Monday, 10 March 2014
Stealing Is The Problem With Nigeria By Seyi Olu Awofeso
All 36 states in Nigeria yearly record 80-90% school certificate failure rate majorly because funds budgeted or should have been spent on good education to build the country’s future on a variety of skills, are all but stolen by government officials at source. And, insofar as stealing and planning go ill-together, nothing suggests the bucking of Nigeria’s downward trend.
Double jeopardy has since resulted for parents whose investment on their children’s education is now lost, with the over 30 million angry and denuded youths (representing the 80-90% school certificate failures) left with just the option of crime, being un-employable, and having a merely odd chance in a scrimmage with 60 million other un-employed Nigerians.
Education fund is only a tip of what is officially stolen at source. Since 1999, newly printed currencies have been stolen right on the printing presses of Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC), before the minted currencies could be wrapped and packed. No one now knows how much has been fleeced there but an informed guess estimate by a Nigerian Senator puts the figure at close to a trillion Naira – an amount representing close to a quarter of Nigeria’s federal budget.
Nigeria’s kaleidoscope of thefts now flames in blazing colours of trillions.
Last year, despite the attempt at cover-up by President Goodluck Jonathan and Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who both argued rather speciously to justify a 120% fuel tax needed to avoid what they’d described as Nigeria’s “imminent economic collapse” - on the basis that petrol smuggling was the only cause of the nation’s financial haemorrhage – the investigated facts contradicted the duo. Official stealing rather showed up in all evidence as the sole cause of Nigeria’s depleting treasury. In terms, the proved evidence demonstrated that another ₦1.2 trillion was stolen as oil subsidy right inside the government offices; by paper-work alone.
A year after this finding, no government official has been arraigned to stand trial for any offence.
Besides the 1 trillion reportedly stolen at the presses of the MINT, and, the ₦1.2 trillion stolen as oil subsidy, there’s the other sieve from whence Nigeria’s future sadly flows away at ease. It is through crude oil theft and subsequent sale on the high seas, to mostly Ukrainian pirate shippers.
According to Shell Oil Company - as corroborated by the Nuhu Ribadu Petrol Committee Investigation - not less than 5 billion dollars are stolen annually via the high seas black market sales of crude oil, representing an amount which never enters Nigeria’s book of accounts or budget, but goes straight, un-taxed, into private pockets.
The few profiting Nigerian officials involved, found twice to have been aided and abetted by top commanders of the Nigerian Navy, are now rapidly seeking to flee with the illicit funds, which cannot be freely transferred through the international banking system, without raising alarm at the Global Financial Task Force Centre. They bribed or otherwise besieged Nigeria’s lax airport security officials all through the year 2012 - when the Central Bank of Nigeria issued a year-end statement that not less than eleven (11) billion dollars was either boxed or otherwise hand-carried through Nigeria’s airports for lodgement overseas. The Central Bank called this staggering figure “capital outflow”, but street-wise people know this is out and out money-laundering.
Of course, the launderers who shipped the 11 billion dollars out of the Nigerian economy know by heart that continuous thefts, like theirs, mean there’s now little of value that can be purchased with money inside Nigeria and enjoyed with peace of mind. For starters, even the number of skilful artisans required to maintain home appliances or machines, relative to the country’s 160 million population, has dwindled to a smidgen, partly because money otherwise useful for artisanal training is stolen at source, right inside government offices.
In dire terms, theft rises from trough past a crescendo to the peak of a pandemic in Nigeria.
On January 12th, a newly-graduated 27-year-old medical doctor, who resumed his first job ever, just five days earlier, was shot dead at noon on the highway of Ikorodu Road, Lagos mainland, by a two-man mugger gang. His spewed blood quickly caked in the baking sun to remind all else of the ill-omens for the living still being stalked by violent death, likewise, but who heedlessly pursue a warped sense of “success by stealing”, without regard to how the thievish means they select deprives other honest citizens of a basic right to life - until those hard done by rise and take revenge, but by continuing mindless assassination of both the culprits and the innocents alike, since the national anger is yet to be calibrated into a sensible liberation struggle from thefts.
With thefts now overarching Nigeria, maintenance of any utility in the country is suspect. Stealing scuppers any such confidence - especially after no fewer than seven commercial airliners simply fell from Nigerian skies in the past few years; and in Dana Airlines crash, after the Pilot had reported two simultaneous engine failures at over 10,000 feet above sea level.
For sure, action and reaction tend to be equal, if not opposite. Little wonder that Nigerian society is reacting badly to these eye-watering official thefts with blood-curdling violence.. Routinely nowadays, youths kidnap and slap well-upholstered but older folks and their parents all around – even if these slaps and floggings are still the rehearsals of what is to come. At any rate, as Nigerian youths renounce knowledge in any book to instead place faith on AK-47 rifles, for their liberation from needs and wants, Nigeria’s state of nature in prospect appears silhouetted.
For now, sums of 10 to 20 million Naira, payable as ransom, is the typical asking price for reprieve from kidnap, but mass killings of thievish officials may follow soon, for once any country starts on this kidnap journey for ransom as a means of livelihood, there’s no longer any turning back from the abyss.
In principle and in details, stealing un-ravels a country and distracts from any sensible enterprise, endeavour or planning; not least because free stealing alters the meaning of money as a store of value, but also because pandemic thefts distort national economics to the same extent.
For several years without let official thefts in Nigeria have fissured aggregate national ethics by slithering family values with disgracing poverty for honesty, and, forced many a father into confidence tricks and swindling; and the mother, in turn, into intentional sale of mostly fake products - the net effect being the lowering of everyone’s standard of living in Nigeria.
As Nigeria gets risky and un-liveable, there’s no silver lining in the clouds of a general belief that a trillion Naira can be got on a fly; without having any productive factory, service industry, or, prior investment. To match that national neurosis, free stealing is now the ideology of State in Nigeria and it cuts across all political parties, without exception.
Over against this baleful ideology, millions of honest Nigeria citizens have lost their small businesses, as transaction costs (including rents) soared in competition against higher demand funded majorly by stolen money. Interest rates rose in tandem too; to squeeze out the honest private entrepreneur, because Nigeria’s governments’ officials every often take recourse to Treasury bill borrowings, in dalliance, whilst imposing taxes and levies on honest citizens along the way, just to yearly replenish the treasuries they’d looted.
In all of history, no country has ever followed Nigeria’s thievish path and known peace.
For now, as official thefts continue with impunity in all of Nigeria’s 36 states, and at federal government level, Nigeria is tending towards a failed state, in like manner as continuing stealing of bank deposits expectably results in bank failure.
It is by far depressing that in a country where folks wear their supposed faith on their sleeves; salaaming on Friday like a tree against the winds, or, murmuring in vain fellowship on Sunday - with rosary beads as long as a hangman’s noose, the scriptural nay commonsense injunction against stealing still does not resonate on their heart strings.
As such, force becomes the only conceivable lever of statecraft for weaning the all but benighted country from official thefts – with revolutionary justice as well - since the operators of the Nigerian State from 1999 are the first suspects. It is only after that revolutionary cleansing on state by state basis, across Nigeria, that Nigerians can later meet to confer on how best to reshape their morally cleansed country.
Any option they then decide upon by consent is best and indefeasible, even if it includes partitioning the country, because the liberty to re-organize a country inheres in the people as a whole, and perdures as human right, which no individual citizen, speaking for himself, can nullify by diktat.
-Seyi Olu Awofeso is a Legal Practitioner in Abuja
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters