Buhari, bring back the loots -By Bob Majiri Oghene Etemiku

Filed under: National Issues |
Nigeria's President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari


Without a doubt, serious discussions about the mitigation of corruption in Nigeria have taken front seat since the election of Muhammadu Buhari. As a matter of fact, if you were to take a look at the papers and you don’t read about how the monies stolen by Nigerian politicians in the past 6 years of civil rule in Nigeria are going to be recovered then you must be living in either Sweden or Norway or Finland. My friends in those Scandinavian countries are adamant that it is impossible for you as an individual to withdraw a thousand dollars from your bank account without raising the brow about how you came to be about such a ‘large’ amount. But that is to be contrasted with how we are in Nigeria: allegations making the rounds say that one minister alone in the administration of Goodluck Jonathan made away with as much as $6billion. I do not know if those kinds of monies actually exist and how possible it is for an individual who does not control the instruments of state to steal so much.

But the tantalizing thing about the mitigation of corruption in Nigeria is that at long last, we now have in Buhari a certain Judge Dredge armed to the teeth, and in the mold of a Heracles is willing to take on the rot and flush the shit in our religious institutions, our offices and most importantly from government. We should be grateful. Else, how do you explain that in a Nigeria where people live on just a dollar per day, where power supply is still at its epileptic best and where the universities are shut for months for lack of funding, and where the average life expectancy is just 58, nearly $150billion of what has been stolen by politically exposed persons, businessmen and civil servants is stashed in safe havens in Europe and America? If we were to add the $20billion of allegedly unremitted NNPC funds together with the $6billion that is also allegedly in the hands of a single individual, Nigerian money abroad would be totaling nearly $200billion, that is, if allegations that there are other monies yet to be traced.
I have put $200billion in perspective. With that amount of money, all primary school children in Nigeria will get warm tea and bread for breakfast, school uniforms and school books in two decades. As a matter of fact with that amount of money, I very much doubt if we would be going cap in hand to any government for help or to any multilateral institution for a loan to enable Nigerians live off the fat of their land. What the UN Fund for Development, FFD, Conference held recently in Addis Ababa 11-13 July 2015 is thinking of putting down to help Africa transit from the millennium development goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs in the next three years is $400billion – that money is just double the amount that Nigerians have stashed in some of the banks in some of the countries that we go to get loans.

Therefore, if the supreme irony of that fact – that we are often going to borrow our own money – is lost on us, let us be consoled that at least that we have a president whose ‘body language’ is against corruption, and who wants to get those monies back. A major consequence of Mr. President’s trip to the US is that the US government appears sincere with helping Nigeria recover all or part of that $150billion stashed in American banks or anywhere close to their territory. Whether or not we have the balls to go with the conditions attached to this gesture of friendship remains to be seen.

Consequently, I will try to avoid focusing on the twists and turns of pursuing those close to Mr. President who have stolen in the past 6 years, and the jousts and fencing involved with repatriating $150billion, and be optimistic that Mr. Buhari would support innovative methods at recovering Nigeria’s $150billion and more stashed in European and American banks. At another podium, I have suggested a truth commission on corruption operating on a voluntary disclosure programme, VDP, akin to what the World Bank has. We are happy that Mr. Buhari is nibbling at the idea.

The controversy already generated by Mr. Buhari’s insistence on fighting only the corruption of the past 6 years gets stronger in the light of these issues. That stance of his that fighting the corruption of 16 years will distract him gets things all muddled up if he personalizes the crusade against corruption.

All he has to do is strengthen all the anti-corruption agencies by passing on whatever information he gets from our American friends, and demand to see results from what he has passed to them. That way, it gives him time to deal with other serious issues like unemployment, security, power, education and agriculture.