Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

CORRUPTION RUNS AMOK IN NIGERIA

Much as Nigeria has always been noted for extreme corruption, thus far in 2012, corruption has run amok, prompting Transparency International (TI) to state that “the political situation in Nigeria is more of criminality than governance.” Indeed, in a May 4 letter to President Jonathan, a group of lawyers representing TI decried “the rate and scale of scams and corruption probes coming out of Nigeria in 2012,” noting that “the scope and speed of corruption in [the] country this year is beyond anything our client has ever dealt with.”

TI is right. From January, Nigerians have witnessed a stream of corruption scams involving plenty of stolen state funds. Intriguingly, almost every scam has come with wild accusations and counter-accusations of malfeasance.

The first major corruption scandal in 2012 was that which saw the director of Nigeria’s sports commission, Patrick Ekeji, summoned by the House of Representatives for questioning over misappropriated funds, including ₦1.2mn to create a Facebook account! Closely following that, on February 14, the Senate appropriation committee chairman, Ahmed Maccido, said ₦1tn worth of projects had been smuggled into the 2012 budget by some ministries and departments.

Both cases above were nothing compared to the big three corruption scandals that were soon to roll. These are the capital market scam, the police pension scam and the jumbo fuel subsidy scam.

Firstly, during a March 23 public hearing on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the body charged with regulating Nigeria’s capital market, SEC director, Arunma Oteh, accused Herman Hembe, the house committee chairman, of demanding a ₦44mn bribe from the institution. Oteh also said that Hembe had not returned the estacode he collected for an abortive SEC-sponsored trip. Hembe countered that SEC generated an internal memorandum to “support” the public hearing with a donation of ₦30mn. Hembe since resigned as chairman of the committee on account of the allegations.

When the dust on those bribery allegations settled, on May 7, Oteh said that the former director of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke, spent a whopping ₦1.3bn on business travels during her tenure. She also said a report handed over to her when she assumed office showed that “the NSE spent ₦186mn on 165 Rolex wristwatches as gifts for awardees,” out of which only “73 were presented to the awardees while the outstanding 92 watches valued at ₦99.5mn remain unaccounted for.” A day later, Okereke-Onyuike refuted Oteh’s allegations, rather blaming the capital market’s crash on poor regulation by the SEC and Nigeria’s Central Bank.

Enter the Police Pension Scam. On February 14, former permanent secretary at the Police Pension Fund, Atiku Kigo, admitted to investigators that ₦32.8bn was pilfered from the fund by public officials under his watch. He acknowledged that they deliberately ignored the mechanism put in place to prevent the looting of government funds. On April 2, the senate committee probing the management of the pension fund announced another illegal police pension account with ₦3bn.

Next to surface was the former governor of Nigeria’s Delta State, James Ibori, who pleaded guilty in a British court on February 27, to stealing $250mn of state funds, $50mn more than what China exclusively spent on constructing the new and ultra-modern AU headquarters! Ibori, a sybarite, who had been mysteriously exonerated of similar charges in Nigeria, was sentenced on April 17, to 13 years in prison and is still making money through his companies in Delta State as he either owns or has a major share in a leading construction firm handling several juicy government projects in the state such as that of the new governor’s office and a demolition contract at the Asaba International Airport awarded at ₦7.4bn.

Then came the biggest one – the Fuel Subsidy Scam! Following the widespread public protests that greeted the removal of the fuel subsidy in January, Nigeria’s House of Reps set up a committee to probe the management of the subsidy regime. The committee submitted its report on April 18, with startling revelations of gargantuan fraud of more than ₦1tn between 2009 and December 2011. The report laid much of the blame for the subsidy absurdities on Nigeria’s national oil company, the NNPC, whose board is chaired by Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, and other top former and current federal officers, as well as related agencies like the PPPRA. On the whole, the committee found that ₦2.6tn was spent on the subsidy in 2011 – 900% more than the appropriated sum of ₦245bn! Also, evidence garnered suggests that a huge chunk of the 2011 subsidy funds was paid to select oil marketers during the period immediately preceding and following the April 2011 presidential elections [February to April 2011 and April to August 2011]. Even prima-facie, the sudden quantum-leap in the fuel subsidy payments was not a mistake. Fake submissions for the payments were approved and disbursements were made – and used to finance President Jonathan’s 2011 election. This begs the question about what Jonathan knew concerning the fraudulent subsidy payments and credits allegations that Jonathan put pressure on the Lawan subsidy probe committee to water down its report in the “interest of the nation”. It also supposes that Jonathan perfunctorily removed the fuel subsidy in January to keep his friends off the hook.

It is very shameful, still, that Jonathan, whose government maintains a 72% recurrent expenditure for 2012 as against a paltry 28% for capital, allocated ₦857mn to feed himself in one year. This, in itself, is corruption!

Reacting to the mind-boggling proportions of corruption, Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka said: “One can no longer use words like disdain and contempt. We are being dehumanized. Just as we thought we had recovered from the pension scam, along came a humongous, material assault on the resources of the ordinary people.”

