Corruption as terrorism
By Idumange John
All over the world corruption has been identified as a silent killer perhaps worse than any disease ever known to man. In Nigeria corruption has had a ruinous effect on all facets of life. Nigeria operates an ugly brand of monopoly capitalism - an ideology which thrives on competition, governed by self-aggrandizement and consolidated by corruption. Monopoly capitalism indeed feeds on corruption for its sustenance and that explains the ever-increasing rich-poor gap in Nigeria and our inability chart a clear development direction.
Nigeria ranks among one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Over the years, several attempts had been made give the scourge a human face, even though such attempts were not designed to eradicate the monster. The establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is counted as one of such efforts we have made as a nation. Every nation and international organization is finding measures in tackling the menace because it undermines democracy, helped the wrong leaders get elected and distract societies from facing urgent problems.
In virtually all the institutions of the Nigerian state, corruption rears its ugly head as the hallmark of official business. From the awesome Abacha loot to the Abdulsalam profligacy, from the Niger Dock scandal under Ozobia-led management to the controversy surrounding the removal of Auditor-General of the Federation, virtually all government agencies ranging from federal ministries to the National, State and even at the local government levels, have recorded one case of corruption or another. The housing scam Ikoyigate in 2005 committed by the state and its agents is another dimension to the collective mentality of corruption. In a similar collective unconsciousness, the financial institutions in Nigeria are pinnacles of corruption as revealed by Governor Sanusi.
There is a correlation between corruption and the development of democracy. Democracy emphasizes transparency and accountability as two strong pillars of good governance. The push for transparency is becoming an increasingly important topic in both stable and new democracies. The task of measuring the level of corruption in public office is difficult but Transparency International has come up with a standard measure known as the corruption perception index (CPI), which predicts, with some exactitude the feeling of a people about the degree of corruption existing in a country. In 2003 the World Bank reported that about 51% of the corruption takes place at the Presidency. Further to that report Transparency International also conducted some empirical studies and discovered that high level corruption in Nigeria is the bane development. The study further revealed that the monster of corruption is so pervasive that all institutions in the body politic of the nation are affected by the scourge.
The most conspicuous forms of official corruption are over inflation of contract values, the use of cronies or fronts to execute contracts, outright abandonment of development projects after mobilization, investing government money in private businesses and outright stealing from the commonwealth and primitive accumulation. In 2008 Nigeria ranked 121st and now 130th among 180 countries in Corruption Perception Index (CPI) courtesy of Transparency International investigation. The implication is that in spite of the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the incidence of corruption is on the increase because it is sustained by entrenched political interests in high places.
In the court of public opinion, the EFCC under Ribadu achieved unprecedented success to the extent that he carried out Obasanjo’s instructions. At least for the first time “some” State Governors and highly placed persons were prosecuted and incarcerated – a feat its Siamese twin the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) is yet to achieve. While the efforts of Mallam Ribadu were highly commended, Nigerians also appreciated that the EFCC was almost turned into a Capo regime where only the untouchables kept their heads high. The anti-graft war should not be personalized as the scourge is a public disease. In fact, the intent of the EFCC Act was to wage the anti-corruption war irrespective of who can be appointed as the conscience of the nation. Now, the war against corruption has assumed a life of its own, and not even Obasanjo who initiated the Bill can stop the crusade; and I have the conviction that sooner than later the mountains of Otta Farm would be leveled. IBB is believed to have guzzled over $12 Billion Naira windfall during the American invasion of Iraq in 1990.
President Obasanjo did a lot to compromise the integrity of the EFCC. First, the Commission was answerable to him hence he administered selective treatment to reported cases of corruption. Before the PDP primaries in December 2006, the EFCC released an “interim report” on the state of finances in Rivers State. The report indicted the ex-Governor of the State and alleged that N100 Billion Naira was mismanaged, misapplied or embezzled. With such a damning report wonders aloud why Ex-Governor Peter Odili is still walking about a free man. Other known enemies of the people like Governor James Ibori are being beatified by the Law Courts even to the consternation of Farida Waziri’s EFCC.
Towards the end of the Obasanjo decadent administration phrases like “soft landing” and “plea bargain” were introduced as patchworks into the lexicon of the anti-corruption outfit. There was deep-seated suspicion the ex-President OBJ was using EFCC to protect those he loved and to persecute those who had fallen out of favour with him. Such fears were confirmed by the behaviour of the then EFCC Chairman. The alacrity with which OBJ pursued the cases of Governors Joshua Dariye and DSP Alamieyeseigha portrayed him as a man waging a war of vendetta of some sort. It was the same “holy war” he waged against the succession bid of Atiku – his Vice-President. As long as the battle against Atiku lasted, the then EFCC Tzar was never known to be an impartial umpire in the struggle. The anti-graft war in Nigeria is a principle, indeed a philosophy that deserves the unwavering commitment of all well-meaning Nigerians. The crusade transcends an individual or a group of individuals. This point has been driven home by the vigorous efforts of Mrs. Farida Waziri since she assumed office.
