Corruption is Nigeria’s greatest enemy. In the 59 years since independence, corruption has done more damage to Nigeria’s economy than any other form of malevolence. Right now Nigeria is eyeball-to-eyeball with the gravest consequence of corruption.
On August 16, 2019, a British court presided over by Justice Anthony Butcher converted the award of an arbitration panel into a court judgment ordering Nigeria to pay the sum of $9.6 billion to Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), an obscure Irish firm hurriedly incorporated and used to swindle Nigeria.
The penalty is for breach of contract in a gas supply and processing agreement arranged by a handful of corrupt Nigerian government officials in January 2010. The Federal Ministry of Justice did not vet the contract. It was not endorsed by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), operator of the oil fields that would have supplied the gas in the dubious contract, was not in the picture. The contract was designed to fail.
Last week the British court ordered Nigeria to deposit the sum of $200 million in the court’s account as condition for granting a stay of execution of the judgment sum of $9.6 billion.
The landmark judgment sum is the single largest penalty Nigeria would pay for the corrupt practices of its government officials.
Rilwanu Lukman, Nigeria’s minister of petroleum resources when the dubious contract was negotiated, died in July 2014. He is not around to tell the world what nudged him into selling his impoverished nation to a criminal firm. P&ID was eventually convicted last month for fraud.
Grace Taiga (or is it tiger?), the director of legal services in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources when the contract was negotiated is standing trial in a Federal High Court in Abuja for allegedly accepting huge sums into her foreign account in connection with the weird transaction.
Her collaborators in P&ID are watching the trial with keen interest because it could make or mar their chances of extorting $9.6 billion from Nigeria.
Corruption is the major factor that makes Nigeria the global headquarters of poverty.
Between 2008 and 2014, Nigeria’s economy was growing at an average annual rate of six per cent. However, even as the economic growth was apparently accelerating at twice the population growth rate, the poverty rate adamantly persisted at 70 per cent.
That is because most of the money generated from crude oil sales at a time oil price hovered around $105 per barrel was stolen by government officials. The N2.3 trillion stolen from fuel subsidy in 2011 by petroleum product marketers in collaboration with government officials could have built the east-west rail line and created thousands of jobs.
Corrupt government officials now stow away their loots in unholy places at homes since Swiss banks can no longer hide them.
The initial success of the whistleblower policy has fizzled out. Treasury looters have learnt how to settle those who could blow the whistle and lead the prying eyes of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officials to their cash dump sites. No one is blowing the whistle again on stolen funds. Ironically police are even prosecuting people for raising false alarm. Everyone is scared. Nigeria has lost.
Corruption has inflicted incalculable damage on Nigeria’s feeble manufacturing sector. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is the synonym of corruption in Nigeria. Corrupt NCS officials aid smugglers to flood Nigerian markets with cheap foreign goods manufactured at half the Nigerian production cost. Nigerian industries are dying while smugglers, corrupt NCS officials and the government of Benin Republic smile to the banks.
Corruption is responsible for Nigeria’s eternal darkness that has crippled the economy and kept 20 million people jobless.
Nigeria has spent well over $20 billion on power supply in the last 15 years, only to generate more darkness.
Corruption has incapacitated Nigeria’s four refineries despite billions of dollars flushed down the drain in mysterious turnaround maintenance (TAM). That is why Nigeria spends more than $10 billion yearly on refined petroleum products imports.
Corruption in the judiciary is responsible for the decision to take the arbitration on the fraudulent P&ID gas supply and processing contract to Britain rather than Nigeria where the transaction was consummated.
Foreign investors coming into Nigeria always insist on handling arbitration in any contract with Nigeria outside the country because the Nigerian judiciary is considered too corrupt to arbitrate impartially.
P&ID might have leveraged on that perception to compel its Nigerian collaborators to allow arbitration in the transaction to be held in Britain. P&ID got the $9.6 billion judgment sum because the arbitration was held outside Nigeria.
That is the price Nigeria pays for the unbridled corruption in the land.
The road ahead is marshy and uncharted as corruption still reigns supreme.
The modest campaign of the current administration against corruption is meeting a stiff resistance because the president is running a one-man riot squad in the campaign.
The leprous hand of corruption has infected the award of government contracts. One source contends that a contract executed in Germany at $1 million is done with $10 million in Nigeria.
That explains why healthcare and education are in shambles. Nigeria has the world’s fourth highest maternal and infant mortality rates. It is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth. More than 13 million Nigerian children of school age are out of school.
Nigeria is a toddler at 59 because corruption has taken it to the economic and political battle field with hands tied to the back. Corruption and the federal government are locked in a grueling battle. The outcome of that battle would determine Nigeria’s future.