Friday, July 30, 2010

Just weeks after announcing that the US plans to ban certain Nigerian officials from receiving travel visas, the country declared that it will seize the ill gotten wealth of Africa's 'leaders'. This warning was made by the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, at the African Union summit in Munyonyo, Uganga. According to Holder, the U.S. government will not allow its banks, or banks in the West to be safe havens for monies stolen from Africa's coffers. For a country like Nigeria that has lost billions to 'leaders' like the late Sani Abacha, and their family members who treat(ed) the national treasury as their own personal account, such information is good news. The less places there are that welcome such ill-gotten funds, the harder it will be for Africa's politicians to reap the rewards of their theft and effrontery. 

Nevertheless, one must wonder how exactly the US will determine which leaders should be the target of their anti-kleptocrat activism. Will the approach be applied equally or only to those not in favor? There is little question that leaders like Teodoro Nguema Obiang, a Minister and the son of Equitorial Guinea's President, are corrupt. And yet, he and others like him are granted visas to enter the United States and purchase majestic properties. The same goes for Nigeria's former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who reportedly bought at least one multi-million dollar home in the swanky Washington, DC suburbs. The house was actually raided by the FBI in 2005.

Unfortunately, it is a shame that the American government would even have to make such an announcement in the first place because once again, this creates an unhealthy relationship between that country and the nations of the African continent. Why must a foreign nation be involved in righting the wrongs of corruption millions of miles away? Why does a country like Nigeria need to depend on the UK to not only return looted millions, but also charge it's corrupt such as James Ibori? Why, in fact, are these very African nations not taking the necessary steps to curtail corruption and its devastating effects on Africans? This act by the US raises issues about neocolonialism (intended or unintended) in terms of the reinforcement of a parent-child relationship and bolsters what, at least in Nigeria, is an attitude where people expect others, or a divine being, to solve their problems for them. That in itself fosters a dependency that is unwise and will serve to keep African countries and African political/judicial/economic systems from achieving the maturity needed to deal with the challenges of today and those that will come.

And what will become of the seized funds? Considering the fact that many African governments are unfortunately negligent of their responsibility to uphold law, order and justice, would the money be returned to those same African governments? What exactly is Holder's, and as such, America's plan? Holder noted that he has "
assembled a team of prosecutors [to deal exclusively with this]" and undoubtedly, more information will emerge. Yet, it remains disappointing that African governments, as a whole, continue to underperform when it comes to tackling corruption, leaving the continent's people to suffer.

Please see the UN's Convention Against Corruption
Signatories to the treaty include Nigeria and many other African countries, but not Equitorial Guinea.

From The Archives:
- US Bans Nigerian Officials
- Amnesty For Nigeria's Corrupt
- Nigeria's 50th Birthday: Suspicious Budget Increase 
- Ibori: Ambush, Arrest & Arraignment
- Britain Returning Looted Millions To Nigeria
- Nigeria's Persisting Punishment Problem
- Nigeria's Punishment Problem 
- Crime & Punishment: The Nigerian Edition

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Beauty said...

"Unfortunately, it is a shame that the American government would even have to make such an announcement in the first place" is perhaps the reason we are all in Hell. It is the hypocrisy that has allowed Eric Holder to come out with the same old ineffective rhetoric. The actions are more effective than mere words. The US allows its rich, for example Michael Dell of Dell Inc to use a $100 million get out of jail free card to avoid jail time for fraud. On the other hand, the same technology companies continue to rape Africa with little bribes in order create jobs in America. Yet, our so called leaders, the same ones that do not know how high is high, continue to allow Africans abroad to be treated like trash while it is our hands that fed them in the first place. Excellent and timely blog. Perhaps the real debate can begin.

Mark A said...

There goes the USA again acting as the "world police"! They should just stop this or be quiet about it instead of making it headline news. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, S. Korea and now what?

RE - RecycledFrockery said...

sounds like Nigeria is getting the Jamaican treatment. all I can say is wowwww.

CodLiverOil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CodLiverOil said...

Nice piece.

Nigeria (and other African countries) can sound off about being independent for 50 years, but what do they have to show for it? Sadly, the answer is nothing, other than massive waste and gross ineptitude.

I guess America’s stance can be viewed as positive and should be welcomed (on one hand). But in the context of a self-respecting country, this would not be tolerated by some emerging nations such as Brazil, China or India for that matter (it would be viewed as meddling in their internal affairs, quite rightly so). But yet we as Africans will meekly accept it. This shows how submissive we are in this respect.

America passing this law, will simply mean that Africa’s corrupt elite will just take their money elsewhere like the Middle East, Dubai, East Asia, the Bahamas, France, etc, where no questions are asked. So it really doesn’t change much. Even now many northern governors hide their money in the Middle East, due to cultural and religious influences (whatever that means). I don’t see the people of the Gulf rushing to stash their money in Africa, their southern counterparts prefer Europe.

Even if all this money is returned, has Nigeria, or any other African nation set up the structures to ensure it is utilised properly? How can this money be monitored? What is there to prevent this money from disappearing overseas into the accounts of some other individuals who occupy government positions?

You correctly pointed out, that African governments have shown themselves to be to date to be thoroughly unwilling and incapable of combating corruption effectively, and as such its people’s continue to suffer and be looked down upon and patronised. Nigeria is as addicted to corruption as an alcoholic is to liquor. Until the time, when people take corruption seriously and push for proper law enforcement, probity and accountability, life will continue to be harsh and difficult. When Nigerians decide to wake up and get serious then there will be no need for America or anyone else to take these measures.

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