Whereas Senator Wagbara, Professor Fabian Osuji and others were promptly removed once corruption charges were leveled against them, most Nigerians are not happy that Obasanjo’s first son was fingered as a dangerously rich oil mogul yet EFCC was not keen to establish any case against him. The National Assembly succeeded in resolving Ettehgate but EFCC under Ribadu turned deaf ears to the Iyabogate on the N3.5bilion contract scam. . Prof Adenike Grange was summarily sacked but Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello has her umbilical cord in Otta Farm hence she subsumed among the group of the untouchables. Ex-President OBJ has retired into stupendous wealth and albeit even clerics have been calling for his probe, EFCC has ignored such calls and it may be put on hold sine die. The case of Olabode George was prosecuted by EFCC to save its face in a matters that was ab initio a bad case. I do believe that Bode George would be given a Presidential Pardon from Jeddah.
Ribadu fought a patriotic battle but deliberately covered-up some corrupt people who are either Obasanjo’s cronies or PDP apologists. That was why the Pentascope saga; PTDF; the financial malfeasance of the ex-inspector General Sunday Ehindero; Bells University of Technology (owned by Obasanjo); the privatization and sales of many National corporations including the refineries; money stolen to fund the tenure elongation project and other sundry corruption cases have not been investigated. The divine standard of judgment is not crooked. As human mortals our standard of judgment should be a reflection and approximation of God’s divine standard of justice. But unfortunately Ribadu’s behaviour was most of the time inconsistent with his role as an impartial umpire. Plus or minus Malam Nuhu Ribadu increased the momentum of the anti-corruption war which is now being sustained by his successor.
There are many unresolved issues the anti-graft agency has to tackle. The Senate Committee had asserted in a report in 2007 that the President and his Vice were complicit in the PTDF funds issue and as a result asked the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to step into the matter. Obasanjo was indicted over the N250 million fees purportedly paid for some PTDF projects. As the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) started the probe of allegations of corruption in the PTDF, the Campaign for Accountable Governance through Elections (CAGE) has asked the Committee to uphold transparency, accountability and fairness in undertaking this important constitutional task. The Senate Committee was established following reports that out of about $700 million realized during the 2002/2003 bidding rounds only about $145million is known to have been transferred to the PTDF account. All these are unresolved issues and those involved have, by their actions sentenced hundreds of people to death by denying them basic amenities such as health, education and road infrastructure. They can be likened to Al Qaeda or Taliban terrorists who blow up public places with a view to causing massive destruction of lives and property. Nigeria should have been penciled down as a State sponsor of terrorism since the Obasanjo administration because of the high corruption profile of Nigeria’s unrepentant public office holders in power.
Since late 2005, there was an upsurge of militancy, which is largely caused by corruption of the Nigerian State and the neglect by the Multinationals of their Corporate Social Responsibility. Militias have also carried out copy-cat abductions, robberies and oilfield invasions, seeking ransoms or benefits for their villages from oil companies. Western multinationals operating in the area, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total and Royal Dutch Shell, are on a heightened state of alert, and thousands of foreign workers and their families have left the country. All these were aggravated by corruption. The thousands of lives lost to the Niger Delta crisis, the job cuts in oil companies and the loss in oil revenues to the Nigerian State are all products of official corruption.
Corruption is not only one of the original sins of monopoly capitalism, it is terrorism as deadly and destructive as nuclear weapons. It undermines good governance, fundamentally distorts public policy, leads to the misallocation of resources, harms the private sector and particularly hurts the down trodden masses. Corruption is a serious scourge that negates Nigeria's democratization process. This is because it is bedevil by such problems as mismanagement, wasteful spending, and spending States fund on unproductive sectors among others.
Because of the obnoxious laws that govern the mining of crude oil, even the oil Multinationals obey the principle of Matthew Effect . In the book of Matthew Chapter 25: 14-30, Jesus illustrated this with the parable of the talent and concluded that the ingenuous and productive shall be given more resources while the docile and indolent will be further impoverished. “To those who use well what they have been given, even more will be given, and they will have abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even the little they have will be taken away”. In mundane materialistic philosophy the classic case of Matthew Effect is an aberration since it negates equity and good conscience. The principle of Matthew Effect has been turned upside down by the capitalists in Nigeria to buttress their tendency to amass wealth at the expense of the less-privileged. This policy also underscores why the Vice President has not been sworn-in as Acting President in spite of overwhelming evidence that the President is not capable of discharging his executive responsibilities in office.
Today, Nigerians are resisting the Petroleum Industry Bill and clamouring for fiscal federalism because corruption has denied the people the opportunity of enjoying the fruits of the crude oil they produce. It is therefore ridiculous for the Petroleum Minister Dr. Rilwanu Lukman and his junior counterpart Mr. Odein Ajumogobia to muster up the temerity to deceive Nigeria that the planned “Deregulation” of the Petroleum industry is a developmental imperative when Nigerians know that the petroleum sector has had an overdose of deregulation. Deregulation is another word for punishment.
Official corruption is the worst form of human rights abuse because it engenders mismanagement of resources, which results in under-development, poverty and chaos in the polity. Under the military, the freedom of expression and the press is repressed because a free press exposes the evils of primitive accumulation and its attendant negative effects on the society. Corruption is said to have rendered our social infrastructure inefficient and has contributed to the prevailing problem of unemployment. Nigeria is a nation where there is high level of contract inflation, embezzlement and diversion of monies in banks, industries and other parastatals. All these evils weaken the rule of law and constitutionalism. A nation that neglects accountability pushes her population to frustration, anomie and criminality. If world leaders know the havoc caused by the Nigerian ruling class, they would concede that the terrorist-minded 23 year old Farouk Mutallab is not as guilty as the corrupt, inept leaders who have foisted stagnation and a no-grow ideology on the masses.
Idumange John (MNIM, CB