Former President Obasanjo’s seeming concentration of efforts on the recovery of the much-talked Abacha loot left many Nigerians wondering: did fighting corrupting begin and end with the recovery of the Abacha loot? That was a legitimate question because it is hard to convince
Nigerians that going after the Abacha loot was enough to claim victory over the national canker. Corruption didn’t die with Abacha. On the contrary, it grew even worse under Obasanjo’s nose, despite his self-righteousness.
The irony of our so-called democracy in Nigeria is that it is producing more corruption than service delivery to the ordinary citizens. The so-called popularly elected leaders are becoming
billionaires overnight while the ordinary voters continue to be ravaged by poverty. When he was elected into power in 1999, former President Obasanjo lamented the extent corruption had brought Nigeria to its knees and promised to tackle it decisively. In 2001, he introduced the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).
Nigerians hailed the initiative as a welcomed policy to fight corruption and bring development to Nigeria and improve the well being of the ordinary citizens. Unfortunately, despite the introduction of the anti-graft agencies, the punishments for corruption have not been harsh enough to scare big thieves from ruining the economy of the nation.
In fact, former Obasanjo’s second term Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, publicly admitted that corruption was destroying the economy of the country. But then she forgot that fighting corruption goes beyond lamentation or lip service. As long as there is impunity,
corruption will continue to thrive in Nigeria. Once the government lacks the courage to fight corrupt people because they are well connected, it losses credibility in the eyes of the citizens about its seriousness to fight graft.
The recovery of the stolen billions by the late General Sani Abacha appeared to be the main preoccupation of former President Obasanjo administration. In fact, even the former Jonathan administration was still talking about its efforts to recover the Abacha loot. Why only Abacha loot? The Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Haans Hodel at one point announced that his country had returned more than $700 million of Abacha loot to Nigeria. Converted into naira, this heavy cash
stands at N119 billion! Did these billions touch the lives of the ordinary Nigerians?
This money is big enough to deal with the challenges of education, good healthcare, poverty and unemployment in Nigeria. Yet, Nigerians cannot say precisely where the recovered Abacha loot was going all these years. Billions of dollars stolen by other Nigerian public office holders are still stashed away in foreign banks. The OBJ government had not told us anything about the recovery of these billions stolen by corrupt public office holders besides Abacha. Why is it that all the recovery efforts of looted funds were concentrated on the Abacha money? Did corruption stop in Nigeria with the death of Abacha?
According to the Washington based Global Integrity Group, a corruption monitoring watchdog, $129 billion was stolen and illegally transferred to foreign banks in ten years under Nigeria’s democratic rule since 1999. Corruption continued unabated and there appeared to be no real evidence that the government was enthusiastic about recovering billions stolen and kept abroad by other white collar criminals.
While there is no justification to defend the corruption under the Abacha regime, the perpetration of graft by governments that came after him is not defensible either. In fact, Nigerians should
apologise to Abacha because of the hypocrisy of the anti-corruption crusaders that came after him. Did corruption stop under Obasanjo? How many billions did his administration recover from other crooks that his billions of dollars abroad? Can Nigeria fight corruption with double standard?
In 1999, Obasanjo said Abacha had brought Nigeria to its knees because of corruption. And since then, has corruption stopped impeding the progress of Nigeria? This democracy has produced more corruption than ordinary Nigerians have ever known. Despite our return to democratic rule since 1999, our leaders were still not respected in the eyes of the international community. And corruption is the cause of this contempt towards our leaders. We have had enough of the noise over the recovery of the Abacha loot. Nigerians still want to know why the
billions being stolen and transferred abroad by other corrupt officials were not pursued with the enthusiasm by the Obasanjo administration.
Ahmed is of No. 78, Katsina Road Kaduna. Email: [email protected]