Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, March 17, 2014

Show us the money

Things Nigerian have been in the news recently. If you've read the last few excerpts about Nigeria featured here, you've heard some what follows in Will Ross' report for the BBC. But he explains things well, so I'll live with the repetition. The question is: Will politics be the resolution? Or just a transfer from one set of thieves to another?

There's a link to Ross' interview with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian Finance Minister, embedded in the BBC article.

Is Nigeria serious about tackling corruption?
President Jonathan
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan wants the world to believe he and his government are serious about ending corruption. But two recent events have sent out the opposite message.

As President Jonathan handed out awards to celebrate Nigeria's centenary, there was a collective leap of eyebrows when people learnt that former President Sani Abacha was on the list. Many wondered why a military dictator who had plundered the nation was being celebrated?…

The second event came after outspoken Central Bank governor Lamido Sanusi had accused the state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), of failing to account for $20bn in oil revenues.

Some critics accused Mr Sanusi of playing politics but when he was then accused himself of financial recklessness and was suspended, it was widely seen as a move to silence a whistleblower who was causing the government embarrassment…

It was by no means the first time that corruption in the NNPC was being highlighted. But this is on another level. The allegation is that more than $1bn was disappearing every month over a 19-month period…

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Nigeria's finance minister has a formidable international reputation, having worked as a managing director at the World Bank. But analysts say she is now in a dilemma.

"The finance minister is a reformer at heart but she is in direct conflict with very deep vested interests," says financial analyst Bismarck Rewane.

"She has to confront those vested interests or else her credibility as a reformer goes."

Past reports of gross plunder in the oil sector have been buried with little action taken, leaving many Nigerians with the belief that those implicated are too powerful to touch. So why would it be different this time around?

Lagos-based banker Akintunde Oyebode notes that the governing People's Democratic Party no longer dominates Nigeria politics and faces a credible challenger in next year's elections, while voters are becoming "more sophisticated".

"I wouldn't like to be the party that promises oil sector reforms and doesn't deliver because in four years that party will be out of government."

It is a glimmer of hope that the thieves' days may be numbered.

Nigerian leader orders audit of missing billions
President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered a forensic audit by international firms into some $20 billion allegedly missing from petroleum sales, following weeks of public outrage and demands by a Senate committee and the finance minister.

Jonathan’s announcement came buried in a statement attacking ousted Central Bank Gov. Lamido Sanusi, insisting that his suspension last month was unrelated to his whistle-blowing about what it calls ‘‘the phantom missing funds.’’

In a statement dated Wednesday, Jonathan also denied Sanusi’s charges that the money has been diverted to fund campaigning for February 2015 elections where the governing People’s Democratic Party will face its biggest challenge since taking power in 1994 elections that ended decades of military dictatorship...

When he was re-elected in 2011, Jonathan promised to fight corruption that keeps an elite fabulously wealthy while the majority of Africa’s most populous nation of some 170 million people struggle to survive on less than $1 a day, according to U.N. statistics.

But now Jonathan’s administration is seen as shielding the corrupt, most infamously by the pardon issued by the president last year of the ex-governor from his home state of Bayelsa... [His] properties and funds in the United States and Britain were seized as proceeds of corruption in recent years...

Previous investigations of billions in missing public funds have ended without resolution, with no one held to account and no money recovered.

No one has been prosecuted for a fuel subsidy scam uncovered in 2012, in which some $17 billion was paid to companies for fuel that never was delivered.

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