By Femi Falana (SAN)*
The World Bank has just issued a damning report which claimed that 80% of Nigerian businesses offer government officials bribe to facilitate deals. While recognising that Nigeria remains the most attractive investment destination in África the report noted the high proclivity for bribery and corruption among Nigerian businesses. Although the report may be an understatement of the rate of endemic corruption in Nigeria the World Bank has failed to trace the root cause of the menace. Hence the Bank is not prepared to suggest measures that can arrest the growing wave of corruption in the country.
No doubt, there was corruption in Nigeria up to the 1980s. But it was not so prevalent at the time because the State funded the welfare of the majority of the people, provided social services at affordable costs and created jobs for the unemployed. Education was virtually free while health services were affordable. The Naira was higher than the United states dollar in the foreign exchange market. Although it was a neo-colonial capitalist economy which enriched a few at the expense of the nation there were some safety nets for the masses. The Nigerian Government placed emphasis on the building of an egalitarian society in line with the extended family system of the African people.
However, the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme which was instigated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund ruined the Nigerian economy completely and destroyed the morality of the society. With retrenchment of workers, abolition of marketing boards, commercialisation of social services, sale of the assets of the nation, trade liberalisation, currency devaluation and other dangerous components of SAP mass poverty bacame the order of the day. The middle class was wiped out while the manufacturing sector became extinct. In the process corruption became the directive principle of state policy under the Ibrahim Babangida junta. Successive regimes have since then consolidated on official corruption.
Apart from condemning corruption the World Bank and Western Governments including the Barrack Obama Administration have continued to insult the African people on the issue of corruption. Stolen wealth from Nigeria and other third world countries to the tune of over a trillion dollars is received and kept in the vaults of western banks in violation of the provisions of the United Nations’ Convention Against Corruption. For instance, the British judge who jailed Chief James Ibori, ex-governor of Delta State made racist remarks as if Africans are congenitally corrupt. But the British banks and mortgage institutions which facilitated the pauperization of the people of Delta state through money laundering and fraud by Chief Ibori were not sanctioned. Was the governor of Illinois, Mr Rod Blagojevich not jailed for selling Barrack Obama’s senate seat in Chicago? Has the World Bank held the American Government vicariously responsible for the criminality of its officials?
With respect to corruption in Nigeria why has the World Bank not condemned foreign companies like Halliburton, Wilbros, Siemens, Julius Berger and others which have been indicted and penalised for perpetrating for large scale corruption in Nigeria? The NEITI has just disclosed that foreign oil compnies have duped Nigeria to the tune of over $2 billion. Instead of assisting Nigeria to recover such huge fund the World Bank would prefer to package jumbo loans for the Federal Government with fraudulent conditionalities. Why has the World Bank not supported the current Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina who is determined to arrest the reckless importation of food at billions of dollars per annum?
Let the World Bank stop writing hypocritical reports on corruption emanating from the neo liberal policies being sheepishly implemented by the Federal and state governments at its own behest. Let the Goodluck Jonathan Administration be told that no Government which operates an economy on the basis of market fundamentalism can curb corruption. This is the basis of the virtual collapse of the economy of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain (the “PIGS”) which has defied the prescriptions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
*Source businessnews.com.ng. Femi Falana is a leading human rights and democracy activist in Nigeria .He is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN.