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Fighting Corruption in Nigeria is Dangerous

Fighting corruption in Nigeria is very dangerous. One can get hurt or killed in the process. In order to succeed in the corruption fight, everybody must cooperate and willing to drop their selfish interests.

This is a book written by the former minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She talks about her tenures in the government. Things I learnt from this book can be quoted below. It is of note that this is a verbatim quote from the book. Comments are added to see things from the reader’s view. This book is an interesting read. It exposes some corrupt practices and politicians in Nigeria.

Corruption in Nigeria

1. This book defines corruption as: “Grand corruption (examined in chapters 3 and 5 of this book) is “the large-scale transfer of public resources for private interests”; political corruption (described in chapter 4) is “influence-peddling on resource allocations and projects that benefit the decision-maker, friends and acquaintances, directing resources to special projects, and abuse of privileged information”; and administrative corruption (described in chapter 6) is “misappropriation and misuse of public funds, fraud, waste and abuse.”

2. Nigeria is the most populous black country in West Africa and she is very rich. “Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, with an estimated 2017 gross domestic product (GDP) of $400 billion.4 South Africa, the continent’s next largest economy, has a GDP of $317 billion. Nigeria constitutes 71 per cent of West Africa’s GDP5 and 27 per cent of the continent’s GDP.”

3. Nigerian politicians are very smart. Sadly, their followers are very dumb and sometimes stupid. “Nigeria is one of the difficult and complex countries where corrupt people often adopt the language of reform to confuse decision-makers, donors, development experts, and observers.”

4. Nigeria is the richest country in West Africa with the worst infrastructural development. What a big shame! “In some cases, such as Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Lagos, they were comparable to or higher than the yearly revenues of some West African countries with similar or larger populations, such as Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo (see appendix B, table B4.2). Yet several of these countries could boast better infrastructure and services.”

5. The Nigerian oil sector is very corrupt. This is the reason the former PDP presidential flag-bearer, Atiku Abubakar promised to privatize the establishment. “NNPC was one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, government agencies of all time in Nigeria and was seen as one of the least transparent and least accountable. It had been that way since 1977, when it was set up by the military governments to be accountable essentially to the Head of State, who in some administrations also assumed the role of the Minister of Petroleum Resources.”

6. There are many corrupt agencies in Nigeria oil sector. “In the noise and politicization that followed the claims and counterclaims about the unaccounted-for monies, the audit’s most important findings—that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation lacked transparency and that its structure and mode of operation lacked sustainability—were ignored and never debated.”

7. There is still corruption in the country. “In fact, no less a person than Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, has pointed out that multiple exchange rate regimes operating since 2015 have fueled corruption in the current administration. According to Emir Sanusi, “We have also created our own billionaires since 2015 from foreign exchange subsidies… Think about it. I sit in my garden and make a few phone calls and get $10 million at ₦197 per dollar and sell at ₦300 to the dollar, I will make a profit of ₦1.03 billion… You don’t need to be an economist to know that any system that allows you to sit in your garden and with a telephone call to make ₦1 billion without investing a kobo, that system is wrong.”6

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8. The Nigerian oil sector is very corrupt. “The Presidential Committee found subsidy claims for shipments by “ghost vessels” that never supplied any products and for shipments by vessels that were in China and the South Pacific at the times it was claimed they were transshipping off the coast of Cotonou, Benin.”

Appointment Into The Government

1. Many politicians were against Goodluck Jonathan for their personal interests. “Governor Duke told me there were rumours that I was being asked to return as Finance Minister. I confirmed that I had been asked and was reflecting on it. He then told me that he brought a message from a group of “concerned” people whose advice was that I should turn down the offer. He would not give me their names but mentioned that I would know some of them and some even said they were my friends. As to the reason, he said that these people felt that my acceptance would “give Jonathan and his government credibility” and he did not deserve that. If I turned down the offer, the administration would be weak and would likely not succeed.”

