Saturday, August 22, 2009

Financial mess

Financial mess
•How Nigeria was looted blind
•N17tr stolen in one year

Recently, the Director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), Tim Daniel, revealed that Nigeria loses $110 billion annually to treasury looting. According to him, the country cannot boast of tremendous development because of the large amount of money being siphoned out of government and taken outside the country.

findings reveal that Daniel hit the bull in the eye. Every ministry, government’s agency and parastatal corporation have been discovered to be involved in the looting spree. Indeed, during her first anniversary as Chairman of Economic Finance and Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri noted that former governors, ministers and members of parliament alone have stolen N285billion in this political dispensation.

With this and other reported cases of corruption Transparency International cannot therefore be faulted in its position that corruption is high in Nigeria.

It would be recalled that one of the reasons the military sacked the civilian government of Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983 was corruption. Corruption still continues. When what happened then is compared to the looting in the last 10 years, the former pales into insignificance. When the country started another journey in democracy, led by Olusegun Obasanjo, a probe was instituted against the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, which led to the discovery that the former military junta sole $3billion from the country’s treasurer.

The uproar this generated and the recrimination it attracted to the Abacha family did not deter others from helping themselves from the treasury, whether it is national, state or local government levels.
on daily basis political office holders’ siphoned money, through various means, from the treasury. Recently, the National Coordinator, Nigeria Network on Stolen Assets, Rev. David Ugolor, revealed that the N65billion looted by Abacha, which had been returned, had been mismanaged. According to him, from evidence the Federal Government, under Obasanjo, disbursed the funds and could not provide evidence of transparent disbursement. The same fate greeted the N16billion recovered from Tafa Balogun, which was said to be missing and no record to trace it.

When Obasanjo assumed office in 1999, he adorned the messiah toga. In fighting corruption, he set up the EFCC, with Nuhu Ribadu as its chairman. The anti-graft agency started blowing hot until it turned out to be a tool for hounding perceived or real enemies of the president. Ribadu, while appearing before the Senate in 2007, told the bewildered nation that the agency had investigated then serving governors and that 31 out of the 36 of them had been found to have allegedly looted the treasury of their respected states and would be prosecuted as soon as their immunity expired.

Curiously, when the tenure of these governors ended, only six of them who were said not to be in the good books of Obasanjo were taken to court by the agency. Not much was known about the extent of looting of the national treasury until the National Assembly started probing various agencies, ministries and parastatals. The figures coming out from some of the probes that represent what have been looted are frightening. It was from the probes that Nigerian realised why the problem of the energy sector had defied solution and why the country has been in perpetual darkness. Over $16 billion, said to have spent by Obasanjo’s government to find solution to the perennial darkness, went into private pockets.

The usual Nigeria’s conundrum was introduced in the probe, which made the report to be confined to the trash bin. The hunter later turned the hunted. Ndudi Elumelu, the head of the probe committee, is now facing trial with four others for alleged perpetration of monumental fraud of N5.2b.Those involved are Chairman, Senate Committee on Power; Senator Nicholas Ugbare, his House of Representatives counterpart, Ndudi Elumelu; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, Dr. Abdulahi Aliyu and Managing Director of Rural Electrification Agency, Samuel Gekpe.

Another sleaze at Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) involved N3billion alleged stolen by the suspended Chairman of the agency, Dr. Ransome Owan and six commissioners. They are currently facing trial on 197-count at an Abuja High Court. Of this amount, N77million was said to have been spent on overseas frolicking and cost of living allowances.

Yet another case of looting is in educational sector, while the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is lamenting the high level of adult illiteracy in Nigeria, the literacy commission boss was involved in N271m fraud, which is part of the amount meant to reduce the illiteracy rate in the country. According to latest report of UNESCO, Nigeria is classified as one of the countries at a serious risk of not attaining the Education for All (EFA) goal by 2015. The report claimed that there are about 60 million adult illiterates and 11 million out-of-school children in Nigeria. It rated Nigeria as one of the most illiterate in the world. In the face of this negative index, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Adult Education, Mass Literacy and Non-Formal Education, Dr. Dayo Olagunju and 19 officers of the commission are being prosecuted for the alleged fraud.

The Director of the Universal Basic Education Commission, Prof. Bridget Sokan and three top officers are also facing trial over N78million loot. Also, while the universities are crying of under-funding and lecturers on strike, the Vice Chancellor of Imo State University, Prof. I. C. Okonkwo, has been arrested in connection with N70million fraud. When his house was searched, the sum of N4.5million cash, $11, 200 and 700 Euros were found in his apartment in Owerri.

Former Minister of Aviation, Prof. Babalola Borishade, NAMA’s former Managing Director, Roland Iyayi and two others were fingered in N19billion loot. They are facing criminal charges in court.
The football house is not left out. It was recently reported that $236, 000 was stolen from coffers of Nigerian Football Federation. Funny enough, the National Sports Commission, the supervising agency inaugurated committee to trace the money. The committee, after collecting sitting allowance, did not come up with any finding.

The National Film Corporation has its pie in the shame, as its Managing Director, Afolabi Adesanya and four directors were recently arrested for allegedly sharing of N11.8m belonging to the agency.
The Trans National Corporation (TRANCOP) is also in the news as it relates to corruption. Its Group Managing Director, Thomas Isegoli, is in the net of EFCC for fraud. The amount involved is more than N15billion. He is being held with the company’s Secretary, Mohammed Buba and another official, Mike Okoli.

The GMD is said to have, in connivance with other staff, severally abused the N100million approval limit given to him by the Board of TRANSCORP. He allegedly used organisations owned by his friends and associates to siphon money through bogus and overlapping consultancy projects, contracts and services.
The Chairman, Federal Character Commission, Prof. Oba Shuaibu Abdulraheem, was last September accused of involvement in N262million scam. A petition on this issue was sent to President Umar Yar’Adua and Code of Conduct Bureau. Chief Bode George and others are also facing charges over scam in the Nigeria Ports authority. Former Senate President, Adolphs Nwagbara with Prof. Ebere Osuji, former education minister and others are also facing corruption charges, likewise serving Senator Iyabo Obasanjo and Prof Adenike Grange, who are alleged to have corruptly enriched themselves to the tune of N300million.

At the peak of the Obasanjo campaign for the cancellation of Nigeria’s foreign debt, United Kingdom Minister for Africa, Mr. Chris Mullin disclosed, on February 2005, that about N315.5billion of Nigeria’s looted funds were frozen in various British banks. He had said that Nigeria’s quest for debt cancellation would be a mirage if corruption and looting of the treasure persisted in the country. From reports, Nigeria’s stolen money kept in foreign accounts in 1999 increased from $50billion to $170billion in 2003. This was buttressed in the June 2006 edition of The Africa Report by the former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mr. Raymond Baker, who had estimated stolen money from Nigeria and stashed away in foreign banks to be about $100b.

Baker, who put the total value of “dirty money” laundered globally at $500million per annum, also noted that about 50 percent of these funds, which come from developing economies end up in US dollar dominated accounts.

the sum of N53.3billion owed failed banks in the country and now considered bad debts came about as a result of insider abuse or outright stealing by officials of those banks. Before the collapsed of these banks, some of them went to the Nigerian Stock Exchange to raise funds to assist them come out of the woods. This ended with much of the funds being diverted to other uses by the unscrupulous officials of the banks.

Of all these funds stashed away in foreign banks, in 2006, the then Attorney General of the Federation declared that the Federal Government could only recover $1billion.