The Vampire Called Corruption —Ben Nanaghan



Corruption tipped the scale above other subjects on my preference list this past week.

This is because it is becoming more and more evident that the cabals are winning the war on corruption. There is no doubt that any battle against corruption in this country must be bold, bitter and bloody if possible.

The choice of corruption as a subject became very vital as a result of the continuous rape of the nation’s scarce resources by government officials and their proxies.

Last week it was the nauseating drama at the House of Representatives probe of the Nigerian Capital Market that caught national headlines. At the national telecast of the probe, it was alleged that the probe chairman ‘Hon’ Herman Hembe demanded for a N44 million gratification through an unnamed proxy to clear the ‘runway’ for an easy landing for all members of the NSE under probe. It was also alleged that Mr Hembe collected an undisclosed sum from the NSE with the intention of travelling to the Dominican Republic with a first class ticket but could not undertake the trip. It was also alleged that up till this moment, the committee chairman, who has stepped down, has not returned the money for the failed trip.

Allegations against the Nigeria Securities and Exchange Commission’s Director General, Ms. Arumna Oteh, were as dire and morally challenging and inexplicable. That she was accommodated for 8 months in a 5-star hotel gulping N30m of tax payers’ money. It was further alleged that she collected N42m to purchase 3 Hillux pick-up vans with the approval of NSEC Boardroom Meeting that never really took place.

Oteh accused Hembe, the erstwhile House Committee Chairman in the open glare of over 167 million Nigerians. I am happy to note that Mr. Herman Hembe has now been replaced as the Chairman of the Committee.

Another heart rending corruption case was the one involving N18b illegally transferred from the accounts of the police pension scheme. This was also revealed last week. Apart from this N18b scam, N2b was physically found in the home of a serving federal permanent secretary. A whopping two billion naira cash! How did this permanent secretary withdraw N2b in spite of the Central Bank’s restriction on currency movement? Or is Sanusi’s cashless economy meant only for the poor?

Why do Nigerians always blame the policeman who extorts N20 from bus drivers, when money meant for the improvement of the social security of the policeman is being embezzled at source by the Directors-General and top ranking officials at the Police Service Commission? Some years ago a former chairman of the Police Pension Scheme who had very strong links in Aso Rock made away with billions of naira from the Police Pension Scheme and even till date this man who stole billions of naira from government is walking tall with several chieftaincy titles. And yet we all descend heavily on the hapless policeman who has neither tools to work with nor even uniforms to wear. Policemen buy their uniforms from tailors outside the police force. Why do we then shout ourselves hoarse over impersonation when any one can buy the police uniform? The Nigerian Policeman deserves far better treatment from the Nigerian government.

It was also alleged that this serving permanent secretary and his cabal were withdrawing N300 million daily from their secret lodgments. What a pity, what a shame.

It is true that as of today’s Nigeria, the Permanent Secretary is no longer permanent. That means his job security level can no longer be guaranteed. The Federal Civil Service which Nigeria inherited from the British was very well tailored along the English system with very immaculate traditions of integrity, honour and honesty. It was a civil service that was replete with initiative, drive and the spirit to excel. The rules and regulations guiding the then civil service were well documented and enshrined in the General Orders and Financial Instructions of the service. All civil servants went through their various levels by thoroughly reading these sacrosanct books (the G.O. and F.I) and passing the promotion exams.

And above all, there was job security. You kept your job except if you stole from government purse which was very rare then, or you were involved in other criminal activities. The old civil servant did not have cause to steal to survive. His pay was just enough and after retirement his pension was regular and never tampered with.

