The negative reputation of Nigeria out there diminishes legitimate opportunities for investment and sustainable growth. Sooner or later, we will know that there is no substitute for commonsense and good behaviour. Rebuilding damaged reputation is costly and difficult. A cheaper way is to enforce consequences for bad actions. We need the world more than they need us.


Nigeria will be on its path to greatness when there is fairness, equity and justice; when everyone is treated the same way, regardless of ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status or who they know. From the Central Bank to retail banks, the fiscal system in Nigeria is opaque and subject to abuse and exploitation. Nigerian banks have a lot work to do to help the economy grow. Their fixation on short term profits over long term fiscal health and national economic growth is unsustainable. To them, any deposit is good deposit. The modern banking ethos of “KYC” – Know Your Customer is enforced for the salary earner and the petty trader, while the fat cats can exist behind a veil. Banks KYC is nominal, superficial, and designed to achieve nothing other than satisfying paper officialdom. Easy banking has emboldened bad actors, like the celebrated 419 kingpins of yesteryears and drug lords, to be sophisticated in their operations. With no universal, enterprise rule of flagging accounts, criminal actors are able to launder funds with the support of conniving bank officers, while regulators look the other way. Over time, they got better at cloaking their activities as normal, legitimate operations. Also, in the course of time, these frauds have become well-resourced, with deep investments in critical sectors of the Nigerian economy. Some of them have even become governors.

Illegal monetary gains from crimes like kidnapping, corruption, terrorism, fraud, bribery and robbery, require laundering to disguise the source and destination of these proceeds. When the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) bursts notorious Nigerian cyber criminal gangs with worldwide publicity and indicts company executives who do not play by the rules, the country suffers severe reputational loss and increasing financial isolation. Unless Nigeria wakes up and implements stiff penalties for official corruption, it will get to a point when the country will face bankruptcy.

The social costs of illicit money is very steep, even though the old adage that crime does not pay no longer holds any attraction for the youth. Why? They see no reason to embrace hard work because they have grown up under the corrupting influence of criminals and have seen how the money flowing from these vices transfer economic power from the market…


Illicit money is not harmless. It has the capacity to ruin individual, institutional and national lives directly or indirectly. An example is how the Yahoo Yahoo phenomenon proliferated because it was ignored by government. Eventually Yahoo Boys gained respectability and acceptability in neighbourhoods, thus promoting cyber crime and ruining the social fabric of their societies. The rest of the world will punish Nigeria for abandoning its values and normalising criminal behavior. The rest of the world, whom we have to deal with, operates under clean sets of rules.

The social costs of illicit money is very steep, even though the old adage that crime does not pay no longer holds any attraction for the youth. Why? They see no reason to embrace hard work because they have grown up under the corrupting influence of criminals and have seen how the money flowing from these vices transfer economic power from the market, the government, and citizens, to scammers, kidnappers, armed robbers and drug lords. On the macro level, these criminal activities can be traced to the growing fiscal deficit, as public spending exceeds revenue receipts, causing governments to borrow. It also causes social disintegration because proceeds of crime are often laundered to develop the criminal enterprise. Most often, laundered funds are used to bribe the executive, the judiciary and law enforcement. Indirectly, money from these illicit activities compete unfairly with legitimate businesses by reducing the income of honest individuals and businesses, and putting them out of business.

It is painful to see this downward spiral in perception of Nigerians. In today’s global economy, Nigeria cannot afford the financial isolation that a damaged reputation brings. As an emerging market, there can be no long term confidence in Nigeria’s market if fraud is as widespread as it is, in addition to insider trading and embezzlement.


A look at the empty houses of highbrow Lekki, Maitama and Asokoro and the proliferation of hotels bear witness to how money from white collar crimes causes economic distortions. Most of these houses and hotels were not built to make profit, they were built to protect the proceeds of crime. These investments do not create much jobs. They were created to tie down money until it is needed.

It is painful to see this downward spiral in perception of Nigerians. In today’s global economy, Nigeria cannot afford the financial isolation that a damaged reputation brings. As an emerging market, there can be no long term confidence in Nigeria’s market if fraud is as widespread as it is, in addition to insider trading and embezzlement. The financial world attention is on Nigerians, and they are not trusted at all. How can the country attract investments and partnerships with this reputation? How can the burgeoning youth be put to work when the mentality is grab what you can by every means? No company will read any proposal from a Nigerian businessman. Perhaps, we will think and change when we are financially isolated and there is no way out. The negative reputation of Nigeria out there diminishes legitimate opportunities for investment and sustainable growth. Sooner or later, we will know that there is no substitute for commonsense and good behaviour. Rebuilding damaged reputation is costly and difficult. A cheaper way is to enforce consequences for bad actions. We need the world more than they need us. We are financially isolated.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo