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The Thieves They Couldn’t Arrest

Started by Dan-Borno, November 04, 2012, 06:10:12 PM

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Long time no saw....common English you don't spoke lol this is grammer.

Hi friends, its been long, I read this article on the Leadership newspaper
online edition, its content is hotter than the heading and is highly recommended
to my old friends to read and digest.  The writer has identified so many problems
and proffer solutions.  A huta gajiya.

Whenever it's time to debate the annual budget, some foreigners come in handy with their prescriptions. Lynda Chalker, former British minister for overseas development, used to be one of the frequent guests during the military era. In recent years, however, only a few foreigners have bothered to intervene, probably because they've discovered that budgets are not taken seriously in Nigeria.

Not even governors and presidents believe in the annual ritual. So, the IMF's resident representative in Nigeria, Scott Rogers, was simply wasting his time on Thursday when he was advising us to avoid excessive spending and save more. He opposed raising the crude oil benchmark price – a source of orchestrated friction between the executive and the legislature.

Mr Rogers obviously means well. But he is ignorant of how the economy works here and the nature of people who run Nigeria.

I've not bothered to look at the 2013 "budget" because I know it's all politics. No budget has been implemented here since 1960.

What has changed a little is the manner of sharing the nation's wealth. I can't be fooled by those quarrelling over the implementation level of the 2012 budget or whether the benchmark price for a barrel of crude oil (which contributes 90 per cent of government's revenue) should be $75 or $80. As far as I know, N4.9trillion or whatever will be spent next year is what will be shared among thieves and civil servants that receive salaries and award contracts to themselves.

The lot for educating Rogers and co on how our economy is run fell on Nuhu Ribadu on Friday. While submitting the report of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force that he headed to President Jonathan, Ribadu repeated the words in a campaign ad being run on radio and TV by government itself: "Nigeria is the only country in the world where people steal crude oil."

In the government's advertorial, the narrator (a child) continues: "More than $7bilion is stolen annually in Nigeria. My dad said it's a whole lot of money." And on Friday Ribadu added: "Mr President, increasing crude oil theft is a national tragedy and of grave consequence, and there is need for urgent government action."

The Ribadu report, which I've not read and won't bother to read, must have ended up telling us what we already know. A highlight, I'm told, is the "discovery" that at least N16trillion has been stolen by oil thieves in the past decade. So much for oil theft. The question  to ask is why the thieves have remained untouchable over the years. Answer: all thieves are above Nigerian law. It reminds me of the title of a book I read in secondary school, which is also the title of a 1931 British film: "The Man They Couldn't Arrest".

We have all read about Halliburton, Siemens and scores of other scandals unveiled by one panel after another. And when I heard there was a split in the Ribadu-led task force, I remembered one of the revelations made in WikiLeaks: oil companies always have their way in Nigeria because they know the right buttons to press and how to sabotage government programmes using Nigerians.

Someone rightly christened President Jonathan's administration "government by committees".  While receiving each committee's report, he would threaten fire and brimstone (as he did on Friday) but nothing would happen. His table is now full of heaps of reports that might never be implemented. Already, Nigeria is a failed state. That's why there is complete lawlessness – and impunity.

A few years ago, a minister I know awarded a N150million contract to his girlfriend in Abuja for a job that one could complete with N5million. A current minister measures his achievements by the number of houses he has demolished, not the ones he has built.

Ours is a nation – does it even qualify as a nation? – ravaged by all manner of thieves. And the thieves have become so sophisticated and strong that  they could seize power at any level anytime. Since 1999, a few of them have emerged as governors, senators, ministers, godfathers and big-time contractors while others have handed over to their children.

Things can't work in a country where crime is not punished. In spite of all that's going on, no Nigerian thief – except a chicken or goat thief – is in jail today. James Ibori was unfortunate because he was caught abroad and jailed in London. Hundreds of fuel subsidy thieves and bank wreckers have been identified, but none of them has lost his freedom. Instead, they keep buying private jets.

A recent report puts Nigeria second on the list of countries with the highest number of private jets: there are over 250 of them here and each costs N5-10billion. Yet, this is Nigeria where more than 90 per cent of the citizens are poor – many are unable to eat once in two days, many can't go to school, most are unemployed. I wonder why someone would sit comfortably as president, governor or minister in a place full of such social injustice. Does any of them desire to leave a legacy? Is accumulation of illicit wealth the only motivation for being in power or office?

I still believe that money doesn't solve many human problems. Hospitals in India, Egypt, Dubai, South Africa and Ghana are brimming with Nigerian patients, just as schools in Europe, America and now Asia are thriving with Nigerian students. Rather than fix the education system, the thieves prefer to take the money abroad and pay school fees.

The amount of money Nigerians have spent on generators made in nations like China, South Korea and India could stabilise power supply in the country. Security vote now consumes more than N1.5trillion each year, yet the situation keeps worsening. Who is making us insecure so that security votes would be taking so much?

Every day, those who claim to be experts in government create the conditions that will ultimately sink Nigeria. There is no original thinker in any government I've seen in this country. Or why would our schools turn out 700, 000 youngsters each year while job creators are vanishing? Worse, our schools (public and private) are simply producing unemployable people without skills, not even the ability to read and write.

The number of JAMB exam candidates next year may hit two million; available tertiary institutions (useless as they are) cannot accommodate 15 per cent of them. Yet, somebody sits comfortably as president, education minister or national planning minister without losing sleep. Wife of Oyo State governor Florence Ajimobi gleefully announced last week that she was not arrested by the London police for money laundering.

"I only travelled last Sunday to London to accompany my child who returned to a secondary school there," she said. "I went on an official visit to Taiwan with my husband and we did not go to London from Lagos as reported. We went to Dubai, Hong Kong, Taipei and back to Lagos." If I may ask Mrs Ajimobi, how many British children are in Nigerian schools? When last did a governor's wife from the UAE or China come on an "official" visit to Ibadan?

The nation's security is also undermined in this way: the few jobs available in government institutions like the Police, Immigration, Civil Defence, FRSC and some ministries now go to either those with godfathers (legislators, governors, directors, etc) or who can pay N300-500, 000 bribe to a syndicate.

Little wonder many policemen are not dedicated to duty! They have to get the bribe money back before listening to any appeal for patriotism. Hungry and ill-equipped, they can't confront robbers. Our hospitals have become glorified mortuaries because everything has been stolen and medical workers also want to "make it". Luckily for them, government officials and rich thieves have their hospitals abroad.

Would things continue like this for the next 10 years? My guess is that, by 2020, this country won't be habitable for any sane person. The rich would live abroad and visit Nigeria only occasionally to plunder its resources. The poor would be left behind to kill one another. I've said it before: money doesn't solve many problems.

"My mama always used to tell me: 'If you can't find somethin' to live for, you best find somethin' to die for" - Tupak