But all that changed when the Gen. Murtala Mohammed / Obasanjo regime came on board in 1975/1979 and started dismissing top civil servants on television and radio without following laid down procedures according to the General Order regulations. Matters became even worse when General Olusegun Obasanjo came on board after the death of General Ramat Murtala Mohammed on 13 February 1976. Obasanjo carried out a mass sack based mainly on private and personality related issues which finally disorganized and destroyed Nigeria’s fine civil service. A typical case of Obasanjo’s vendetta was the Asboro/Thomas family feud which resulted in the retirement with national ignominy of Professor Oritsejolomi Thomas as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan in 1976. Professor Thomas was then one of Nigeria ’s best neurosurgeons, one of Nigeria ’s best university administrators and a well disciplined disciplinarian who never had a house of his own as a former provost of the College of Medicine Idi Araba and a former VC in the University of Ibadan.

I know of some former Vice Chancellors who have estates and streets of their own.

The new civil service which was forced on Nigeria became a rudderless ship that had no direction or organization.

Top civil servants were hired, promoted and fired by subsequent military heads of state or their ministers. Nothing became permanent in the civil service as the permanent structures that distinguished it were all dismembered with military orders and instructions. And so it became mandatory for civil servants to save for their future as there was no more job security and payment for pensioners was no longer coming “as and when due”. Pensioners started collapsing on long pension verification queues and those who survived went home without their pensions.

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Today’s Permanent Secretaries are lucky guys. They can afford to keep an incredible N2 billion cash under their mattresses, withdraw N300 million from the bank on a daily basis, afford to own two big housing estates in many state capitals across the country, afford to send all their 6 or more children to Harvard University, Afford to travel abroad monthly for medical check-ups with all members of their family and like a former female Bank Managing Director own about 30 houses in the state of Florida (alone) in America.

Corruption is thriving in Nigeria due to lack of ethical standards and moral values not only in the public sector but also in the private sector and even in our private family lives. The Nigerian 1999 Constitution was crafted with a military mindset to protect al those things destroyed by the military from 1966-2007 when civilians properly took over governance.

Those who are appointed to enforce our laws are also very corrupt. Examples of these are judges and other senior government officials who introduced plea-bargaining to provide soft landing for politicians who loot our treasury. Plea-bargaining is the product of fierce bargaining between judges and politicians but brokered by the intervening third party.

Transparency International is a very familiar body to Nigeria . In their Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in 2001 Nigeria ranked 90 out of 91 corrupt nations with Bangladesh as most corrupt nation taking the 91st position. In 2003 also Nigerian got 132nd position again next to Bangladesh which took its traditional most corrupt position at number 133.

The effects of corruption in Nigeria are myriad. As a result of unrestrained illegal access to government treasury, government expendable resources are limited in all sectors of the economy including health, education, youth empowerment and job creation.

The National Bureau of statistics revealed in Abuja on 13 February 2012 that as at 2004, 54.7% Nigerians were living below the poverty line but this has increased to 60.9% as at 2010. That is, as at 2010, 99.284 million Nigerians were living below the poverty line. What a pity. The bureau also emphasized that income inequality has increased between 2004 and 2010 and that this inequality will widen between 2011-2012 following current trends. The Bureau also said more public funds have been embezzled from 1999 to date than all the years since 1914 put together.

It takes an uncommon political will, God’s protection and goodluck to fight corruption in Nigeria because of the several diehard cabals who are ready to waste lives to maintain the status quo.

President Goodluck Jonathan must muster this political will to break this corruption Jinx which has blackmailed this country and held us to ransom.

President Goodluck Jonathan must know that the war against corruption is a war that he must fight because all his good intentions for this country will fizzle to zero if the cankerworm that eats the fabric of this nation is not rooted out.

The father of one of our former speakers of the House of Representatives last year said that if his son was jailed for corruption charges, Nigeria will go up in flames, and since then the case against the former speaker has been in abeyance.

Such cheap blackmail must not thrive in a civilized society like ours. We must not allow a gang of thieves and buccaneers to hold us to ransom.

President Goodluck Jonathan is well positioned to fight this battle as his antecedents bear positive testimony to this fact. While I concede that fighting the vampire called corruption in Nigeria is not an easy task, I know that in the long run we shall triumph if all Nigerians join hands in this war on entrenched and enduring corruption.


•Nanaghan writes in from Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]

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