Nigeria’s Corruption War, By Dele Agekameh
The still-unfolding Dasukigate and all the theatrics involved shows that, as a country, we have a long way to go if we are really serious about fighting corruption and putting an end to the debilitating cankerworm that has seriously impeded our development and progress as a nation.
At many fora in the past, Nigerians had been inundated with staggering figures about the depth of corruption in the country. Alarming as the figures are, it only goes to show how deeply this monster has eaten into the fabric of the nation. These are monies that grew wings and disappeared without trace, from the nation’s treasury at all levels of government – local, state and federal.
Just last week, Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, added a new twist when he told a bewildered nation that 55 Nigerians had stolen over N1.34 trillion from the country’s treasury from 2006 to 2013. According to the minister, “between the period 2006 and 2013, just 55 people allegedly stole a total of 1.34 trillion Naira in Nigeria. That’s more than a quarter of last year’s national budget.” Out of the stolen funds, the minister said, 15 former governors were alleged to have stolen N146.84 billion, while four former ministers stole N7 billion; 12 former public servants, both at federal and state levels, stole over N14 billion; eight people in the banking industry allegedly made away with N524 billion, while 11 businessmen allegedly stole N653 billion.
While giving reasons why Nigerians should “own” the war against corruption, the minister said using the World Bank rates and costs, one third of the stolen funds could have provided 635.18 kilometres of road; built 36 ultra modern hospitals, that is one hospital per state; built 183 schools; educated 3,974 children from primary to tertiary level at 25.24 million per child; and built 20,062 units of two-bedroom houses. In his words: “This is the money that a few people, just 55 in number, allegedly stole within a period of just eight years. And instead of a national outrage, all we hear are these nonsensical statements that the government is fighting only the opposition, or that the government is engaging in vendetta.”
One of those who have commended the government on its anti-corruption drive is John Kerry, the United State Secretary of State. In his speech at the just concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kerry made reference to Buhari’s fight against corruption.
The minister was, however, silent on the amount of money stolen at the local government level which we all know is presided over mostly by rogues and thieves. Although, a greater percentage of the money meant for local government administration in the country is seriously tampered with by the chief executives of the states under a controversial and dubious arrangement called joint account, the little that gets to the local governments is mainly expended on white elephant projects that have little or no impact on the lives of the citizens they govern. They also indulge in reckless spending on sustaining frivolous and unfathomable personal luxuries to the detriment of the progress of their domain. This is, perhaps, why it appears that nothing tangible is happening at the local government level in Nigeria. All they do is to impose all manners of levies on motor parks, market places and other places of commercial venture. And when they collect these levies, they simply embezzle them thereby complicating the corruption index of the country.
The minister was right when he said Nigerians should take ownership of the war on corruption. This is about the first time great efforts are being made by any government in Nigeria to deal a decisive blow on corruption. So far, the war has been applauded everywhere as the right step towards bringing sanity to bear on the finance and monetary system of the country. One of those who have commended the government on its anti-corruption drive is John Kerry, the United State Secretary of State. In his speech at the just concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kerry made reference to Buhari’s fight against corruption. He said that money that was meant for arms to fight Islamist sect, Boko Haram, was diverted into private pockets. According to him, “corruption costs the global economy more than a trillion dollars a year and complicates every security, diplomatic, social priority.” He added that, “in far too many countries, plain rank corruption has generated such powerful headwinds that local economies just tread water. Today, corruption has grown at an alarming pace and threatens global growth, global stability, indeed the global future.”
Kerry admitted that the scourge of corruption had, at one time or the other, ravaged even the so-called advanced nations of the world, but it took concerted efforts to fight it. This is what we are yet to witness in Nigeria. It is like corruption has become an inseparable part of our daily lives, which is why getting rid of it is proving a herculean task. Whereas we all believe that corruption is bad and that it is killing the country, the majority of Nigerians, particularly the elites, are more inclined to turn a blind eye than join hands to fight it. Corruption, as it were, exists everywhere – in homes, in places of worship, work places and all other facets of our national lives. Wherever people take undue advantage of others, corruption is evident – in admission issues, employment issues, promotions, among others.
…there are so many ways corruption thrives in the country. It appears we are all involved at one level or another, which is the reason Nigerians naturally display apathy or a lackadaisical attitude to the fight against corruption.
Just last week, it was reported that, some top officials of the civil service were dismissed by the Federal Government for extorting money from applicants and offering them employment illegally. The scandal was said to have involved very senior officials up to Level 17 in a department under the Ministry of Information and Culture where about 400 people were illegally offered employment after N400,000 was extorted from each applicant. The officials were said to have included the names of the applicants in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel System (IPPIS) before the fraud was uncovered. That was not all. They invited the applicants to go and get captured on the IPPIS, and even took cameras to hotels to get them captured. However, the bubble finally burst when one of the victims told the officials, “you cannot take my money and still disengage me. I have a valid letter of employment.” That was how it was discovered that the syndicate had a dedicated account into which their victims paid money.
Obviously, there are so many ways corruption thrives in the country. It appears we are all involved at one level or another, which is the reason Nigerians naturally display apathy or a lackadaisical attitude to the fight against corruption. For instance, relations, friends or the children of a corrupt officer or person may not be easily disposed to exposing him or her simply because they benefit from the ill-gotten wealth. Even for some crumbs from the master’s table, a lot of people will rather keep sealed lips than squeal. We are all involved because of the rat race to acquire wealth by unfair and foul means. And once the long arm of the law catches up with a corrupt person, you find all manner of people fighting tooth and nail either to secure his release or to avoid prosecution altogether. We need a new mindset to get rid of corruption or reduce it to the barest minimum in the country.
The still-unfolding Dasukigate and all the theatrics involved shows that, as a country, we have a long way to go if we are really serious about fighting corruption and putting an end to the debilitating cankerworm that has seriously impeded our development and progress as a nation. I remember Olisa Metuh’s 50th birthday last November. It was celebrated with pomp and pageantry to the extent that newspapers were bursting with congratulatory adverts. To crown it all, one of the national dailies carried a banner headline on its front page quoting him as saying in an interview: “No regrets being more successful in politics than law.” Today, as he hops from one Black Maria to another, with his bushy new looks and dangling handcuffs, we now know how successful in politics Metuh has been.
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