NIGERIA IS NOT BROKE BUT BATTERED WITH CORRUPTION.

Filed under: National Issues |

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Nigeria is one of the most privileged countries of the world when you come to rank countries by the natural and human resources endowments available to it. Nigeria is matchless in ranking in the whole of Africa when it comes to natural and human resources endowments, not even South Africa which is her leading economy today can match her.
Nigeria has awesome and stupendous natural resources endowments that one may be tempted to liken God to be partial to her. However, Nigeria has over the years failed to translate this grand opportunity to development, opportunities and empowerment for her teeming population of 160m (UNFPA estimate, 2011).

Unarguably, the reason for this is abysmal failure of leadership and institutionalization of N corruption as a way of life and hottest public brand. Recently, there was the rumour or argument about Nigeria being broke and unable to pay the salaries of civil servants on time. As serious as the matter though, it could only make me laugh. One of the factors delaying change Nigeria is ignorance. Many Nigerians do not know the workings and capacity and the potentials of the Nigerian economy. This includes many literate Nigerians. As Late sage and erudite civil right brand scholar, Bala Usman once said “ignorance is not the same as illiteracy”. A Professor may not know the geography or political history of Nigeria but he or she is a Professor of Medicine or Accounting. So because of this ignorance and care free attitude of Nigerians to be inquisitive and develop interest in knowing what is happening in their country and around them (our youth will rather prefer the Arsenal or English Premier debate, or the American Rapper Musician), the elites (the thieves) continue to loot Nigeria blue and white or naked while they orchestrate an agenda of manipulations of the law with the help of many lawyers. This is why the numerous and everyday corruption cases we have, there is yet to be anybody in genuine prison for corruption to my knowledge. The case of Bode George is an executive prison and it happened by accident. Nigeria is not broke but battered by corruption.

Take for instance, in 2011, the Federal Inland Revenue generated about five trillion naira (N4.5 Trillion) in spite of the leakages and evasions and invasions plus other anomalies with the tax system that manipulatively keep the elites from paying property tax in spite of our pressure for government to effect tax on the properties that litter everywhere majorly built by the elites with funds stolen from the public treasury. This is because, if they are brought under true scrutiny, not even all their salaries and income for their whole working life could even afford one-fifth of these properties.

Recall that the budget for 2011 was N4.6 Trillion. This implies that only income generated from well coordinated tax management regime can fund our national budget. For the fiscal year 2012, they have realized NN2.16 Trillion so far for their mid-year report as at the end of June, 2012, indicating that they may realize well over N4Trillion by the end of the year. So what happens to our crude oil money and the income from the non-oil sector with exception to taxation? Aside, the average price of crude for 2011 hovers at US$100 and above while the bench mark price for our crude was US$72 leaving an excess of US$28. At an average of US$30 excess crude oil price and at 2.3m barrels per day, Nigeria will make an annual average of US$25.185bn on excess crude account alone.

From oil sales at average price of US$100 at 2.3m barrels per day, Nigeria makes about US$83.95bn annually. When you add this two, you will get US$109.135bn. At an average exchange rate of N150 to US$1, you will have N16.37trn. However, this calculation does not take account of local consumption which estimate is about 300, 000 barrels. This is in any case about one-seventh of this calculation and if taken away, we still have a chunk of money. To go into the details and inside dealings in the Nigerian government and bureaucracy is an invitation to early grave and some of us have lived only by share grace of God’s defense and protection. Nevertheless, we cannot help it because some of us love our country. Corruption has assumed a very high notoriety in Nigeria and the hottest national brand. The latent law in government is that you can loot out the Federal Republic of Nigeria so far you are not caught or you know how to do it that it will not blow out, it’s okay and you offend or violate no law. It is akin to the tradition in the military about coup de’tat. You can plan a coup and so far you succeed, it is not a treason or offence. But if you plan and you fail, it becomes an offence and treason for that matter. So is the rule with corruption.

I pity the Late General Mamman Vatsa, effable and jolly Wing Commander Leader Ben Ekele, Squadron Leader Martin Luther, Major David Orkar and others whose lives were wasted because of their push for change and betterment of fatherland. So what kind of hypocrisy is this? If coup d’état is a treason, then whoever engages in it commits a treason, not to say except it fails. Banana republic or early man’s era? But this is the tradition of hypocrisy and manipulation that goes in governments today. Though Nigeria is not an exception but it is an exception by degree of how it has exulted these hypocrisy and manipulation.

