Who, between the US Attorneys office and Mr. Allen Onyema, Nigerian businessman and owner of Air Peace, might be telling the truth in a claim of fraud and denial of same respectively? This is the question everyone must be posing as the airline owner comes out to deny all fraud allegations against him by the US Attorney’s Office, calling them false allegations that are out of line with his character. He is indicating preparedness to defend himself in the US system. He says he follows CBN processes on all his transactions.
The story as has surfaced in most outlets in Nigeria since yesterday evening is that the Air Peace chief has a bank fraud and money laundering charge hanging on his neck. He has been alleged to have moved over $20 million from Nigeria, using false documents over purchase of airplanes.
Coming shortly after a national performance, it is a puzzling development. This man, Allen Onyema, stepped forward to provide planes that airlifted Nigerians who felt vulnerable to a recent siege stress in South Africa. A few months afterwards, the story of his alleged criminal antecedents started to surface. Is there any connection between the two? Some people are asking if this is not a case of using truth to blackmail, even if there are criminal dimensions?
In other words, it is one thing to have criminal records, it is another thing for the criminal records to start surfacing at a particular or very auspicious moment. Which is which?
It will take some time before the truth is known. But, even then, the truth may not be a 2 + 2 sort of truth but biopolitical truth. When the US says something like “We will diligently protect the integrity our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business”, it is making a biopolitical statement. It is expressing its desire to extend US vigilance and intervention beyond the US to prevent what, in the image of the pastoral self-understanding of the American State, it sees as a threat.
It is within that paradigm that the United State doesn’t feel any qualms arresting the president of another country for suspected drug crimes committed outside the US. The problem is that there would be diplomatic standoff should the Nigerian government say its own intelligence does not implicate Chief Allen Onyema and declines to help the US in any ways, especially if Onyema’s claim of following CBN protocols are valid. In that circumstance, evidence and proof will become politicised.
What all these mean is that, at some point, power will decide the truth of the question more than an unproblematic sense of the truth. This is thus a case to watch!