Af­ter loot re­cov­ery, what next?

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

The Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (PDP) lat­est jibe at Pres­i­dent Muhammed Buhari (PMB) is that he was elected as Pres­i­dent of the Fed­eral Re­pub­lic of Nige­ria, not Chair­man of the Eco­nomic and Financial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC)!

This of course is in ref­er­ence to his con­tin­ued em­pha­sis on the anti-cor­rup­tion war which they con­sider to be se­lec­tive and fear will claim many high pro­file vic­tims amongst PDP mem­bers. Al­though reg­u­lar jibes at the Pres­i­dent come with the ter­ri­tory, they shouldn’t be dis­missed out of hand.

Truth­fully it’s the job of the EFCC Chair­man to re­cover looted funds, and Pres­i­dent’s job to en­sure they are ap­plied ju­di­ciously.

The valid point is be­ing made that no one ac­tu­ally knows of any gov­ern­ment eco­nomic or so­cial pol­icy to which re­cov­ered loot will be ap­plied. If monies stolen dur­ing Pres­i­dent Jonathan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion are re­turned, it won’t be the first time the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has suc­ceeded in re­cov­er­ing looted funds, but ap­pallingly in all pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions there was no sys­tem through which spend­ing was strictly mon­i­tored.

The So­cio-Eco­nomic Rights and Ac­count­abil­ity Project (SERAP) has called for in­ves­ti­ga­tions into man­age­ment of funds re­trieved from cor­rupt gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials claim­ing that the where­abouts or ap­pli­ca­tion of most of such monies is un­known.

In vol­ume II of his me­moirs “My Watch” former pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo claimed he left over N287 Bil­lion in the trea­sury made up of $2 Bil­lion, £100 mil­lion and N10 bil­lion in cash and prop­erty re­cov­ered from the klep­to­ma­niac dic­ta­tor Abacha.

There is also the “small mat­ter” of $87 mil­lion re­cov­ered from former In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice Tafa Ba­lo­gun; over $20 mil­lion re­cov­ered from former Bayelsa State Gover­nor Diepr­eye Alamie­seigha; $8 Bil­lion re­cov­ered by Gen­eral Abubakar’s ad­min­is­tra­tion; $233 mil­lion re­funded by the prin­ci­pal­i­ties of Liecht­en­stein; $194.5 mil­lion Ajaokuta Steel Plant debt buy back pay­ment; and $160 Mil­lion re­cov­ered by Jer­sey Global As­set from Raj Bho­jwani a con­victed former as­so­ciate of Abacha all of which dis­ap­peared with­out a trace! It’s widely ru­moured that “com­mis­sions” were paid dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions for repa­tri­at­ing looted funds. This means in ef­fect that pre­vi­ously re­cov­ered loot was either mis­ap­pro­pri­ated or sim­ply looted!

Re­cent rev­e­la­tions about dis­cov­ery of a fur­ther N3.2 tril­lion stolen by Abacha in ad­di­tion to the al­ready es­tab­lished $5 Bil­lion, and the ac­tiv­i­ties of former Min­is­ter for Petroleum Diezani Al­lisonMadueke make it im­per­a­tive that a Looted As­set Fund is le­gal­ized to pro­vide the frame­work for ap­pro­pri­ate and trans­par­ent man­age­ment of re­cov­ered funds. It’s cru­cial that such monies are ju­di­ciously spent.

The re­al­ity of Nige­ria’s cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is that liv­ing con­di­tions of the un­der­priv­i­leged are be­com­ing worse by the day and the “re­based growth fig­ures” con­jured by eco­nomic wiz­ards hide the fact that our na­tion is a con­tra­dic­tion of ex­treme wealth and ab­ject poverty.

What is ur­gently re­quired is an ac­tion, not the voodoo eco­nom­ics of “en­abling en­vi­ron­ments” and “hands-off pol­icy. It’s im­per­a­tive that gov­ern­ment re­duces the poverty level and gets the pop­u­lace back to pro­duc­tive work.”

In the dire con­di­tion the ma­jor­ity of cit­i­zens find them­selves in the na­tion needs a “mar­shal plan” for mass em­ploy­ment. Most Nige­ri­ans agree with de­vel­op­men­tal econ­o­mists who state that re­cov­ered funds should be ap­plied di­rectly to sub­si­diz­ing mass em­ploy­ment through large scale labour in­ten­sive in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment pro­grams such as con­struc­tion of low cost hous­ing es­tates, rail­ways, schools, hos­pi­tals, pris­ons, and as­phalt roads as well as en­vi­ron­men­tal main­te­nance. In par­tic­u­lar low cost hous­ing is not a prof­itable ven­ture which can be left to the pri­vate sec­tor. It’s the re­spon­si­bil­ity of gov­ern­ment. Un­for­tu­nately this pol­icy is un­likely to be adopted.

The re­cent screen­ing and con­fir­ma­tion of Min­is­ters leaves lit­tle hope that the con­di­tion of the poor­est in our so­ci­ety will im­prove in the fore­see­able fu­ture. Former “suc­cess­ful” state gov­er­nors now con­firmed Min­is­ters of the Fed­eral Re­pub­lic of Nige­ria con­firmed their un­com­pas­sion­ate an­tipeo­ple mind-set by list­ing con­struc­tion of new gov­ern­ment houses (rather than schools) amongst their laud­able achieve­ments.

It is para­dox­i­cal that in a na­tion as poor as Nige­ria, pri­vate pri­mary schools are boom­ing. This has less to do with their qual­ity than the abysmal con­di­tion of most gov­ern­ment pri­mary schools. It takes warped logic to be­lieve that lack of func­tional ed­u­ca­tion isn’t a prob­lem and that the real rea­son why Nige­ri­ans are con­demned to liv­ing be­low the in­ter­na­tional poverty line is be­cause State Gov­ern­ment Houses aren’t “be­fit­ting” enough! Given the an­tecedents of PMB’s Min­is­ters it’s un­likely that the anti-cor­rup­tion war will trans­late into a war against poverty.

Sadly the nom­i­nees re­peated the time worn Bret­ton Woods’ mantra of pro­vid­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment, pri­va­tiz­ing the na­tion’s as­sets, in­creas­ing the tax base, and en­cour­ag­ing pri­vate in­vest­ment, all of which has taken us nowhere and none of which can pro­vide the im­me­di­ate so­lu­tion to our press­ing prob­lems.

The whole idea that pri­va­ti­za­tion and a “hands off” ap­proach by gov­ern­ment can some­how solve the prob­lems of our poor is a fal­lacy. It’s ironic that Min­is­ters who claim not to be­lieve in sub­si­dies and re­ject the idea of sub­si­dis­ing petroleum, ed­u­ca­tion, health­care or em­ploy­ment have no prob­lems with the gov­ern­ment sub­si­diz­ing their own life styles! They must change their mind-set and not frus­trate PMB from ef­fect­ing the dras­tic changes he was elected to fa­cil­i­tate.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.