How do I begin to give an account of corruption in Nigeria and from where do I begin? I am confused because the case is a plethora. So I can only do a cursory overview or attempt. Nigeria is said to have generated about US$400bn in oil revenue since the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in the locality of Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State. However, little can be seen by way of development from this gargantuan amount of money. Nigeria in fifty years of its existence frittered almost every opportunity at development. At the heart of the crisis of development in Nigeria is corruption. Nigeria makes a huge amount of money every year from her motley resources, many of which even still remain untapped but corruption eats away over half of this income and little is committed to build of public infrastructure and development to create opportunity for her teeming population.

Now let me consider the period since the emergence of our democracy in 1999 under the leadership of Peoples’ Democratic Party. Nigerians jubilated and were full of optimism at the emergence of democracy in 1999 but this joy optimism never lasted. It was soon choked out by the nuisances and attitude of our politicians especially our leaders. Obasanjo who governed for two terms started well but got accidented and very fatally in governance after the first term. The cases of corruption were common in the eight years of Obasanjo rule. There was the case of N4m that found its way to the National Assembly to scuttle an impeachment threat against Obasanjo under the tough and vibrant Speaker, Rt. Hon. Umar Ghali Na’aba and the source of the money and route it took from the National Assembly remain unknown till date. The Nigerian Identity card palaver for which Late Hon. Afolabi , a minister was sacked runs into hundreds of millions. He it was who said that he was invited to “come and chop”. Nigeria started the national identity card project from the era of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and till today, it is gulping public funds without any authentic national Identity card in the hands of majority of Nigerians. On the activities of the governors under Obasanjo and other subsequent regimes, it is amazing and will be ear breaking if the true stories of their corruption is told. The Governors are key actors in the story of corruption in Nigeria. At a time, thirty three (33) of them out of thirty six (36) were facing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. This is why Ribadu remains the most hated by governors and they worked tooth and nail to make sure Ribadu was removed as Chairman of the Commission. In addition, their conspiracy led to the frustration meted out to Ribadu even after his removal at the National Institute of Strategic Studies and the case of stripping or his demotion then. The case of Ibori is a classical case how the governors are governing Nigeria. Kudos however to Fashola, Akpabio and Amaechi, at least we can see something realf from them.

In the National Assembly, the game is as usual. The third term deal was a big fortune for members of the National Assembly where it was alleged that each member received N50m to garner support for the third term. Aside, ministries and Ministerial Departments and Agencies (MDA) are known to give money to National Assembly Members to get a good chunk of budget allocation during budget defence. The case of Professor Fabian Osuji who was the minister of Education in Obasanjo’s government was a case study. It led to his removal as minister of education.

Hon. Dimeji Bankole was a benefactor of the system with his kernel broken for him by benevolent spirit. He became a Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives. At the end of his tenure, an allegation of N40 billion corruption charges emerged. Not much came out of that case to justify any war on corruption.

But it seems to me Nigerians do not understand what N40bn means. Government finds it difficult to pay a paltry N18, 000 minimun wage to the producers of the common wealth. At N18,000, a civil servant earns only N216,000 basic salary. Therefore, N1m will be over 4 ½ years annual basic salary for a civil servant. But let’s assume this 4 ½ year basic salary (N1m) is being spent every day, it will take you 110 years to finish N40bn (i.e. if you are spending N1m everyday, it will take you 110years to finish N40bn while at N18,000 monthly basic salary for a civil servant, N40bn will pay his or her salary for 509 years and two months). This is subject to the fact that I used American numeral system of one billion. In the British numeral system one billion, which is what Nigeria adopted after independence, it is higher than one billion in America by 10.

Under the executive, allegations and counter allegations of corruption were a public glare in the epic battle between Obasanjo and Abubakar Atiku, then vice president. Atiku was linked with laundering and corruption in a deal with a former US Lawmaker. However, Atiku was given a clean bill following the conviction of the US Lawmaker in a US court. Other popular cases of corruption include the celebrated Halliburton case where some Americans and a Briton are in jail now but their Nigerian collaborators and Nigeria where the offence is committed has no body in jail. Same goes for the Siemen Bribery Scandal running into €10m (Euros).

