After loot recovery, what next?
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.