By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—Erstwhile Vice President of the World Bank for Africa, Dr Oby Ezekwesili,Tuesday, said Nigeria has lost more than $400 billion to oil thieves since she attained independence in 1960.
Ezekwesili, who further regretted that as much as 20 percent of the entire budget for capital expenditure in Nigeria ended in private pockets annually, noted that whereas oil accounts for about 90 percent of the value of Nigeria’s exports, over 80 percent of the fund ends up in the hands of one percent of the country’s population.
The former Minister of Education who made these startling revelations in a paper she presented at the ongoing 52nd Annual General Meeting, AGM, of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Abuja, stressed that “poor governance of public resources and assets in Nigeria is worsening at every level of government.”
Part of her speech entitled “Corruption, National Development, The Bar and The Judiciary,” reads, “the negative effects of corruption is starkly demonstrated by the fact that based on current track record, Nigeria will miss the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, target set in 2000 despite the richness of its natural and human resource endowments.
“There is no doubt that at the heart of any progress towards meeting these goals is the quality of governance at all levels of government and yet the general perception since validated by the revealed large scale corruption in the petroleum sector especially but not limited to the management of the subsidy scheme by relevant agencies of government is that there is poor governance of public resources and assets in Nigeria at every level of government.
“Poor governance of public resources and assets in Nigeria is worsening at every level of government, across our institutions of state. The other and perhaps more significant way corruption hurts is its impact on the government bottom line and those teacher-less, desk-less schools only hint at the extent of the problem in Nigeria. An estimated $400 billion of the country’s oil revenue has been stolen or misspent since the country’s independence in 1960.”
According to her, “in one study by my former institution the World Bank, a data modeling revealed that annual worldwide losses due to corruption amount to between one to four thousand US Dollars or two percent of the world’s gross economic output. The Global Financial Integrity estimated that between 1970 and 2008 Africa lost more than $854 billion in illicit financial outflows, an amount which is far in excess of official development inflows.
“Another report of the Transparency International, TI, put the amount of bribes companies paid politicians and other public officials in developing and transiting economies annually at $ 40 billion in 2009 and consider that Africa would constitute major part of”.
Nevertheless, Ezekwesili, noted that civil society organizations and umbrella bodies like the NBA, the judiciary, could play a significant role towards making public budgeting more transparent and accountable by engaging in the various stages of the budget process with a view to strengthening the oversight process and accountability in the use of public resources.
She said: “An independent Judiciary and the Bar is important for preserving the rule of law and is, therefore, most important facet of good governance. The judicial system has an important role to play ultimately in ensuring better public governance. There is no area where the judgment of the Supreme Court has not played a significant role in the good governance of any nation whether in environment, human rights, gender justice, education, minorities, and police reforms, among other.
“Nigerians are at once disappointed and worried for your profession and the entire justice system, the rule of law one of the most significant characteristics of good governance prevails because India has an independent judiciary that has been sustained because of the support and assistance from an independent Bar which has been fearless in advocating the cause of the underprivileged, the deprived”.
“Something tells me that some if you would rise into action and become the Remnant group that has always historically paid the price for the greatness if the multitude. There is a price to be laid for the return of our Lady Justice. So my last words are, “who among you is ready to let character be their destiny? Count me in should need a slightly learned friend.”
Meantime, lawyers yesterday took a swipe at the proposed introduction on N5000 notes, saying it would further worsen the level of corruption and money laundering plaguing the country.
In his speech at the occasion, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr Lucius Nwosu, condemned the planned action of the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, saying the fact that he even thought of introducing such currency was sacrilegious.
He said: “We intend to look at those professions that have been responsible for the rot in the system, our justice system has broken down it broke down not because there are no laws guiding them but it broke down because of greed, quota system members of the judiciary are now competing with businessmen to buy hummer jeeps they lobby to get to the Court of Appeal promote them to the Supreme court they will refuse more lawyers make more money from election petition.
“The plan by the CBN to print 5000 notes will only escalate corruption in the country, it is sacrilegious for the CBN Governor to say they are going to use N300 billion to print the new notes, the average appeal takes five years most of the litigants die before their cases are discharged we lost Bakkasi not because it was not part of Nigeria but because of the greed of Nigerian lawyers who sell their country for money. We have already mortgaged ourselves to mediocrity, tribal sentiments, greed and avarice and we had gone ahead to enact stupid laws that gives foreign oil firms rights to our lands stupid laws engenders corruption which is why the pipelines are broken.”