Obasanjo’s privatization and deregulation programme touted to be a success was later found to be a sham with lots of inside dealings and corruption rife in the process. The Senate public hearing on Bureau of Public Enterprises was stinking. Much more, the story of Nigeria’s long walk with infrastructural decay and an economy in darkness does not seem to be a matter of concern to our leaders. Obasanjo was said to drive a power reform with US$ 16bn and Nigeria still lives in darkness today, not just when he was going. At the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation at the helms of the oil management, there are brimming reports of sordid deals and allegations and counter allegations of missing money between them and the Fiscal Revenue Mobilization Commission or the Central Bank of Nigeria. More serious is the bastardization of the electoral process under Obasanjo and Prof. Maurice Iwu. The rot that emerged in the political process under Obasanjo and Iwu was unprecedented in the history of Nigeria. Under Obasanjo and Iwu, you may not need to win an election to occupy the office; it is a matter of “you are in their good book”. The degree of this made an elected President Yar’Adua (Late) to acknowledge before the whole world at his swearing ceremony that the election that produced him as the president elect for Nigeria was a faulty process. He there and then promised an honest process and road map to electoral credibility, free and fair elections in Nigeria with the setting up of the Uwais Panel which brought us this far in our electioneering process today.

Were government serious about corruption, the immunity would have been removed since and more serious minded and anti-corruption czars would have been appointed to head the EFCC like General Mohammed Buhari, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Maj. Gen. Mamman Kontagora etc.

In current discourse is the amazing corruption scandal associated with the Police Pension Fund to the tune that a Director or Assistant Director was caught with N2billion cash in his house (an amount that if you are spending N1m every day, it will take you about six years to finish spending it). How about the Fuel Subsidy Scam? Can you imagine it? It’s amazing and bizarre. It further gave birth to Faroukgate. This is the recurring tragedy that Nigeria finds itself and yet the economy stands. This underscores the capacity and potentials of the Nigerian economy, fifty years of rapery yet it is going strong.

Today, not much or rather nothing has changed. Some schools of thought believe things are getting worse and Nigeria is galloping on the path of a failing state today. Any wonder the state of insecurity in our country today? Boko Haram, Kidnapping, Human Trafficking, Ritual Killing, Cultism, illegal oil bunkering, unemployment, armed robbery, assassination etc. They are all products of corruption as the first order before any other thing. It is all because “things are not and never done right”. General Azazi was Nigeria’s immediate past National Security Adviser. His observance as the national security chief and comment to the effect that the current national security challenges emanate from the shoddy ways things are done in the political process (the question of things being done rightly) cost him his job but he knows better, at least with the advantage and the disposition of his office and experience.

I can assure you that Nigeria is very rich and stupendously rich for that matter. It is only that this wealth is concentrated in very few hands and they use it to manipulate Nigerians. Less than 1% (1.6m people) of the population, control 80% of Nigeria’s wealth while the remaining 99% (158.4m people) fight over the 20%. No more any less. This is why Nigeria is theatre of the absurd. It is a tragedy and it is the tragedy called ‘Nigeria’. What is the way forward? Every radical problem needs radical answer. To control or tame corruption in Nigeria is possible but there is no political will. Do you know why? Because our Leaders are the chief benefactors and doer of corruption! You cannot set a thief to catch a thief. It is the case of a man who holds the knife and yam at the same time.

He cuts it as he wants. To curb corruption is as easy as making a law that if you are guilty of corruption, you face capital punishment or you go to life jail and forfeit all your assets to the government without an option of fine. Finish! Executive implement this law to the latter but alas, never in Nigeria because the same people to make the law, interpret and implement it are the ones benefiting and profiting from corruption. So where do Nigeria look up to? The answer to this question concludes my piece. Nigerians should look up to the peoples’ power. Nigeria and Nigerians must be mobilizing, developing and building the capacity of the peoples’ power to birth change. Two examples of these are – the case of the fuel subsidy when the people came out enmasse and said “No!” and the governorship election in Edo State where I saw how much difference the peoples’ power can make when we want to drive change. We cannot and never give up on Nigeria. So do not sit on the fence. Join the clamour, campaign, debate and drive for social renewal and regeneration of our country. Do not complain again. Do not agonize. Organize and make change happen. You and I can make change happen. Yes, We Can!

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