2. Omoyele Sowore is a very wicked journalist. He was paid to tarnish the image of her and Goodluck Jonathan. “Rather, the overwhelming negative pressure was from constituencies of vested interests who wanted me out of government. First, there were strong attempts to discourage me from joining the administration, and then there were forcible attempts to get me to resign by kidnapping my mother and conspiring to maim me. There were steady negative attacks in some press outlets (including Pointblank News, Sahara Reporters, and Punch) often with erroneous reporting and unsubstantiated stories. The attacks from Sahara Reporters were so frequent and so blatant that a reader on social media did an analysis of their stories on me.”

3. “Friends and family alerted me to a spate of articles that had begun to appear in a Nigerian online news outlet, Sahara Reporters, that were attacking me and the notion of my return to government as Finance Minister.”

4. Omoyele Sowore violated her rights as a government official. “One night I received a call on a private phone line that I had reserved for use only by my family. When I picked up the phone expecting a family member, a voice said this was Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters and he had some questions for me to answer. I was outraged and asked how he came about my private number. Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, basically told me he had his sources but how he got the number was not the issue; I was a public servant, he had a right to call me on any number any time, and I should answer his questions.” “Not only had this man violated all rules of decent behaviour, but he had gone beyond to do something as unethical as taping our conversation without my knowledge or permission. I did not think this was a news medium worthy of attention.”

5. Many politicians were afraid that she will promote Goodluck Jonathan’s government to the top. These politicians went all and attacked her. “Bob was already aware of the Sahara Reporter articles and now understood the context. He and I concluded that these were terrible tactics designed to intimidate me and pressure me not to accept the job. In his view, Nigeria under normal circumstances was a tough and complex situation to work in, but these attacks required me to think carefully and weigh the situation before coming to a decision.”

6. Bad politicians didn’t stop attacking her after she left the office. “Then began a series of headline-grabbing attacks spearheaded by Governor Adams Oshiomole against me and the federal government, which escalated when I left office in May 2015.”

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7. Being a top minister in Nigeria does not prevent one from insults and bullying. “I recall one session early in 2014 where I was quizzed, harangued, and bullied by some governors and then verbally assaulted by Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun state. The Vice President had to intervene to tell Governor Aregbesola that people might carry on aggressively in his state capital but that such behaviour would not be tolerated in the meeting or in Abuja”

8. Some paid journalists tried everything to make her not to enter into Jonathans’ government. “Yet others talked about untoward demands they said I was already making on the new President to, for example, pay my salary in US dollars. This attack sought to resurrect criticisms that followed salary payments for nine returning workers (myself and eight others) from the Nigerian diaspora in dollars from a Diaspora Fund administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).”

Goodluck Jonathan’s Government

1. Many politicians in Nigeria are very selfish and self-centred. They were clearly against the former president for their selfishness. “There were people who clearly did not want the newly elected President to succeed, and did not care about the impact of that on the country.”

2. Goodluck Jonathan meant well for Nigeria when he was in office. “My insistence on savings was backed by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo.”

3. Many top politicians deliberately ran down Jonathan’s administration to make way for the incoming government. This still confirms their ambitions and wishes for their masses. “The chief opponent of these arguments to deposit savings in the Sovereign Wealth Fund or the Excess Crude Account was Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers state, chair of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF). He was strongly supported by Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo state, who was very vocal in voicing his disapproval and his suspicions of the federal government’s management of the Excess Crude Account; Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos state, a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who objected on constitutional grounds; and Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state, later chair of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum.”

4. Many governors supported the removal of oil subsidy, but they backstabbed the former president. Many governors betrayed Goodluck Jonathan. “As members of the National Economic Council, the governors were strong supporters of the phaseout of oil subsidies.”

