Nigeria’s Anti-Corruption Fight Needs Loot Recovery

President Buhari

Nigeria is doing something differently. Never in the country’s chequered history has there been a war of this magnitude on corruption.

For many year’s unending, Nigeria alonside Bangladesh were alternating year in year out, the position of the most corrupt nation. For a country with so much potentials in human, natural and ethnic capital, no other calamity has befallen Nigeria other than corruption.

With a new sheriff in town, the chorus has since changed. The country now rated at number 10, is looking beyond the rating to critically tackle the monster called corruption head on.

President Muhammadu Buhari whose leadership has within a year overpowered Boko Haram to the fringes of Sambisa Forest; had as well launched a frontal attack on corruption.
His mantra during the elections that brought him to power is to fight corruption. At his swearing in ceremony, Buhari declared ‘I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody’. His statement was a marching order to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigeria’s allegedly complicit anti-corruption agency.

The EFCC had since then arrested more than 100 former and serving government officials, politicians, businessmen and women, bank CEOs who allegedly have fluttered away Nigeria’s huge financial fortune.

The figures are mindboggling.

According to an independent survey by Natural Resource Governance Institute NRGI report, Nigeria has lost an estimated amount totaling about NGN 6.4 trillion to corruption in the past five years.

Giving a scenario analysis NRGI said that ‘Nigeria would have been buoyant enough to finance its 2015 budget of NGN 4.36 trillion and still pay off its external debts of NGN 2.03 trillion if it had not lost more than that amount — USD 32 billion (N6.4 trillion at NGN 200/$1) — to massive corruption that characterized oil sales by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation during the last administration’,

But the real shocker is that the USD 32 billion lost to corruption is not just limited to the last five years but to ‘NNPC’s mismanagement of Domestic Crude Allocation (DCA), opaque revenue retention practices and corruption-ridden oil-for-product swap agreements’.

Bigger fraud have been unearthed in Nigeria’s civil service. The finance ministry’s Integrated Payroll System were padded with thousands of ghost workers who had received salaries and full benefits over the years.

Nigeria’s battle with corruption might sound like a fairytale to many, but corruption is still a global phenomenon. After all the crash of the global economy was fueled corrupt and greedy Wall Street bankers who frittered away trillions of dollars in depositors, tax payers money and investors’ fund.

Tomorrow, Buhari will be speaking at anti-corruption forum planned by British Prime Minister, David Cameron. He might use the opportunity to launder his image but Buhari’s message cascade into his demand for a quick repatriation of stolen wealth.

For so long, the West has preached its commitment towards helping African countries to fight corruption but the practicality of such pledge requires genuine commitment beyond moral rhetoric.

More than 70% of all looted funds find their way into Western countries. Few others are stashed in offshore territories where the West especially America has a big say.

Nigeria needs all the cash it can get. The country’s economy has received the biggest battering since its independence in 1960. Public revenue from oil has fallen by over 70%. Many states in the federation have virtually collapsed with zero cash to pay public workers.

Buhari is going to the forum with a dossier of stolen funds. What the West need to do is to rally their law enforcement agencies, bankers and judiciary on how some of the stolen wealth will start trickling into the country.

The recovery of looted funds will embolden the anti-corruption war. Many public officials with penchant for emptying government coffers would get the message. There will be no hiding place for loots, neither at home nor abroad.

Now is the time to match words with action.

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