uprooting corruption

Buhari Wins War on Corruption? Stolen Money in Nigeria

Well it seems like President Buhari of Nigeria is really doing it. He is winning the war against corruption in the West African country.

The Nigerian government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has been granted permission by the federal high court in Lagos to forfeit funds held by the former petroleum minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke.

Diezani is believed to have misappropriated US$153.3 million from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), during former president, Goodluck Jonathan’s term.

Considered a first public win for Buhari, the news comes in the face of growing disgruntlement amongst ordinary Nigerians who feel that Buhari’s election promise of rooting out corruption has been slow on implementation.

The news are well received by the African world, with signs of approval coming from Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel. Annan, a former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Laureate, is a highly respected ‘elder’ of African leadership.

The news also comes just weeks after Buhari’s wife became under the spot light for her taste for high end goods. Mrs Buhari has been seen wearing luxury items, such as watches, jewelry and handbags in the middle of tough economic times in the country.

In the absence of dumbfounding evidence of Buhari’s claims of shaking off corruption from the slagging West African giant, citizens have had to rely on faith.

Legal processes also take time, which does not go well for the popularity contest in which presidents are invariably judged.

Although the recent judicial moves may save the reputation of the president, they may not help the country if stolen money is not eventually returned. The oil-dependent nation desperately needs all the money it can get in order to continue to provide the basic state services a country needs to survive.

Buhari’s leadership approach has been resolute, even when intimidated by militias, as they have been doing in the Niger Delta, where militias have been blowing up fuel pipelines.

Oil Intimidation in the Niger Delta

In 2009, the Nigerian government reached an amnesty deal with militias who were attacking the oil facilities. Government agreed to pay the militias millions of dollars for ‘security’ to keep guard the oil pipelines—essentially they were being paid not to bomb the oil facilities.

President Buhari extended the security agreement, but reduced the budget, due to economic challenges. The original budget of 60bn Naira (R5bn) was cut down to 20bn Naira, which has made the militias in the oil rich region very unhappy.

So the militias have once again resorted to bombing the pipelines. Buhari on the other hand, has made it his task to root out corruption in Africa’s biggest economy, he has therefore refused to bow down to the intimidation of the militia.

A few months ago, Nigeria also refused to bow down to telecommunications giant MTN. The operator had asked for a fine of US$3.9bn (R58bn) imposed on it by the Nigerian government to be reduced. (A move viewed by most analysts as unreasonable, given the pressure multinational companies like MTN are experiencing due to weakening emerging market currencies.) Buhari has also reportedly removed 24 000 ‘ghost employees’ off the government payroll, saving the country US$11mil (R164 mil).

Blowing-up the pipelines in the oil-rich country puts Nigeria in an tight-spot, as most of its economy is derived from oil exports. It is the most brutal gesture of disaffection as it touches on the nerve of the economy, and it affects everyone. The intimidating element in the militias response reminds us of another unnamed group of militias who control the taxi industry in South Africa and are willing to bring the country’s transport system to a halt when decisions don’t go their way.  So there is a precedence in the continent, of a kind of pouting. That logic of, “If I don’t get my way, then nobody else must benefit.” This kind of mindset is both destructive and short sighted.

Assuming that the men who dominate their militias are ordinary people, we can assume that they themselves have children and families who rely on a sustainable government, that is able to provide key services, particularly in the areas of health and education. Cutting back on expenditure is in keeping with global trends, as countries seek ways of maximizing on their public spending.

Buhari’s Response to the Intimidation

To the intimidation of militia groups, Buhari has responded, “we will deal with them, the way we dealt with Boko Haram,” this is according to Bloomberg. He has in turn sent the nation’s army to assist in curbing the violence caused by the now labelled ‘economic terrorists.’

Sending military troops to confront the rebels, however, may not make things better. In fact things may become worse for the victims, who are ordinary citizens.

Be that as it may, it is not good for the stability and indeed viability of a nation state to have a group of dissidents, who operate based on their own rules. It undermines the sovereignty of the country and its elected representatives. For this reason, Buhari’s approach, though it may not offer immediate relief, may be the lasting solution the country needs in order to get on to the right fundamentals.

One of the key fundamentals for the viability and autonomy of a country is that of good governance, which can only be attained when leadership is not bullied into making decisions that do not prosper the country and its citizens. Only then can we see a new standard of ethical business and public finance management emerge on the continent. §

Afropolitan Explosiv Staff Writer: Africa Correspondent

What is your take on the situation in Nigeria right now? Do you think Buhari is doing enough to curb violence and improve the country?