A Nigerian government panel repudiated media claims that it held an “unidentified spiritual snake” responsible for eating $100,000 in public funds, reportedly conceding that “criminality and fraud” at the hands of one its staff members are to blame for the missing money.
Franklin Benjamin, a spokesman for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), did note that the alleged thief, identified as Philomina Chiesh, accused a “spiritual snake” of ingesting the funds, adding, “Of course, the management did not believe the story. She is just trying to put an excuse forward.”
JAMB is a higher education admissions panel that functions as a component of Nigeria’s federal government.
Media reports that a “money-swallowing snake” infiltrated JAMB’s accounts office in Benue state reportedly went viral, prompting anger and jibes by Nigerians who took to social media to express their feelings.
“A sales clerk, Philomina Chieshe, told JAMB [auditors] … that she could not account for [about $100,000]. … In the course of interrogation, Philomena denied the allegations that she stole the money but confessed that her housemaid connived with another JAMB staff, Joan Asen, to ‘spiritually’ (through a snake) steal the money from the vault in the [accounting] office,” claimed one of the news articles about the missing funds, according to Nigeria’s Premium Times.
“The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB on Monday dispelled a report that went viral that a snake swallowed N36 million [about $100,000] belonging to the board in one of its numerous offices. The Board in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Franklin Benjamin said it was a pure case of criminality and fraud by one of its staff,” reports Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper.
Referring to the alleged thief, Benjamin reportedly said, “There are procedures in the civil service, so the whole thing is still under investigation. She was queried, she appeared before [a] disciplinary committee, although she confessed that money was missing and a snake swallowed it.”
Some Nigerians have reportedly taken to Twitter to react to the “money-swallowing snake” allegations.
“Corruption is an epidemic [in] this country,” one social media user in Nigeria reportedly Tweeted, according to the country’s Daily Trust newspaper.
“Snake = also used to describe deceitful and insincere people. Nigerian politicians & officials = snakes,” wrote another. “A human being probably stole that money but as usual they’ve made a joke out of it to distract us from the truth.”
The stolen funds’ allegations came as the Nigerian government struggled to approve $1 billion in taxpayer money to combat Boko Haram jihadists.
Nigerian government officials have falsely claimed to have defeated the group on several occasions.
“Weapons procurement for the fight against Boko Haram has been marred by a massive corruption scandal in a country where graft is widespread,” added the Associated Press (AP). “Nigeria’s former national security adviser faces criminal charges alleging that $2.1 billion meant to buy arms was diverted.”