Recently, the International Business Time (IBT) London carried a screwing headline which said “looted funds stolen again, cycle yet to be broken.”
Such negative perception of Nigeria in the eyes of the foreign press is disturbing. However, disturbing as the report may be, we cannot pretend to run away from the realities of corruption in Nigeria. As long as we continue to misbehave badly, we cannot avoid negative publicity.
Despite all the razzmatazz surrounding the recovery of the Abacha loot by the Obasanjo administration, Nigerians have no idea where or how the recovered funds were used for the promotion of social services. The former Obasanjo administration was always addressing press conferences, announcing the repatriation of the Abacha loot. At one point, the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria had announced that his country returned around 750 million dollars.
Curiously, why does the story always end there? Why was the Obasanjo administration not telling Nigerians how the recovered Abacha loot was used for the welfare of ordinary Nigerians? Why was his government not demonstrating the same enthusiasm in explaining how the recovered funds were applied to the welfare of Nigerians as it did while announcing the recovery of the Abacha loot?
In fact, it got to a point Nigerians no longer felt excited by reports about the recovery of the Abacha loot. The simple reason is that they no longer trusted the government’s management of the recovered looted funds.
It is not enough to address press conferences to announce the recovery of Abacha loot, and then you feel no duty to let the citizens know how those funds were invested into projects and programmes that have direct benefits to ordinary Nigerians.
No country can fight corruption effectively without transparency in the management of recovered looted funds. Government should not be run in secrecy in a democracy. Nigerians have the right to know what happed to the about three billion dollars returned to Nigeria as Abacha loot. A civil society group is already in court seeking to have access to documents on how the recovered Abacha loot was managed by the government in Nigeria. In fact, no government can fight corruption without public trust. Once there is a paucity of information about how the recovered Abacha loot was used for the welfare of ordinary Nigerians, there may be question marks on government’s credibility. There cannot be effective democratic governance without accountability by the people in government. The government is accountable to the people.
The United States and European governments that cooperated with Nigeria to
return looted funds did so because of their belief that such funds could be used for the welfare of Nigerians citizens. However, if they discover that looted funds are being diverted or not accounted for, they may begin to distrust our leaders, and wonder if their cooperation is worth it.
It is a national embarrassment that nobody in government has come out to convincingly tell Nigerians how the recovered Abacha loot was managed.
Press conferences announcing the recovery of Abacha loot were not enough, if the government failed to tell Nigerians how it applied those funds in improving our hospitals, schools, roads, water supply and other essential areas of social service. The biggest fraud is the secrecy that surrounds the management of the monies recovered from the Abachas.
There is no attempt to defend corruption by Abacha or anybody else, but transparency in the management of recovered loot is an issue we should not ignore or dismiss as insignificant. It is sheer hypocrisy to announce loot recovery, but at the same time pretend that the citizens have no right to know how those funds were used.
Former President Obasanjo has always portrayed himself as morally superior to any other leader that came before or after him in Nigeria. He has never acknowledged whatever contributions the late General Sani Abacha had made to the development and progress of Nigeria. As for as Obasanjo is concerned, Abacha was “the worst evil to befall Nigeria.” But why didn’t corruption die with the death of Abacha? Why did corruption grow a larger
scale under Obasanjo? Was corruption not supposed to die automatically under “Saint” Obasanjo? Lack of accountability in the management of recovered loot is no less criminal.
Ahmed lives at No: 78 Monrovia Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja