Monday, July 19, 2010

Nigeria has lost trillions to graft over the years. As such, it is no surprise that on most key indicators the country ranks low. From child mortality rates to life expectancy, the country has much ground to cover. Despite this reality, many argue that those who have stolen public funds should receive a pardon. Others have advocated that it may be better to forgive these thieves and move on. Keeping with that line of thinking, the head of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Muhammad Nadada Umar, proposed amnesty for Nigeria's corrupt. Specifically, Umar wants to give these individuals a six month period during which they can return stolen funds. He then went on to state that the returned money could be invested in his agency where it could earn about 3%.

Nigeria has spent years combating corruption The most significant incarnation of an anti-corruption campaign involved the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which, according to its chief, has recovered $6.5 billion. However, the works of the EFCC and other government organizations created with a similar purpose has hardly scratched the surface. This is illustrated by the many international  court cases against foreign nationals and corporations that engaged in corrupt business practices while in Nigeria. The grand irony is that the Nigerian beneficiaries of these corrupt conspiracies are yet to be truly challenged by Nigerian authorities.

Given the lack of progress, corruption-amnesty suggestions and other similar proposals are possible alternatives to addressing the endemic problem of national corruption. But, will the application of these tactics produce any measurable benefits?

The only other amnesty agreement in Nigeria's recent history would be the amnesty granted to militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta. After attacks on pipelines, kidnappings and other violence contributed to a significant drop in oil production and profits, late President Yar'Adua created an amnesty program that would pay militants to disarm. Among other things, the agreement budgeted money to educate militants and provide work training. The agreement reportedly led to an increase in oil production. Unfortunately, paying militants to shun be violent is unsustainable and the region would likely be better off with development in the form of hospitals, schools and infrastructure. Also, although there is reportedly less militant-driven violence against oil installations, there remains the problem of insufficient electricity generation and supply, which, however, the current administration is working to solve. After 10 months of amnesty, the overwhelming beneficiaries appear to be the international oil companies, militants and the government.

Notwithstanding the fact that the benefits of the Niger Delta amnesty are yet to trickle down to the larger population, simply dismissing a corruption-amnesty approach without further consideration would be foolhardy. It is possible that given the right conditions, those that stole billions would be convinced to return some, if not all, of their ill-gotten wealth. If the country experienced a period of truth and reconciliation or if the nation's looters were made to face the families directly affected by their theft, maybe money would be returned.  And, if used properly, this money could improve living conditions for many.

And yet, there is the probability that simply 'forgiving' those whose greed correlates to Nigeria's poverty could backfire. Assuming that anyone returns any stolen money, would the amnesty process be worth the time, effort and expense given the amounts returned? And, what if no looters return any money? There is also the question of whether such an amnesty would not reinforce Nigeria's already dire Punishment Problem whereby the rich and connected can avoid the most severe consequences of the law. This possibility would be extremely dangerous and would likely lead Nigeria right back to where it is right now: a country with a serious corruption problem that is not doing enough to solve it.

The granting of amnesty, as a concept, is technically not unsavory. However, in the Nigerian context and especially when corruption is involved, amnesty might not suffice as a solution to graft and it's consequences. Plus, such an arrangement could send the wrong message and even create more problems to deal with. But, future versions of this and similar proposals could be more convincing. And, they might prove to be a useful method to limit corruption's devastating effects on Nigerians. Until that day comes, investigating corrupt individuals, charging them in court, recovering stolen monies and investing in Nigeria's future is the most reasonable way to deal with corruption.

From the Archives:
- Niger Delta Amnesty: Dividends?
- Nigeria's Oil Revenue Cut In Half
- Nigeria's Oil Expiration Date Draws Near
- MEND Attacks In Lagos
- Nigeria's Oil War - A Distraction?
- War In the Niger Delta
- No Longer King of African Crude?
- The Global Food Crises, Nigeria & MEND
- Port Harcourt & Nigeria Under Siege
- Is Nigeria A Breeding Ground for Terrorism?

8 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

boma Tai-Osagbemi said...

em i think a clause to the amnesty should be that the "amnestie" should never run for office again.


@ Boma: I definitely agree. How are things?

Anonymous said...

I would rather see them pay the money back with interest and do some jail time. After they lived it up while people suffered as a result and then they just hand back what they stole but continue to live with the benefits created by their initial theft? Yea, not really into that idea, but the most important thing obviously is that Nigeria get back on track - however they do it.

tooth whitening said...

Its true,the northerners are looting nigeria,and i say kudos to mend's bravely. nigeria should be decentralized.

Beauty said...

The IEA recently announced that China has overtaken the US as the world´s biggest user of energy (polluter and of course the Chinese are not happy). My point, the raw materials for all that energy that is said to double in the next decade has to come from somewhere. Nigeria has a good chunk of the supplier side of that equation is a reason to let those that stole from us choke on their dirty money.

Our problem has moved on from the stolen trash because we can afford it. The future $1Bn per day that they are planning to steal should be our only concern. Don´t get it? Just watch this space in 10 years from today. All our so-called respected leaders in any function today are simply cheap pimps trying to get all they can while they can.

Muhammad Nadada Umar, proposed amnesty for Nigeria's corrupt is in the right direction because, the wool is being pulled over our faces on yesterday´s common thieves while the new ones are robbing us blind. Fly around the country and show me the infrastructure that is new and sustainable over the past 10 years is all the evidence required. It is a shame we are not protecting the future as we chase our known fools. Shagari to OBJ and these new lot are all the same idiots that do not know about tomorrow.


@ 'tooth whitening': "The northerners are looting Nigeria"? I must say I disagree very strongly with such sentiment.

NIGERIANS are looting Nigeria. No more, no less. TO lay the nation's problems at the feet of one group without acknowledging the overt and complacent participation of the entire nation (regardless of tribe, religion, sex etc) is dangerous.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, nonetheless.

PS: I notice that many 'random folks' are spamming the site to take advantage of its PR rating. I encourage all those who do not leave relevant message to stop, as I simply end up deleting them.

Off to continue deletions...


@ Beauty: when you make such an argument it is hard to disagree. Nigeria could possibly afford all teh looted money but only if it got its act together. Unfortunately, I am yet to be convinced that it has. Thus, if the same type of people who looted are currently in power and will be, then the failure to bring former looters to justice will only encourage the current and the future ones, you correctly note, to do the same no?

That is my concern. That being said, I definitely think we need to 'protect the future' but how can we do that without addressing the past?

Beauty said...

Dear S, our past was stolen by our so called heros (mainly men), just look at the mess we have today. While no official figures exist, Standard Bank estimates Nigeria has made $6 trillion in oil revenue over the last 50 years. How do we deal with that? The same old rubbish is a reason we need to begin doing things differently. Including, killing our past in order to protect our future. We cannot have it all. How do we help our people suffer a little less? Chasing the petty thieves that have pissed away a few billion dollars or focusing on saving the future many trillions?

The International Energy Agency says Nigeria holds 37 billion barrels of reserve oil, dwarfing that of Norway which has just 6 billion. You are correct to say, we are yet to get our act together. Those in power today are our future nightmare for they have already positioned themselves to loot our future just like those that came before them. So the questions are. Should we go after those old thieves or focus on those at it today? Who is doing the chasing of the looters anyway? How transparent are those actions?

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