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  • CORRUPTION, POVERTY AND SOCIAL INSECURITY IN NIGERIA

    CORRUPTION, POVERTY AND SOCIAL INSECURITY IN NIGERIA

    Paper presented by Prof. Steve Azaiki, Coordinator National Think Tank, Nigeria

    (15 – 17 October, 2014) at a conference; titled: Nigeria Beyond 2014’ organised by Nigerian Research Network, Johannesburg, South  Africa.

    The issue of corruption in Nigeria is just but a case study of what is happening in Africa. In other words, Nigeria is Africa’s mirror of corruption. By this, I mean Corruption in all forms especially among leaders and governments in Africa.

    Corruption and poverty cannot be discussed separately as they are intertwined in the lives of present day Nigerians. Several authors and researchers have attempted to resolve the corruption question independently, however, attempt to address corruption without addressing poverty have proved futile.

    Corruption in Nigeria and Africa in general today has permeated society affecting human relations, family values, government, educational system, religious system, law and order and virtually all of society.

    The Central question here is how did we get to this sorry pass? Has Black Africa always been this way?

    In Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson gave a graphic picture of corruption in Zimbabwe. In 2000 National Lottery organized by a partly state-owned bank, the Zimbabwe Banking Corporation (Zimbank). He said; When Chawawa drew the ticket, he was dumfounded. As the public statement of Zimbank put it, “Master of ceremonies, Fallot Chawawa could hardly believe his eyes when the ticket drawn for the Z$100,000 prize was handed to him and he saw his Excellency RG Mugabe written on it”.

    President Robert Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe by hook or by crook and usually with an iron fist, since 1980, had won the lottery, which was a hundred thousand Zimbabwe dollars, about five times the annual per capita income of the country.

    In Sierra Leone by 1985, when Siaka Stevens, ill with cancer, brought in Joseph Momoh to replace him, the economy was collapsing. The road fell to pieces, and schools disintegrated. National television broadcast stopped in 1987, when the transmitter was sold by the Minister of Information and in 1989, a radio tower that relayed radio signals outside Freetown fell down, ending transmissions outside the capital. Yet, the illegal trade in the now famous blood diamond was quite vibrant in Sierra Leone by everybody in government. In some extreme cases, as in Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone, extractive institutions and corrupt governments pave the way for complete state failure destroying not only law and order, but also, even the most basic economic incentives. The result is economic stagnation and as the recent history of Angola, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Zimbabwe illustrated-civil wars, mass displacements, famines and epidemics, making many of these countries poorer today than they were twenty years ago.

    Africa is a Paradox. Our history, rich in civilization and culture education, should have given us hope and faith in Africa; these include thinkers who have sought to understand Africa’s complexity, even those who every so often tender misplaced advice to Africa about its fragile problematic and uneven oil world. There is need for deeper understanding of Africa’s economy, including knowledge of the businesses and cultures involved along with appreciation of Africa’s regional and social contexts. We need also to recognize the diverse and competing foreign and local interest that make up and shape Africa’s economic future, forming only part of Africa’s modern world.

    The intertwined scrambles for Africa over the past 150 years complicate the understanding of a continent that has had many rough edges in its history. There are connections between the original scramble for Africa, initiated at the 1884 – 1885 Berlin Conference under Belgium’s king Leopold and depicted by Thomas Pakenham among others, a second scramble for power in a cold war-controlled and divided post-independence Africa (1957 onwards) and the modern scramble for hydrocarbons engaging great powers and multitudes of companies, including state players from all continents. All three “Scrambles” are closely interrelated and impact heavily on the present. They will equally shape the future.

    Even today, not all of Africa is mapped with precision and in detail. The European history of Africa that was crafted from the early 19th century was imposed upon far older social landscapes. In Europe, there was the perception that Africa had no history.

