A country so corrupt it would be better to burn our aid money


 

 Michael Burleigh |Daily Mail| 8  August 2013

 Nigeria is  not quite the most corrupt country on earth. But according to Transparency  International, which monitors international financial corruption, it is not far  off — coming a shameful 172nd worst among the 215 nations surveyed.

Only countries as dysfunctional, derelict and  downright dangerous as Haiti or the Congo are more corrupt.

In theory, Nigeria’s 170 million-strong  population should be prospering in a country that in recent years has launched  four satellites into space and now has a burgeoning space programme.

 
Frankly, we might as well flush our cash away or burn it for all the good it's doing for ordinary Nigerians

Frankly, we might as well flush our cash away or burn it  for all the good it’s doing for ordinary Nigerians

Moreover, Nigeria is sitting on crude oil  reserves estimated at 35 billion barrels (enough to fuel the entire world for  more than a year), not to mention 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. 

It also manages to pay its legislators the  highest salaries in the world, with a basic wage of £122,000, nearly double what  British MPs earn and many hundreds of times that of the country’s ordinary  citizens.

 
The oil industry is highly corrupt, with 136 million barrels of crude oil worth $11¿billion (£7.79 billion) were illegally siphoned off in just two years from 2009 to 2011

The oil industry is highly corrupt, with 136 million  barrels of crude oil worth $11¿billion (£7.79 billion) were illegally siphoned  off in just two years from 2009 to 2011

No wonder the ruling elite can afford  luxury  homes in London or Paris, and top-end cars that, across West  Africa, have led  to the sobriquet ‘Wabenzi’, or people of the  Mercedes-Benz.

Yet 70 per  cent of Nigerians live below the  poverty line of £1.29 a day, struggling with a failing infrastructure and  chronic fuel shortages because of a  lack of petrol refining capacity, even  though their country produces  more crude oil than Texas.

And that poverty is not for want of  assistance from the wider world.

 
Poverty: Millions of Nigerians are living in poverty, despite the country earning huge profits from its oil deposits

70 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line of  £1.29 a day, struggling with a failing infrastructure and chronic fuel  shortages

Since gaining its independence in  1960,  Nigeria has received  $400 billion (£257 billion) in aid —  six  times  what the U.S. pumped into reconstructing the whole of Western  Europe after  World War II.

Nigeria suffers from what economists call the  ‘resource curse’ — the paradox  that developing countries with an abundance of  natural reserves tend to  enjoy worse economic growth than countries without  minerals and fuels.

The huge flow of oil wealth means the  government does not rely on taxpayers for its income, so does not have to answer  to the people — a situation  that fosters rampant corruption and economic  sclerosis because there is  no investment in infrastructure as the country’s  leaders cream off its  wealth.

 
Nigerian police can be easily bribed to look the other way in a country where corruption in Nigeria is endemic

Nigerian police can often be easily bribed to look the  other way in a country where corruption in Nigeria is endemic

Corruption in Nigeria is endemic —  from  parents bribing teachers to get hold of exam papers for their  children through  clerks handed ‘dash’ money to get round the country’s  stifling bureaucracy to  policemen taking money for turning a blind eye.

It is at its most blatant, perhaps, in the  oil industry, where 136 million barrels of crude oil worth  $11 billion (£7.79  billion) were illegally siphoned off in just two  years from 2009 to 2011, while  hundreds of millions of dollars in  subsidies were given to fuel merchants to  deliver petrol that never  materialised.

Whether the  country is ruled by civilians or  soldiers, who invariably proclaim their burning desire to eradicate civilian  corruption, it makes absolutely no difference.

 
The huge flow of oil wealth means the government does not rely on taxpayers for its income, so does not have to answer to the people

The huge flow of oil wealth means the government does  not rely on taxpayers for its income, so does not have to answer to the people 

The military  ruled Nigeria between 1966 and  1979 and from 1983 to 1999, but if  anything, corruption was worse when they  were in charge since they had a habit of killing anyone threatening to expose  them.

It is estimated that since 1960, about $380  billion  (£245 billion) of government money has been stolen —  almost the  total sum Nigeria has received in foreign aid.

And that even when successive governments  attempt to recover the stolen money, much of this is looted again.

 
President Sani Abacha, a military dictator who ruled in the Nineties, had accrued a staggering $4¿billion (£2.58¿billion) fortune by the time he died

President Sani Abacha, a military dictator who ruled in  the Nineties, had accrued a staggering $4¿billion (£2.58¿billion) fortune by the  time he died

In essence, 80 per cent of the country’s  substantial oil revenues go to  the government, which disburses cash to   individual governors and  hundreds of their cronies, so  effectively  these huge sums  remain in  the hands of a  mere 1 per cent of the  Nigerian population.

  

     

Political power is universally regarded as a  chance to reap  the fortunes of  office by the ruling elite and its  families and tribes.

The most egregious example was  President  Sani Abacha, a military dictator who ruled in the Nineties and accrued a  staggering $4 billion (£2.58 billion) fortune by the time he  died of a heart  attack while in bed with two Indian prostitutes at his  palace in the nation’s  capital, Abuja, in 1998. Abacha’s business  associates did nicely, too — one of  them deposited £122 million in a  Jersey offshore account after selling Nigerian  army trucks for five  times their worth.

Public office is so lucrative that  people  will kill to get it. Nigeria has 36 state governors, 31 of whom  are under  federal investigation for corruption.

In one of the smallest states, a candidate  for the governorship occupied by one Ayo Fayose received texts signed by the  ‘Fayose M Squad’ — and it was clear the ‘M’ was for ‘Murder’ when they stabbed  and bludgeoned a third candidate to death in his own bed.

By the end of its term of office, the British  Government will have handed over £1 billion in aid to Nigeria.

Given the appalling levels of   corruption in that nation, this largesse is utterly sickening — for the  money will only  be recycled into bank accounts in the Channel Islands or  Switzerland.

Frankly, we might as well flush our cash away  or burn it for all the good it’s doing for ordinary Nigerians.

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