It has been the hydra-headed monster responsible for the long years of waste associated with Nigeria since independence. ALIYU BASHIR in this report examines the menace of corruption on Nigeria’s body polity.
Nigeria is a country endowed with both human and natural resources in the form of petroleum, gas and solid minerals reserves yet the citizens live without basic amenities like clean water, constant power supply, accessible roads, quality education, quality health care, to mention only a few.
Investigation shows that the bulk of the population lives in abject poverty because corruption is the bane that had stalled her progress over the years. For instance, all fingers point to corrupt political class who not only loots public funds but also mismanage the economy.
In one of his classics, the late Chinua Achebe wrote about Nigeria, “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else,” he said.
Report indicates that since the discovery of oil over 40 years ago, Nigeria has been producing not less than a million barrels per day which means that with the windfall, development could have been easier for the nation, but that has not been the case. According to the former minister of finance, Mrs Okonjo Iweala, “This quickly manifested in all the classic signs of Dutch disease, a sudden influx of foreign exchange income that causes inflation and results in neglect of investment in other parts of the economy as a result of which Nigeria’s currency, the naira, became overvalued.”
The era of oil boom in reality, therefore, was nothing but a period of non-development and crisis. In the words of a renowned economist, Robinson West, “The Nigerian government exported US$20 billion worth of oil in 2003, for example, but the people still live on an average wage of a dollar per day. Oil money has often been wasted in kick backs and bribes. The country’s economy has struggled with years of mismanagement,” he noted.
Francis Fukuyama, public affairs analysts said, “Nigeria, in the past generation, has taken in over $400 billion from oil revenues but has a poverty rate of 70% and the per capita income for much of that period has been declining. This is as a result of bad governance, rent-seeking, high level of theft, and widespread corruption.”
Corruption is a disease that has eaten deeply into the fabrics of Nigeria’s polity. The global perception about graft in Nigeria is that it is generally endemic in both the public and private sectors.
Corruption, according to investigation, appears in many forms. It could come in the form of contract Inflation like the ‘Cement Armada’ incident during the Gowon regime which was investigated after the 1975 coup by General Muratal/Obasanjo regime when the Belgore Commission of Inquiry was established to investigate the incident. The commission, according to the report, indicted Gowon’s regime of inflating contracts for cement on behalf of the Ministry of Defence at a great cost to the government. In that report, the commission noted that the ministry needed only 2.9 million tons of cement at a cost of N52 million as against the 16 million metric tons of cement it ordered at a cost of N557 million. Another form of corruption took place during the Second Republic when it was alleged that over $16 billion in oil revenues were lost during the reign of President Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983. At that time, arson on federal buildings was so common especially before the onset of ordered audits thereby making it impossible to discover evidence of embezzlement. Due to this sad reality, Blueprint investigation shows that the economy has failed to pick up over the years.
The sad reality
Nigeria’s economy is oil-dependent and accounted for 85% of government revenues. This makes it volatile to the unpredictability of global oil prices. Unfortunately, when oil prices surge, due to lack of planning, the country lavishes the money through unrealistic budgetary expenditure. However, when the prices fall, the economy begins to suffer leading to all kinds of ills like inability to pay salaries, lack of foreign exchange and recession. To overcome volatility, countries like Nigeria that depends on revenues from natural resources are advised to save for the rainy day.
According to the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), “From 1980 to 2015, the country exported crude oil worth about US$1.09 trillion. However as at June 2017, there was less than US$3.9 billion in all of the country’s oil revenue funds. This is only enough to finance 16% of the (2017) budget of N7.44 trillion.”
While painting the gloomy picture of Nigeria in 2015, the Economist Magazine wrote: “How does a big oil producer end up with no fuel? The irony of that predicament is not lost on citizens of the country with sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil reserves. The citizens endure long queues at the petrol stations and buy on the black market. For a country that churns out roughly two million barrels of oil a day, this is a scandal. Corruption and mismanagement have left its four state-owned refineries to rot, forcing the fuel-guzzling country to import up to 80% of its needs.”
Report has it that Nigeria pays an estimated US$13 billion annually to fuel importation in the form of subsidy with millions of dollars siphoned within the four walls of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). To buttress this argument, a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor was fired because he disclosed that the sum of US$20 billion was stolen within the state-owned oil company.
According to the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, “An estimated US$500 billion was stolen between 1960 and 2005 which was six times the amount needed to rebuild Western Europe after the devastating Second World War”. Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, confirmed that the country’s indebtedness to the London Club as at November 2006 was N270 billion, therefore, the amount misappropriated is more than the totality of Nigeria’s indebtedness. This, according to analysts means that 75% of the citizens live on less than $I per day while about $300 billion oil wealth has disappeared from the country.
This is the reason the Niger Delta area of the country had remained undeveloped despite being the oil-rich region. The region has not seen any significant development in terms of infrastructure since the advent of oil production; however, the creeks have been damaged by oil spills and vandalisation of pipelines. To press home their demand for government attention, the region became hostile with armed militias and kidnapping everywhere. Although successive governments established relevant institutions like OMPADEC NDDC to bring about change, nonetheless, there is little or no development because of massive corruption
According to Sowell Sowell, “The cost of corruption in an economy does not consist solely of bribes paid, money stolen or goods pilfered. The main cost corruption consists of the things that are not done, the businesses that are not started, the investment that are not made and the loans that are not granted because the rate of return on such economic activities would have to be higher to make such activities worthwhile in a very corrupt economy unlike an economy in which the risks of being deprived of the fruits of one’s efforts were much lower.”
Many hold the opinion that the vast majority of Nigerians are honest and hardworking with only a fraction of the population giving the country a bad name. According to them, anti graft institutions should be strengthened to put an end to the era of corrupt impunity among the ruling class.