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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Nigeria’s incurable corruption indices

By: Evelyn Okakwu
A fresh report by Transparency International (TI) recently stated that Nigeria still ranks high in the county’s involvement in the crime of corruption. Nigeria, a country regarded by many as the giant of Africa, has for decades suffered from the many effects of corruption as the menace has more often than not deprived her of the privileges that would otherwise have been open to her as a developing, but great nation.
One of the most populous countries in Africa, Nigeria offers investors abundant natural resources, a low-cost labour pool, and a potentially large domestic market. However, much of the market potential remains dormant as decades of military rule combined with the oil boom have created dysfunctional elements in the business environment.
Rather than experiencing an influx of investors into the country to tap the wealth of opportunities available to them, Nigeria faces huge political and economic challenges posed by the activities of a few selfish individuals, powered by corruption and as such, the country can only boast of a few equally selfish investors who take advantage of our many fruits of corruption such as the high rate of power outage witnessed in some parts the country to introduce the sale of electronic products like power generating machines, among others.
Since the discovery of oil in Nigeria in the 1970s, Nigeria has experienced dramatic changes in its economic status which would have taken the country to its promise land but for the bottlenecks unfortunately created by corruption.
With the discovery of oil, Nigeria’s economic development began enriching the military, political and administrative elite, a development which spurred corruption and resulted in the loss of credibility of public institutions in the eyes of many Nigerian households and companies.
Human Rights Watch 2007 estimated that the endemic nature of corruption in Nigeria led to the loss of USD 380 billion between independence gained in 1960 and 1999, when this country’s democratic elections was held. The enrichment of the elite is also shown by the fact that Nigeria’s former military leader, Sani Abacha, looted the country of an estimated USD 4 billion.
A January 2011 report by the Global Financial Integrity Initiative estimates that Nigeria has had 130 billion USD worth illicit outflows in the 2000-2008 periods. And another report in March 2010 reveals that Nigeria had the largest cumulative flows of illicit money from 1970-2004. In a confidential report seen by Reuters in the oil sector last year, it was stated that Nigeria lost out on tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues over the last decade from cut price deals struck between multinational oil companies and government officials.
In a report filed in as part of documents necessary for the probe of the oil sector last year by former EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu, billions of dollars of revenue was missing in unpaid debts from signature bonuses and royalties, in Nigerian oil industries. Also, from the report it was gathered that Nigeria LNG, a company jointly owned by the NNPC, Shell, Total and Eni had paid the country for gas at cut-down prices before exporting it to international markets.
TI last year, had reasons to accuse Nigeria of trying to jeopardize its efforts in providing the world with the general rates of corruption, worldwide. In a letter sent to President Goodluck Jonathan, TI said, “The problem began when it noticed that the rate and scale of scams and corruption probes coming out of Nigeria in 2012 were beyond anything the Anti-corruption agency has ever dealt with”.
When the pension fund scam broke out, TI stated that the three specialists working on Nigeria complained about overwork and threatened a lawsuit against it because they had to work 23 hours a day from Monday to Sunday just to cope with the figures coming out of that scam. Consequently TI moved specialists away from zero or low corruption countries such as New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Singapore, Norway, Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, and Canada. The specialists working on all these countries were transferred to the Nigeria desk.
While the reinforced Nigeria desk was coping with the pension fund scam, the fuel subsidy scam and the SEC scam also broke out and the figures involved were so vertiginous that TI had no choice but to transfer all six hundred country specialists working on two hundred countries to the Nigeria desk. As such, with all six hundred of TI’s experts struggling to cope with corruption data emanating from just one country, the integrity of the CPI process for 2012 was deemed compromised as TI had no staff to work on the remaining one hundred and ninety-nine countries.
Therefore an emergency board meeting of the agency was convened, which reviewed the situation and board members suggested that given the scale of these corruption scandals emanating from Nigeria in just the first four months of 2012, there appeared to be a conspiracy on the part of this country’s political class to overwhelm TI and thereby make it impossible for it to work on and release the 2012 CPI. This TI concluded, since it was not possible to release data on just one country to the rest of the world in December 2012.
The Agency therefore wrote to the Presidency seeking compensation for the high volume of work created form it by Nigeria adding that a refusal by the Presidency to grant it the compensation sought would attract legal action as the anti- corruption agency stated that it had been empowered to institute such actions against Nigeria accusing Nigeria of deliberately trying to disrupt its work.
Although reports have it that effort have been made in the past to recover this stolen assets, there has been no official documentation till date as to what the recovered funds have been used for. Instead, Nigeria has continued to battle with the reputation of being one of the world’s most corrupt countries, ranking at the bottom of various corruption-related indices. Both households and companies continue to perceive corruption as one of the most severe problems in Nigeria.
A TI’s Global Corruption Barometer 2010/2011 report indicates that 40 percent of household respondents considering the government’s actions in fighting corruption as ineffective, while political parties and Parliament are perceived by the respondents to be amongst the most corrupt bodies in Nigeria.
According to the US Department of State in 2012, dealing with the tax system is another area of concern for companies, as the tax administration is highly uneven and lacks transparency. This has led to high levels of tax evasion and tax officials demanding bribes and facilitation payments in return for lower tax rates.
The problem of corruption emanating from the confines of countries leadership is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. In the latest reports by Transparency International on Monday, July 8, Global Corruption Barometer 2013 reveals that in too many countries the institutions people rely on to fight corruption and other crime are themselves not trusted.
Although the general analysis of Nigeria by this latest report says that when compared to other countries involved in corruption Nigeria has a percentage involvement of 40 percent, as against other African countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia with 84 percent involvement and 75 percent involvement respective. This makes those countries the two most corrupt, as put by the report by the TI’s recent report, while South Africa has 47percent involvement in the scam.
Notwithstanding, Nigeria, like many other countries need to do quite many things to rid this country of the menace of corruption and its attendant effects as the TI in its latest reports, rightly puts it that politicians can lead by example through publishing asset declarations for themselves and their immediate family. Political parties and individual candidates, meanwhile, must disclose where they get their money from, in order to make clear who funds them and to reveal potential conflicts of interest”.
Indeed, in the words of Huguette Labelle, Chair of the Board of Transparency International: “Governments need to make sure that there are strong, independent and well-resourced institutions to prevent and redress corruption. Too many people are harmed when these core institutions and basic services are undermined by the scourge of corruption.
Finally Nigerian leaders must bear in mind that a refusal to heed this necessary and urgent advice might spell doom for this great country in the not-so-distant future.

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