Corruption is an issue many African countries are faced with. In an effort to counter the problem, some African governments reach out to their non-African counterparts for help. Specifically, they seek agreements that will prevent some of their citizens from traveling and enjoying the benefits of being abroad. Nigeria's President Jonathan made such a request during an April visit to the United States and now, the US government is creating a lost of Nigerians banned from entry into that country. This act of having foreign governments ban Nigerians is complicated and raises concerns over what seems to be a need to have someone else save Nigeria and solve Nigeria's issues.
The list stems from the Corruption Proclamation 7750 which allows the US government to suspend and prevent entry of foreigners engaged in or benefiting from corruption. The law was initiated by former President George W. Bush and renewed by current President Obama. Corruption Proclamation 7750 was used to ban former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, and his entire family, from entering the U.S. in 2006.
This new American list includes politicians believed to be "undermining the growth of democracy and acts designed to hinder the strengthening of democratic institutions in Nigeria." One Nigerian known to be on the list is former Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa. His American visa was revoked in the first week of July in 2010. Allegedly, senior assistants and aides to late President Yar'Adua, Governors, Ministers, and the heads of agencies will be added to the list as well. And, more names will be added to the list as the US government awaits the results of cases against Nigerians charged with corruption.
WHY THE BAN MAKES SENSE
Between 1970 and 2008, Nigeria reportedly lost $89.5 billion in public funds which were stolen by various officials. Corrupt officials have luxury apartments in the United Kingdom, America, South Africa and elsewhere. Many of these individuals have taken their ill gotten wealth and parked it abroad. Hence, although these officials live in Nigeria, their foreign assets allow them to enjoy the benefits of their foreign domiciles while they fail to honor their duty to develop the country for which they are responsible.
And because of the unfortunate realities in Nigeria, such individuals have evaded any form of punishment at home. Nigeria's 'Punishment Problem' means that the corrupt can use their connections and money to prevent and thwart legal consequences. As a result, Nigeria is forced to rely on foreign governments to not only find stolen monies but retrieve looted public funds and even find justice. Such was the case with James Ibori, a former governor of oil rich Delta state. Although Ibori's UK assets were frozen, a 170 count case against him in a Nigerian court was dismissed. Once there was a President-change in Nigeria, he went into hiding, fled to Ghana and somehow was arrested in Dubai where he awaits extradition to the UK, and not necessarily Nigeria. When one considers the near-impossible mission of retrieving stolen loot and punishing rich offenders in Nigeria, it becomes easy to understand why the efforts such as America's ban on allegedly corrupt officials is welcome news to many Nigerians and others across the African continent.
WHY THE BAN IS PROBLEMATIC
Unfortunately, this solution to corruption, having foreign governments limit the travels of Nigerian officials, raises an issue that Nigeria refuses to tackle. In my opinion, Nigerians have a preponderance to wait for a 'savior' to solve their problems. It is very common to hear Nigerians talk about "when a good leader comes" or "if only (fill in the blank with a Western country of your choice) will help". That "wait for a savior" attitude diminishes the fact that for whatever problems Nigeria faces, it is Nigerians themselves that must create solutions. As such, this ban, and others like it only fuel that expectation that someone other than the average Nigerian can make things better. That way of thinking is extremely dangerous and lends itself to the colonial notions that kept Nigerians and others trapped in servitude and continues to keep Nigerians trapped in supplication to domestic tyrants. In the short term and long term, such an attitude will encourage dependency that could prove problematic.
Nigerians and the Nigerian government cannot continue to wait for assistance from a foreign government or body when it comes to tackling the nation's many issues. Nigeria has the third highest tuberculosis rate in the world. The country also has the highest number of internationally displaced persons with many more doing everything within their means to leave. A high unemployment rate, inadequate infrastructure and poverty levels that are unconscionable given the country's resources, only highlight the immediate need for Nigerian solutions to Nigerian problems. After all, foreign assistance can go but so far without concrete domestic efforts to tackle the issues. And, for years, many have come with non-Nigerian solutions that have failed to produce long-term results. Instead, Nigerians, who for years have offered reasonable solutions on a big and small scale, have been rejected, chased away and even killed because their suggestions would interfere with the corrupt practices of certain leaders and their peers who benefit from the status quo. There must be a preference for locally created solutions to the country's benefit and not an absolute reliance on foreign solutions that oftentimes profit of the few.
It goes beyond saying that Nigeria has many complicated problems that need addressing, and it is obvious that dealing with these issues will take time. However, Nigerians must face the challenges that are their country and face them head on. The country cannot continue to depend on foreign intervention and assistance that could create problems down the line. While this list banning corrupt officials and their families from the US is a short term solution, a long term approach to improving the country is key. Without it, no matter of help from abroad will prove useful.
From The Archives:
- Nigeria's 50th Birthday: Suspicious Budget Increase
- Ibori: Ambush, Arrest & Arraignment
- Britain Returning Looted Millions To Nigeria
- Ibori: Case Dismissed
- Nigeria's Persisting Punishment Problem
- Nigeria's Punishment Problem
- Crime & Punishment: The Nigerian Edition