    The sheer scale of Africa made the rate of foreign penetration glacial. Early foreign knowledge was confined to a few coasts and desert zones in the North. Africa was invented by its “discovery” through outsiders, as a refracted image of the other few. If any inhabitants inside the continent thought of themselves as “Africans”, Ryszard  Kapuscinski, a writer, once trenchantly observed; “The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification for the sake of convenience can we say “Africa” in reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist”. Our modern era is merely a foot note inside this panoramic setting, one in which Africa’s 37 year period from 1960 to the overthrow of President Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 is situated. More coups and instability with serious conflicts followed. By 2008, Sub-Saharan Africa had experienced 81 military coups and at least 125 further failed attempts. Electoral coups might be added to this list. We should not then necessarily expect a stable Africa to be the norm.

    In the State of Africa, Martin Meredith provided an analysis of the causes of crisis and lays out the dramas plaguing black Africa over 50 years of independence. It is an account of the second scramble of the late 19th century in which, within a generation, around 10,000 African polities were sublimated or amalgamated into around 40 colonies and protectorates, the so called modern states of Africa. At the end of the second world war, only Egypt (a corrupt monarchy under British tutelage), Ethiopia (a feudal empire), Liberia (a decaying republic founded by freed American slaves) and South Africa (Under minority white control, soon to embark on apartheid) were not under direct imperial rule exercised by a mere handful of foreign powers. Within a decade, blown by the winds of change, most colonies would be swept towards statehood and cold war would intensify across Africa. Independence was a cruel gift, for some a poisoned chalice.

    At the end of his narrative, Meredith finds Africa’s prospects to be bleaker than before. It suffered at the hands of big men and ruling elites whose aims to hold power (using patrimonial systems) primarily led to self-enrichment. Acquired wealth was liberally squandered on luxury and excess, with the culture of corruption pervading all levels of society and costing around $148 billion annually (25% of African GDP, according to an African Union report). The new elite-controlled players entering the political firmament rapidly adopted the habits of their predecessors, leading us to wonder if we are looking at a form of internal “Sub-imperialism”

    Many people observe dual sides to Africa, hope and despair amid complexity. This portrayed in Howard French’s a continent for the taking: The tragedy and Hope of Africa. It explains Africa’s encounter with the West as one of betrayal and disaster, aided and abetted by African leaders in exploitative machinations over resources.

    In Big African States, Christopher Clapham, Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills discuss Angola, Sudan, the DRC, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa –all sizeable, all with oil ventures and all with large populations. Not surprising, they find that the big states have not performed well, their dysfunctions are apparent and their performance contrary to the myth that “bigger is better”; their warped conditions and general underperformance are connected to leadership issues, rebellions and wars, looted commodities (oil being one) and failures in international best practice.

    In recognition of the pre-modern Robert Calderisi in the Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working, end up paradoxically placing our economic failures not on conventional excuses; impact of slavery, colonialism, insufficient foreign aid, structural adjustment, negative impact from globalization, indebtedness etc., but on non-economic factors as the midwife to economic distortions. The casual non- economic forces he cites, are many; the thugs in power; the lack of good governance; cultural factors, communalism, gerontocracy, acquiescence and passive acceptance of leadership based on entitlement; identity of politics; and a heavy dose of fatalism and religion. All these elements are said to make for the casual non-economic immiseration. Into this vortex comes corruption to bind societal elements in a project of conformity and subjection, with western political

    correctness helping to mould the mix together and add the final touches to African misery.

    In the Shackled Continent by Robert Guest an Africa editor at the Economist in a text with the ambitious subtitle Africa’s past, present and future, ranges perceptively across parts of some sub-saharan states, finding that leadership (“Crooked and incompetent”) and predatory governments lie at the root of African poverty.

    Francois –Xavier Verschave’s Noir silence: Qui arretera la Francafrique?, is a lengthy story of implicated French politicians, the use of oil money in Francophone Africa, conflicts and corruption, allegedly connected to several presidents in Africa, with corporate malfeasance. It tells of planned aggressions in Congo’s different crises in West and Central Africa; threats to African Sovereignty, many initiative by famed French security services on the continent in power struggles to maintain favorites in office; caissednoires to fund politicians and corporate ambitions and the implication of French socialist in the oil game.