Lamenting that “The fuel subsidy [probe] revealed an organised banditry which, in the words of Farouk Lawan, “can hardly be rivalled in the history of a warped budget management of any nation anywhere in the world,” Pastor Tunde Bakare, a paladin for justice, and his Save Nigeria Group, on May 14, instituted a legal action against Nigeria’s government for disbursing ₦2.5tn for subsidy payments instead of the approved ₦245bn, promising that it would not allow the probe reports to be swept under the carpet like others in the past, and calling on Nigerians to be vigilant.

In all, a situation in which the Petroleum Minister claimed that “the NNPC no longer imports petrol” and the Customs countered that “the NNPC still does; they imported petrol in December,” as well as where Nigeria’s Central Bank on January 24 put the “actual” total subsidy payments on fuel imports in 2011 at ₦1.7tn, an excess of ₦300bn above the ₦1.4tn figure given a week before by the Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, speaks volumes of the systemic laxity that makes frugality to be farfetched, and aids and abets corruption, to the benefit of Nigeria’s putrid and ignoble oligarchs.

Follow me on Twitter, @Raymond_Eyo

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THE SIGNIFICANCE OF IBORI’S $250M GRAFT GUILT   4 comments

Former Delta State governor, James Ibori, pleaded guilty in a British court on February 27, 2012, to stealing $250 million of Nigerian state funds which he spent sordidly on luxury houses, cars and a private jet.

Ibori, the governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State from 1999 to 2007, admitted the money-laundering charges after a six-year chase by Britain’s Department for International Development which funds the London Metropolitan Police’s proceeds of corruption unit (POCU), which investigated the case.

Pending his sentencing on April 16 and 17, 2012, it suffices to examine how significant Ibori’s guilty plea is to Nigeria. The very first significance of it is that it will greatly rekindle nationwide and international calls for a more pragmatic and aggressive fight against corruption in Africa’s most populous nation. Indeed, the Ibori guilty plea comes at a time when popular discontent with corruption and waste in government circles is at an all-time high and tempers are flaring amidst rumours that the Jonathan administration, which has made very little headway against what is clearly Nigeria’s biggest problem, will go for full deregulation as from April 1, 2012, and further plunge the masses to more suffering whilst condoning the monsters and looters.

Secondly, it is interesting that Ibori had been exonerated of similar charges by a Nigerian court in 2009 after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed a case against him in December 2007. This turn of events is therefore a fitting indictment of our judicial system which is quite guilty of corruption itself as the recent Salami/Katsina-Alu saga showed. It is a shame that Ibori pleaded guilty in a British court after a Nigerian court had declared him free. It is an indication that the judges who set Ibori free should themselves be put on trial for abetting corruption! The independence and integrity of the judiciary remains an indispensable prerequisite for a serious fight against corruption.

Also, on February 4, 2011, WikiLeaks documents stated that the Yar’Adua administration, with its Justice Minister, Michael Aondoakaa, had demanded that the United Kingdom dropped corruption charges against James Ibori. A diplomatic cable from the US embassy in London claimed that Aondoakaa attempted to blackmail British officials into abandoning the corruption case. It is not unthinkable that this actually happened because Ibori bankrolled the PDP’s 2007 presidential campaigns which produced Yar’Adua.

Another important significance of the Ibori guilty plea is that the British authorities began investigating Ibori in 2005 and didn’t give up until now whereas in Nigeria, charges are hastily dropped after corrupt politicians are rushed to the EFCC and their party and other bureaucratic barons intervene to stop cases against them. With that in mind, it won’t be too much to ask for the EFCC, in the interest of justice, to now revisit other graft cases against former politicians after Ibori’s eventual guilty plea. For instance, former governors Joshua Dariye (Plateau) and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa) are both still wanted in the UK for corruption. Perhaps, the EFCC should collaborate with foreign anti-crime agencies like the UK’s and check the past records of all our former office holders especially from 1999. There are many bigger Iboris in the system – some are even still in office as governors, senators, ministers and so on.

Furthermore, Ibori’s case has greatly exposed the weaknesses in the internal structure of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); a party which had maintained power at the centre since 1999 and also controls more than two-thirds of Nigeria’s states. For one, Ibori, a former convict, ought never to have become governor. The PDP’s selection process that allowed his candidature was heavily flawed as is the case till this day. Also, the PDP accepted a great deal of funds from Ibori for its 2007 presidential bid without properly investigating the source of his wealth. What’s more? Ibori was touted as a likely running mate to late President Yar’Adua in 2011! For a party that prides itself as Africa’s largest, vicious developments like these only go to confirm how corrupt it is.

On the whole, the Ibori $250m theft only goes to emphasise how much corruption is Nigeria’s greatest bane. For President Jonathan, who on October 14, 2011, naively argued that infrastructure, not corruption, was Nigeria’s biggest problem, he should be schooled as to how many rural roads, health centres and schools $250m can fetch!

GOD help Nigeria!

Posted February 28, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Corruption