Nige­rian leader faces mon­u­men­tal strug­gle

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

LA­GOS — When Nige­ria’s new first lady Aisha Buhari ap­peared at her hus­band’s in­au­gu­ra­tion wear­ing what looked like a $50 000 (about M607 000) Cartier watch, scores took to the in­ter­net to voice their sur­prise.

Was it a gift or did she pay for it her­self? Hadn’t Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari been elected for his fru­gal, clean im­age and prom­ise to clean up Nige­ria’s dirty pol­i­tics?

Oth­ers were in­dif­fer­ent, coun­ter­ing that $50 000 was peanuts com­pared to the bil­lions squan­dered ev­ery year by gov­ern­ment mis­man­age­ment or sim­ply stolen through ram­pant cor­rup­tion.

“The ques­tion re­ally is the scale of the greed, not the fact of cor­rup­tion, which is ev­ery­where,” Ade­wale Maja-pearce, a Lagos­based writer, told AFP.

The money lost to cor­rup­tion is mind­bog­gling in a coun­try where the ma­jor­ity of the coun­try’s 173 mil­lion peo­ple live on less than $2 a day, par­tic­u­larly in the no­to­ri­ously murky oil sec­tor.

In Septem­ber 2011, Bukola Saraki, who is now Se­nate leader, pub­licly ex­posed what he called “wastage, lack of trans­parency, cor­rup­tion and mal­prac­tice” in the fuel sub­sidy pro­gramme.

Nige­ria is one of the world’s big­gest pro­duc­ers of crude but a lack of work­ing re­finer­ies means oil has to be ex­ported and then its prod­ucts im­ported at in­ter­na­tional mar­ket prices.

To keep prices low for con­sumers, the gov­ern­ment sells fuel on the streets at sub­sidised prices and makes up for the high amounts spent by im­porters by pay­ing them the dif­fer­ence.

The sys­tem is wide open to fraud: some im­porters rent empty ves­sels, pay of­fi­cials to say they have fuel on board and pocket the sub­si­dies.

How many gov­ern­ment ac­counts? Rev­enue Ser­vice)... they do not know how many ac­counts the gov­ern­ment has,” he told AFP in an in­ter­view this month.

One of Buhari’s big­gest chal­lenges will be to change mind­sets, with Nige­ria a coun­try where money talks, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to pol­i­tics, power and in­flu­ence.

“Will he have the po­lit­i­cal will to ac­tu­ally deal with the peo­ple who are in the same party who con­trib­uted to get­ting him elected?” asked Idayat Has­san, from Nige­ria’s Cen­tre for Democ­racy and De­vel­op­ment (CDD).

As if to an­swer the ques­tion, Buhari has yet to ap­point a cab­i­net three weeks af­ter com­ing to power.

Buhari said gov­ern­ment de­part­ments were be­ing au­dited to try to es­tab­lish what state they were left in by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I want to get min­is­ters af­ter at least I have seen this re­port, so that I don’t have to ap­point a min­is­ter to­day and sack him next week,” Buhari added.

What about Buhari?

Peo­ple queue with jer­rycans to buy fuel last month in la­gos.

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