    This is typical of the big powers in oil theft, corporate maneuvers and political manipulation of African leaders and its economics; the British in Shell Nigeria, the German’s and the Americans in the Halliburton scandal, the Italian ENI-AGIP OIL company, America’s Chevron oil etc.

    If anyone is in doubt or wondering about Africa’s glorious past; Cheik Anto Diop, author of The African Origin of Civilization had already advanced a robust claim to Africa’s civilization. “When Herodotus visited it, Egypt had already lost its independence a century earlier. Conquered by the Persians in 525 BC, from then on it was constantly dominated by the foreigners – after the Persians came the Macedonians under Alexander (333BC), the Romans under Julius Caesar (50BC), the Arabs in the seventh Century, the Turks  in the sixteenth century, the French with Napoleon, then the English at the end of the nineteenth century. Ruined by all those successive invasions, Egypt, the cradle of civilization for 10,000 years while the rest of the world was steeped in barbarism, would no longer play a political role.

    Nevertheless, it would long continue to initiate the Mediterranean peoples (Greek and Romans among others) into enlightenment of civilization. Throughout Antiquity it would remain the classic land where people went on pilgrimage to drink at the faunt of scientific, religious, moral and social knowledge the most ancient such knowledge that mankind had acquired.

    Corruption in Nigeria

    Nigeria, a country of about 170 million people, home to about 20 percent of the people living in Africa South of the Sahara, has a population about the size of the Russian Federations. With its large population, natural resource endowment and tradition of international engagement, Nigeria is, perhaps, America’s most important strategic partner. But corruption and leadership challenges put this partnership at risk.

    At the turn of the century, Nigeria was home to approximately sixty million youths under the age of eighteen, seething with frustration over the lack of academic and job opportunities that just three decade before appeared to be within reach of their parents. They represent Nigeria’s equivalent to what South Africa call its “Lost generation” that huge army of frustrated youth who lack the tools to face the demands of a modern economy. In South Africa, they were the products of the apartheid system and of the weapons of the struggle, school boycotts, strikes, guerilla warfare employed to overthrow it. In Nigeria, the blame for its ‘ lost generation ‘ according to Karl Maier, author of This House has Fallen, falls squarely on the shoulders of its peoples’ leaders, corrupt military dictators and their civilian accomplices, who over the past quarters of a century, have humbled a once proud nation through outright incompetence and greed. Chinua Achebe, in his book The Trouble with Nigeria, wrote; “It is totally false to suggest, as we are apt to do, that Nigerians are fundamentally different from any other people in the world. Different scholars and analyst have often attempted to define the root causes of corruption as stemming from poverty and unemployment. While these factors may have contributed, I do not consider these factors as the defining determinants to corruption. Rather I would consider them symptoms that fan the ambers of corruption. Reasons why I will not consider poverty and unemployment as causes of corruption are simple: There are countries with higher indices of poverty and unemployment than Nigeria, yet, corruption is not as rife as it is in Nigeria. I would rather opine, that corruption in Nigeria is a result of the emergence of inefficient institutions both legal and bureaucratic resulting to total breakdown of law and order. The cause of this inefficiency in institutional development can be traced to the various military interventions in the nation’s political and economic history. Nigerians are corrupt because the system under which they live today makes corruption easy and profitable; they will cease to be corrupt when corruption is made difficult and inconvenient … 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. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personnel example which are hallmarks of true leadership… I am saying that Nigeria can change today if she discovers leaders who have the will, the ability and the vision”. As Ishola Williams, a retired Nigerian general who works with the Berlin based anticorruption group Transparency International, notes, “A leader does not come from heaven; he comes from a group of people. If the people are good followers, they will choose the right leader”.

