DURING the last Christmas period, most of us staying in the urban areas such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and foreign territories did make the annual ritual of mass return to the South Eastern region to spend time with loved ones and also attend to the multidimensional development-focused village meetings convoked by the elders-in-council.
As far as I am concerned, I make it a religious, cultural and traditional obligation to always travel to Arondizuogu in Imo State to touch base with my people and join other progressive-minded citizens to brainstorm on how to move our home town forward from the perpetual poverty infested terrain dominated by absolute lack of social infrastructure to a 21st century human habitation.
After embarking on this yearly pilgrimage to Arondizuogu for over 20 years, I have come to accept the fact that unless the entire suffering populace in Nigeria team up to say no to the evil status quo of gross underdevelopment and monumental heist of the nation’s Commonwealth by the few elite that are less than a percentage, then we will continue to dwell in poverty, mass unemployment, unprecedented corruption and what corruption breeds such as terrorism, political instability and violence/insecurity.
Over the years we have carefully followed developments regarding the nationally shared allocations that go to the different federating units. Often the rural dwellers who are basically peasant farmers are neglected to a point that basic social amenities such as roads, electricity, good and workable health care infrastructure and even markets to display and sell their farm produce are not available.
Because of the poor state of infrastructure, the rural farmers are left at the mercy of middlemen who buy off their produce at give-away prices thereby perpetuating the poverty cycle in which these farmers are trapped. Again, the rural poor have no access to medicare and the high cost of transportation and health care services in nearby urban cities are way out of their reach and many die before any help can reach them.
Like most people who took time to travel to their village homes for the 2012 Christmas season, I witnessed firsthand, the stark reality of the majority of my rural people living in squalor and I also witnessed the absence of any kind of local or state government presence. The local bridges constructed by the people through communal efforts are collapsing for lack of maintenance.
Therefore, a rational reflection of the situation of massive poverty under which most Nigerians live even with the statistical evidence that Nigeria is resource rich, will only take the thinker to one logical conclusion – corruption is same as terrorism. Transparency International best defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gains. Terrorism is generally seen as the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. Wikipedia the online encyclopedia states that terrorism has been practised by a broad array of political organisations including the ruling elite to further their political objectives.
Away from semantics, we must realise that it is because of large scale theft of public fund for decades which has intensified in recent years that has made poverty and lack of development to become the cancerous afflictions that have led to the untimely demise of scores of citizens.
It is because of corruption by the ruling elite that security infrastructures have collapsed making it inevitable that armed non-state actors have being terrorising the civil populace without the properly and constitutionally constituted armed forces and security agents effectively rising to the occasion to defeat the unprecedented insecurity across the country.
Corruption and the diversion of public funds is responsible for the institutional rot in the police which has changed this otherwise strategic public institution to the shameful position as one of the most undisciplined, and most professionally ill-prepared policing institutions in the world.
It is because of corruption and economic crimes that made foreign security experts to dismiss the Nigeria Armed Forces as institutions whereby the members are poorly trained, poorly equipped and grossly undisciplined. The Army too has not been spared in the searchlight.
On Monday, November 5, 2012, The Guardian of United Kingdom published a story titled: “Nigerian army’s Mali Mission stalls amid doubt it can fight”.
The doubts on the fighting capacity of the Nigerian army emerged amid the effort by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to deploy military operatives from member nations to confront the fighters of the Angor Dine, the largest of the Islamist groups that at that time controlled northern Mali.
These doubts compelled the leadership of the sub-regional body to appeal to France to rout the terrorists that held sway in most parts of northern Mali making use of the firepower in their arsenal.
The Guardian of United Kingdom had reported about the Nigerian army thus, “The shocking state of the Nigerian army has delayed plans for a military intervention in Mali, amid reports that it lacks the capability to fight on the frontline”.
According to the report, which was roundly repudiated and condemned by the Nigeria’s military authority, The Guardian of United Kingdom also found out that operatives of the Nigeria army are bereft of training and are deficient in the modern fighting weapons.
“The Nigerian Forces lack training and kit, so they simply don’t have the capacity to carry out even basic military maneuvers. They have poor discipline and support. They are more likely to play a behind-the-scenes role in logistics and providing security”, The Guardian of UK reported quoting competent sources.
