenth time that these policies are being openly disregarded with no apparent consequences from regulatory authorities. Politicians and members of the bourgeois class do it all the time with their high society weddings and funerals. Are Nigerian elites above the law? Better still, if these policies are not to be backed by enforcement, is there really any point in making them in the first instance?