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Rebasing Nigerian Corruption: A New GDP Update!

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Without Good Administration, What Is Government But A Band Of Robbers EnlargedST AUGUSTINE, BISHOP OF HIPPO

The Economist magazine famously wisecracked that 'Nigerians have a sunny disposition towards corruption.' A careful notation of our national life will vindicate the ultra conservative global British publication. Unarguably, the opinion of the Economist may be exaggerated, but not totally unfounded.

The architecture of Nigerian corruption rests firmly and comfortably a political class that couldn't handle challenges of ethnic nationalism after independence, a military intervention that disrupted federalism and growth of democracy, the purposeful weakening/stultification of the police and justice systems by military regimes, the Nigeria Civil War that placed the nation on emergency rule, the absence of accountable political culture, a militarized 1999 constitution that weakened non-federal governments, weak institutional framework, today's corrupt police force, pitiful law enforcement capacity, absence of global best practices in contract award and execution, low level penetration of public affairs by non state actors, lack of informed investigative journalists, non-passage of the Freedom of Information bill by the National Assembly, cultural acquiescence, across the land tribal sentiment, religious jingoism by adherents of Christianity and Islam, an army of the unemployed, and an apolitical, unconcerned populace burdened with fighting for daily survival.

Ab initio, corruption finds acceptance in a politically stratified nation where the ethnic nationalities manipulates everything: Population figures, revenue generation, census results, political offices, appointive positions, school enrolment, promotions in the military, civil service quotas, tribal militias, religious armed terrorists and ethnic irredentism. Naturally, proven cases of corrupt practices are matter-of-factly viewed with the lens view of the above factors and prosecution becomes an uphill task. Even when judicial indictment is obtained, the political will to see that justice is done is soundly defeated by these foes of good governance. The only elected official convicted for corrupt acts in Nigeria and sent to prison remains Chief James Ibori, the immediate governor of Delta State who was jailed in the UK for looting public funds.

STRATAS OF NIGERIAN CORRUPTION: YouTube has become a veritable corruption advertising billboard of the Nigerian police. Officers and men of the force have been videoed soliciting for bribes at various times. Socially, corruption finds acceptable mantra in phrases that has neutralized its toxic content. In Lagos, Nigeria's commercial and industrial capital, corruption is laughed off as Egunje: The jolly food! To 'settle' is understood as subscribing to corruption in Nigeria.

Thus, parents settle to procure admission for their wards, students settle teachers and examiners for marks, workers settle for promotions, postings and training, criminals settle to commit crimes and evade punishment, politicians settle to rig elections and bag chieftaincy titles, parents in Edo State settle for their daughters to go to Europe as prostitutes, local businessmen and multinational companies settle to inflate contracts and collect payments for jobs not executed.

Unsurprisingly, some clergy are settled by officialdom to support unsavory governments while journalists are also settled with brown envelopes to report falsified events. While Lagosians in jest say that 'na Egunje {bribery} kill Lagos,' in practice they excuse practitioners of bribery. The Niger Delta and South-South patriots and zealots who resent federal control of their enormous oil well congeal any discussion and condemnation of corrupt acts by their brothers as ¨resource control.¨

The republican, business minded Igbo nation of the South East works with the anthem of their Onitsha compatriots: ¨Nke onye emena, ya chili Onicha Ozo!¨ Roughly, it means: ¨Whatever your hands finds to do (negative or positive pursuits), come and take the Ozo title!¨ Corrupt, but very rich Igbo sons and daughters are revered traditional title holders. The Hausa Fulani suzerainty over Nigeria in politics, military and civil service practically awards them the right to haul away billions as their God given booty over their conquered subjects. The firepower of Fulani herdsmen who rely on the backing of their powerful Caliphate connections is only second to the Boko Haram insurgency among the uprisings threatening the peace of our nation. The Economist, an informed journal no doubt took cognizance of these variables in arriving at its unassailable conclusion.

IN THE BEGINNING: Nigerians are initiated into the cult of corruption takes several ways. The Nigeria Biafra Civil War of 1967-1970 ushered in an era of financial irresponsibility in public accounting. Under the guise of national security and war exaction, the military henchmen who usurped federal governance tore up the British installed due processes that were inherited at independence. The sacking of the legislature and their oversight functions created a huge gap in governance that facilitated massive corruption.

The deliberate castration of the police by the jealous military top brass meant that crime investigation went south. The famous Amakiri and Daboh episodes are cases in point. Secondly, the arbitrary style of military retirement in the civil service in the 1970s and 1980s instilled fear and insecurity in civil servants. Typical was the case of Alison Ayida, a revered technocrat who heard news of his unjust dismissal from the federal civil service on air on his way to work. Immediately, his office and official residence were taken over by marauding soldiers of the Murtala Mohammed/Obasanjo administration. Till date, no official panel found this hero guilty of any malfeasance and the injustice he suffered for serving his fatherland has not been addressed.

Before the military desecrated the civil service, committed public workers could be assured of their retirement benefits to see them through old age in tolerable conditions. When many civil servants sensed insecurity because of impromptu radio and television announcements suddenly terminating jobs and careers, they decided to corruptly build a nest egg against arbitrary loss of job. Thirdly, the canvass of political activity in Nigeria favour corruption. Long, expensive and arduous campaigns often necessitate the need for financially handicapped men to seek ¨political godfathers¨ who when victory is attained, corner, dictate and haphazardly execute projects at inflated costs.