Now the question to be asked is what has happened to the huge budgetary releases to the Nigerian defence sector since 1999 when democracy returned? Why have the Nigerian Custom Service, the Nigerian Immigration and the armed forces unable to stop the incursions of armed bandits from the neighbouring countries to launch vicious terrorism attacks in parts of the North of Nigeria?
Corruption and outright theft of the huge public fund must have been responsible, if you ask me.
The British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron only recently at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, lambasted the government for not accounting for the over $100 billion USD that Nigeria generated from export of crude oil in only 2012.
About the same time, Nigeria’s former Education minister and immediate past Vice President of the World Bank, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili accused the late Yar’Adua and the current Jonathan federal administration of misappropriation of over $64 billion USD that the President Obasanjo administration handed over on May 2007.
Cameron had told the world: “A few years back a transparency initiative exposed a huge hole in Nigeria’s finances, an eight hundred million dollar discrepancy between what companies were paying and what government was receiving for oil—a massive, massive gap. The discovery of this is leading to new regulation of Nigeria’s oil sector so the richness of the earth can actually help to enrich the people of that country”.
The British Prime Minister then made a revelation of monumental proportion regarding how only in one year Nigeria made over $100 billion from export of crude oil but the gap between the tiny rich elite of less than a percentage and the poor majority has widened dangerously.
Cameron said: “Last year (2012) Nigeria oil exports were worth almost a hundred billion dollars. That is more than the total net aid to the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. So put simply: Unleashing the natural resources in these countries dwarfs anything aid can achieve, and transparency is absolutely critical to that end….”
Speaking of transparency, the revenue generated by the Nigerian government is not transparently accounted for thereby foisting widespread speculation, poverty and insecurity on Nigerians and Nigeria.
The latest independent Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) audit report of oil and gas sector for 2009 to 2011 shows that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in one instance among many others, received $4.84 billion from the Nigerian liquefied National Gas (NLNG) on behalf of the Nigerian government, which was yet to be remitted into the CBN/NNPC JP Morgan account or the Federation Account by the NNPC.
The same NNPC has reportedly approached foreign creditors to take $1.5 billion loan.
The report published by NEITI on February 1, 2013 showed that the total financial flow to the federation account from the oil and gas sector from 2009 to 2001 was $143.5 trillion.
The breakdown shows the amount is up from proceeds from the sales of equity crude, royalties and signatures bonus, concession rentals, gas flaring penalties, petroleum profit tax and companies income tax.
Now, with such huge inflow, why is there so much poverty, unemployment and insecurity in the land, all this to the point of dehumanising a majority of the citizenry.
Ezekwesili who was two times minister under President Obasanjo typically supported my affirmation that corruption is the same thing as terrorism when she reeled out the statistics to show that the population of the poor has grown in leaps and bounds even when the nation has received generous foreign exchange/revenue from crude oil exports.
According to Ezekwesili, Nigeria is a paradox of the kind of wealth that breads penury because the trend of Nigeria’s population in poverty since 1980 to 2010 suggests that the more we earned from oil, the larger the population of the poor citizens.
Some critics have, however, fired back at Ezekwesili questioning her moral high ground.
Now if these humongous amount can be callously diverted by the political elite how else do we expect that the poverty and insecurity that besiege a majority of Nigerians and are terrorising our lives will just go away just like that without Nigerians waging a collective fight against the terrorism of official corruption?
Our situation in Nigeria is captured by three erudite scholars in their book “The criminalization of the state in Africa”. The trio – Jean-Francois Bayart; Stephen Ellis; and Beatrice Hibou argue in the book that the growth of fraud and smuggling are interwoven with politics.
The book examines the plundering of natural resources, the privatisation of state institutions, the development of an economy of plunder and the growth of private armies. The book suggests that the State itself is becoming a vehicle for organised criminal activity.
The authors propose criteria for what they call gauging the criminalisation of African states and indeed move on to the realm of pragmatism by presenting what may be regarded as a novel prognosis, distinguishing between the corruption of previous decades and what they now prefer to identify as the criminalisation of some African states now taking place.
For the authors, the term economy of plunder refers to the acquisition by representatives of public authority of economic resources for private purposes. For me it is a high manifestation of terrorism.
• Emmanuel Onwubiko wrote from Port Harcourt.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”