    Person to Person relationship among Nigerians is often hostile and aggressive. The militarization of the Nigerian society for so many years is largely responsible for the militarization of human relations among Nigerians. This argument is rife among sociologist.

    It is within the militarization of common Nigerians during military rule, fear for authority rather than respect for authority, that we can understand the “big man” factor in Nigeria.

    It is a natural expectation among Nigerians that the “big man” does not stand in line, the “big man” need not obey traffic rule, and the big man is often given preference in banks, restaurants, and airports among others. Hence the so called Nigerian” big man” that should have been the custodian of law, ends up as the chief law breaker.

    Understanding the” big man” syndrome in Nigeria implies an understanding of the Nigerian society. The “big man” cannot be disobeyed. In the event there is job opening, the big man initiates a call requesting his candidate of choice be hired not taking into consideration if he or she is qualified or not.  The common phrase used in Nigeria for this is “connection”. The big man syndrome has destroyed due process in hiring, accountability and all form of civility.

    The big man syndrome expressed as connection has permeated every facet of Nigerian life. Admission into universities is determined more by connection than competition. Securing meaningful employment is determined more by connection than merit; being promoted in the civil service is determined more by connection than due process; being considered to provide professional service is determined more by connection than professionalism; being considered a police officer to protect and maintain law and order is determined more by connection than the ability to deliver that service. It is within this culture of sycophancy and nepotism, that we can truly understand corruption in Nigeria.

    Zarah Abubakar Ngileruma, Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri, Nigeria, points out that ” Corruption now appears to have become a permanent feature of the Nigerian policy. It had become completely institutionalized, entered into the realm of culture and the value systems; it is now normal and no longer an aberration. The young ones are born into it, grow up in it, live with it, and possibly will die in it. The aged are not left out as they are re-socialized and begin to conform to it. Corruption has virtually turned Nigeria into the land of starvation and a debtor nation in spite of the nation’s enormous resources ”.

    On Nigeria’s legendary oil corruption, at times a metaphor for larceny on a grand scale, A.A Nwankwo writes of the stolen billions and the looting of the state in the oil era to the end of the 20th century. Details on funds taken, dodgy oil deals, kick-back in state contracts and the names of the political and corporate miscreants are detailed in a financial expose implying official theft of mind boggling proportions. The key claim is that during 1973 -1990, over $80 billion ended up in private accounts abroad, a result of primordial banditry.

    According to Duncan Clarkei, Africa Crude Continent- The struggle for Africa’s oil prize wrote, years of decay and rotten state opened Pandora’s Box as the power elites ate the lunch of ordinary Nigerians. Corruption; Aristotle, the Greek philosopher define corruption in terms of “bribes and abandonment of habits”.

    Corruption:

    The following examples may suffice;

    Police Pension Funds:

    In 2012 the Vanguard, a Nigeria daily Newspaper featured on its headline of 21st April; “Pension Scam and the faces of corrupt officers”. It reported that an Abuja High Court docked and remanded some accused persons in custody for their alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of N32.8 billion naira from The Nigeria Police Pension funds. They were permanent secretaries, Atiku Abubakar Inuwa Wada, John Yakubu Jusufu, Mrs Veronica Uloma Onyegbula and Sani Habila Zira.

    The Punch newspaper on 29th January 2013 reported that a director of the police pension office, Mr John Yusufu was handed down a two year jail sentence for conniving with others to defraud the office and pensioners of 27.2 billion naira. Yusufu admitted to stealing 2billion naira of the money. Justice Abubakar Talba sentenced him to two years in jail but gave him an option of fine in the sum of N750, 000 naira- less than 1% of the total money stolen!

    The Guardian, Nigerian news daily on July 1st 2012 wrote how over N60 billion naira was stolen from the pension funds of the Head of Service of the Federation. Sani Teidi Shuaibu, former director, pension unit and Phina Ukamaka Chidi, his former deputy and 30 other defrauded the pension office.