5. Even government officials secretly ran down the government by not showing up for defence when the citizens started protesting. “Many protesters were interviewed, and they sharply criticized the government’s policy. Yet no one came out to defend the government or explained the basis for the policy action. The state governors who had called for the implementation of the policy were nowhere to be seen.”

6. Lagos state is a major architect of the subsidy protest against the former administration. “With this agreement, labour called off the protests on January 16, 2012. Demonstrations continued in Lagos for a few more days with a much more political tone, calling for the President to step down. The police and army were deployed on the streets to keep order, and eventually, these protests also stopped.”

7. The truth was shared but did not come out in public. Clap for our wonderful investigative journalists. “It was not until a meeting of the National Economic Council weeks later, when the issue was under discussion, that Governor Babaginda Aliyu, former governor of Niger state and then chair of the Northern Governors Forum, bravely acknowledged that it was the governors who had urged the President not to delay any longer but to announce the subsidy phaseout at the beginning of the year. The mystery was solved, but I found it incredible that none of the governors came to the rescue when the policy roiled the nation and that they were content to let others take the blame!”

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8. Some of the politicians who ran down Jonathan’s government were clever. They made smart moves for President Buhari to come in. “Nigeria had the mechanisms—in the oil-price–based fiscal rule, the Excess Crude Account, and Sovereign Wealth Fund—to build the buffers. But they were blocked by governors—some of whom are key members of the current Muhammadu Buhari administration—due to their lack of political will. Many were partisan and focused narrowly on the present at the expense of future growth and development.”

9. Emir Sanusi worked against his boss at the office. He played smart games against Goodluck Jonathan. “The Central Bank Governor was next and gave us a surprise. In his testimony, Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said that although the unaccounted-for funds might not be $50 billion, they were not $12 billion either but about $20 billion. He then tendered exhibits illustrating why he now thought the amount was $20 billion, including the nondisbursement to the Federation Account of up to $6 billion by a subsidiary of NNPC, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Corporation.
This bombshell caused the room to erupt because only a few days earlier the Governor had accepted that the unaccounted-for funds were in the neighbourhood of $12 billion. I could see reporters making a dash for the exit, no doubt to send off the hot news.” “At the press conference, the Governor graciously admitted that his staff had made a mistake, and after reconciliation, the Central Bank of Nigeria accepted that the unaccounted-for funds due to the Federation Account were about $12 billion.”

10. Goodluck Jonathan happily congratulated his successor, Mohammadu Buhari. There were no threats from external bodies. “A heated argument ensued. Throughout the discussion, the President said not a word. He kept his own counsel and just kept welcoming guests and party loyalists who were joining us at the Villa.” “Suddenly, he got up and left the room. We all thought he had gone off for a few moments of quiet. He returned about twenty minutes later and sat down without saying a word. I decided to take a chance and press him again on a timely concession. As I whispered again for a second time, the President responded to me out loud, “CME, it is done. I have called President-elect Buhari and conceded!””

Is Corruption Fight Really Worth the Stress?

1. It can work if you have people who are willing and ready to cooperate. Else, it’s a wild goose chase. “You cannot fight alone. You need coalitions of support, a team to execute the necessary measures, and principles of engagement.”

2. You could get hurt fighting the big politicians in the country. “So why was my mother kidnapped and almost murdered? And why was a group planning to maim me?
The answer to these awful questions was that I had stepped on the toes of some very rich and powerful people who were involved in a corruption scandal known in Nigeria as the oil-subsidy scam.”

3. “Nevertheless, the experience left me wondering: what if it were someone less known to the international community—could they have survived the assault on their reputation?”

This book taught me how to give less attention to political noises in Nigeria. There are orchestrated fake news flying around social media platforms. Always listen to both sides of the story before making judgements. I pray we try to change ourselves to tackle the monster called corruption in the country. Most politicians are in for their benefits.

Life is Beautiful, Enjoy it while it last. The clock continues to tick, one day we will close our eyes and nothing (nothing!) will matter any more.

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