Deliberate over-invoicing and capital flight are not unknown in such cases. The episode of then governor of Anambra State, now Senator Chris Ngige and the Uba brothers during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo is a typical example. Nigerian lawmakers are the best paid in the world and they justify their outrageous emoluments partly on costly campaign and constituency programmes. Fourthly, massive poverty and record unemployment has debased many Nigerians and damaged their sense of right and wrong on the borders of corruption. The pre-occupation with daily survival means that morality is often sacrificed by a populace near starvation levels.

BENEFITS: Nothing reflects the inequality of the Nigerian nation like corruption. The menace should be a case study for the Harvard Business School and reputable publications like the Economist! Menial thieves in Nigeria are harshly prosecuted and banished into our inhospitable prison system that makes a convict twice a criminal on release, if he did not die there! This correspondent does not know of any Nigerian community that publicly penalizes corrupt citizens. Indicted rich Nigerians are more often honoured with traditional and religious titles.

Well appointed treasury looters do not bait an eye lid in fear. They have huge war chests to hire well educated, very capable and vastly experienced Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, who know the law and the legal loopholes therein. John Yussuf was convicted of looting N49 billion of police pension funds in 2013, but was fined a paltry N500,000.00! Traditional rulers rush to give treasury looters all manners of chieftaincy titles. While orthodox churches give honours and awards like knighthoods, mosques rush to turban them. Sadly, universities compete to give honorary doctorates, dubious professionally bodies inducts into abominable fellowships and colleges. The hungry masses support these investitures because they are occasions for them to eat and drink their share of looted funds. Near naked female marketing staff of banks and other financial institutions unashamedly go after corrupt Nigerians with the purpose of attracting looted funds as deposits. This way, money laundering by Nigerian banks is the unintended effect of treasury looting. A Nigerian bank was indicted for helping James Ibori in his malfeasance against Delta State.

THE BY-PRODUCTS: The depth and span of corruption in Nigeria is unimaginable. By 1999, all indicators and studies showed the level of corruption to be frightening. Corruption scares away would-be investors. There is a resultant economic instability and the attendant business failures which accentuate unemployment. Economic instability leads to brain drain also. Corruption brings galloping inflation resulting in loss of currency value and purchasing power and low exchange rate relative to other currencies.

National institutions are reduced to pitiable conditions when corrupt bureaucrats starve them of much needed funds. Corruption causes the diversion or distortion of government's welfare programmes, undermined the goals of development as public funds are arbitrarily misused for private purposes or deposited in personal accounts. Consequently, governance and social economic conditions deteriorate as resources which ordinarily should be targeted at the country's development are mismanaged. Now that Nigeria's GDP has been rebased, this correspondent thinks that its time that we rebased the reach and power of corruption. If the magisterial and cerebral St Augustine is right, the tragedy of Nigeria is in lacking the good administrations that have reduced governance to enlarged robbery. In the 2014 budget, the presidency had a feeding allowance of about N1 billion. Now an enlarged GDP must moved it to N2 billion.

The First Lady's 'Mission House' which was assigned N4 billion must double to N8 billion. Petroleum and 'Luxury' Resources Minister Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke leased cutting-edge aircraft for N10 billion. The airborne lady should up the ante to N20 billion. Ex-aviation minister and 'Neighbour-to-Neighbour' exponent Princess Stalla Oduah spent a miserly N250 million to buy two cars. I think that now in 'retirement,'she deserves a rebased sum of N500 million for two new rides to tool around town. The National Assembly currently leaves Nigerians poorer by N150 billon yearly. The comfort of these 500 super Nigerians should be rebased to N300 billion in the 2014 budget.

Our National Conference delegates are assigned a mere N8.5 billion for sixteen weeks. That injustice must be remedied by a new allocation in the sum of N17 billion for the mostly aged, retired, sleepy delegates! Daily oil theft is put at about 800,000 barrels per day. A rebased 1.6 million barrels stolen daily will match our new status as the largest economy in Africa. It will also suit the new status of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan if the sum of $1.5 billion {N320 billion} is used to purchase two new planes to compliment the extant presidential fleet.

The EFCC has secured 773 convictions in its eleven years of operation. It has recovered about $1 billion worth of assets including houses, cash, investment instruments, luxury vehicles and jewelries from 419 fraudsters, politicians and civil servants. But experts in civil society and the justice system agree that about ten times of that loot is sitting undisturbed in banks and other places. Nigeria's anti-corruption agencies and their respected foreign allies agree that corruption has cost Nigeria about $500 billion between 1980 and 2012, which translates to a loss of our rebased GDP! Good heavens! Corruption is alive and well in our troubled nation. Indeed, the outlook for corruption in Nigeria has never been sunnier.

Historian, freelance journalist and writer, Pastor Joseph Emeka Anumbor authored THE INTERCOURSE OF TROUBLED THOUGHTS, a critically acclaimed discourse on homosexuality that was published by AuthorHouse Inc., Indiana, USA.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Emeka Anumbor and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Emeka Anumbor