    As was reported by the Guardian newspaper that the sum of N12 billion naira was found in two accounts maintained by Shuaibu in two different banks, while assets worth several billions of Naira, including a hotel in Abuja and Petrol (Gas) station in Lokoja, capital of Kogi state were also confiscated.

    MISSING $49.8 BILLION US DOLLARS

    The then governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now Emir of Kano, raised the allegation of the missing money in a letter he wrote to the president of Nigeria and leaked it to the press. As was reported by Thisday newspaper of 12 July 2014, Sanusi alleged that the NNPC had failed to remit $49.8 billion US dollars to the federation account over a 19 month period. However, in December, Sanusi said it was not $49.8 billion but $12 billion that was missing. The Nigerian Minister of Finance,  Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said that Sanusi’s claim of $12 billion is also false, disclosing that it was actually “$10.8 billion that was yet to be reconciled inter agencies”

    On Tuesday, 7th October, 2014, the Nation, a widely circulated Nigerian newspaper screamed the headline: Report on missing NNPC $10.8 billion US dollars ready soon. Let us wait to see the report.

    South Africa seized Nigeria’s $9.3 million dollars

    Coincidentally this conference is taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa. On the 7th of October, 2014 a Nigeria Daily Featured on its front page: “Bad arms deal Nigeria loses $5.7m US dollars to South Africa”. It was the second seizure within 30 days few weeks ago, South Africa Confiscated $9.3 million reportedly meant for purchase of arms and private jet belonging to Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. The money was seized on both cases for allegedly being the proceeds of illegal transactions.

    Dancing on the brink

    According to John Campbell in his book, Nigeria dancing on the Brink, he said Nigeria is run by competing and cooperating elites supported by their patron-client networks, ethnic interests, big business and the military. With the withdrawal of the military from active governance, none is strong enough to impose a specific direction in governance. Consequences include a chronic inability of the political system to address Nigeria’s problems and the progressive alienation of non-elite Nigerians, with honorable exception, Nigerian elite behaviors is too often self-interested, lacks a national focus, looks almost solely for short term advantage and is distorted by competition for oil wealth. Whether military or civilian in form, the government reflects the paralysis of the country’s fragmented elites.

    Corruption in Nigeria has acquired a deserved status. It resolves within the state apparatus (2 million apparatchiks strong), especially around government interfaces with oil. Despite presidential desires, dash continues to flourish. Some even would argue that this is what makes the system work, however imperfectly.

    Nigeria stands high on all worldwide indices of corruption. The dash for cash has been a frequent element in the oil nexus, while political decisions (suggesting abnormal conditions at the least) have infested a range of State oil arrangements across the spectrum-from acreage licensing, block awards, public accounts, oil supply management and product pricing, with the organized grand theft of crude in the Niger Delta, quaintly known as bunkering.

    Poverty in Nigeria:

    John Iliffe in his work, the African poor, offered a useful definition of poverty surmising that two levels of want have existed in Africa for several centuries. One level consists of a very large numbers of people, obliged to struggle continuously to save themselves and their dependents from physical want, these are the poor. At the second level are smaller groups who have permanently or temporarily failed in their struggle and have fallen into deep physical want, these are the utterly destitute.

    Poverty is about people; statistics only attempt to measure it. The standard social indicators used by international agencies confirm that Nigerians are very poor.

    In 2008, the National Population Commission (NPC) of Nigeria, carried out demographic, health and education survey, despite the notorious unreliability of most Nigerian Statistical surveys. These met USAID standards and provided the best overview of Nigerian social reality.

    According to the NPC data, the national average for under five mortality is about 157 deaths for every one thousand live births. In comparison, the United States under five infant mortality rate of 8 deaths per one thousand births, and Liberia, until recently a war zone, has 133 deaths per one thousand births. On May 12, 2008, then vice President Goodluck Jonathan, publicly acknowledged our state of the economy with unusual candor: “It is important to emphasize that the performance of the Nigerian economy in the past four or more years has been remarkable, with a stable macroeconomic environment and growth rate averaging 6, 3 percent… However it is obvious that the associated benefits of growth were yet to trickle down to a large segment of our people… The challenges of poverty, growing inequality, coupled with increasing graduate unemployment remain worrisome. We cannot over flog the issue of infrastructural deficit that continues to becloud our investment climate”.

    According to the 2014 report of the National Think-Tank, Nigeria economic report, it stated: “It would be necessary to look at the success stories, through history and in recent times of other countries and what lessons there might be for us to learn from their experiences finding solutions to poverty automatically brings us to the issue of development. Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan were at roughly the same level of development as Nigeria in 1960. Except for Malaysia, they had dramatically less than Nigeria in terms of Natural resources but managed to break through the constraints of underdevelopment. Nigeria’s enormous oil and gas reserves have the theoretical potential to transform Nigeria’s economy.  That opportunity, so far has been lost and most Nigerians are as poor as they were at independence”.

    Conclusion:

    Corruption, mismanagement and lack of preparation for leadership and leadership failure have been the cause of poverty in Nigeria. This situation is a signpost for Nigeria’s break up if not quickly reversed. Today, there is Boko Haram menace in the North, a situation that portends great danger for the 2015 general election. As for the Niger Delta; the worsening economic situation, lack of employment, educational facilities, death of infrastructure will awaken the sleeping dog once President Jonathan is out of office in 2019. It is important to have a concrete development plan for the Niger Delta now and the political will to impliment.

    What I wrote in my book the Evil of Oil or for that matter Inequities in Nigerian Politics is a must read on poverty and underdevelopment in the Niger Delta. Millions of fishermen, live side by side often in heavily polluted environments, with some of the world’s richest oil petroleum deposits and its operators.

    According to John Campbell who served as US Ambassador to Nigeria (2004-2007) in his book Nigeria Dancing on the Brink, concluded that a democratic Nigeria characterized by the rule of law would promote economic development, encourage alleviation of poverty and address the people’s alienation from their government. The Giant would have freed itself from its hobble and the dance would be moved back from the brink. Nigeria would become a nation rather than merely Awolowo’s “geographic expression” and would shine as the beacon for African democracy. The chief obstacles to dealing, capably, with the twins of poverty and corruption are leadership crisis and institutional failure. “When correction is in the hands of those who do wrong”, so once wrote the Elizabethan writer, William Shakespeare, “whom then do we turn to for correction?” Professor Chinua Achebe, the venerated writer of Things Fall Apart, once observed that “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely of failure of leadership.”

    Impact of corruption on Nigerians:

    The impact of corruption on Nigerians is enormous. Corruption has caused serious societal decay. Excessive accidents on our roads because contractors rather than fix the roads, take the shorter route of sharing contract sums with bureaucrats and the assignments never get executed. Hospitals have become death traps, educational system is collapsing as some professors now trade grades for money or the sale of handouts. The institutions of government are not left out. Virtually every institution of government is performing below capacity.

    Criminal suspects are held in detention far longer period without being charged because investigators do not have required tools to prosecute crime. In the event they are prosecuted, trial judges and magistrates, in most cases, are not on   schedule, resulting to stock piling of cases, resulting to delayed justice, and in the event justice is meted out, the prisons are underfunded due to corruption as some officers will hold back budgetary allocations meant to feed prisoners.

    In summary, while one readily agrees with Professor Achebe, it is important that we add that institutions also matter. The social values of Nigerians can still be redeemed if her leaders will make her institutions work. The family, the education sector, the legal system, the economy, and, of course, our political institutions (especially State and National Assemblies) are in dire need of reforms. It is when the institutions are in good shape that they will be able to give a face or phase of hope to the people.

    LITERATURE

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