By Kamarudeen Ogundele and John Austin Unachukwu/The Nation
Former World Bank Vice President for Africa, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili yesterday said about $400 billion of Nigeria’s oil revenue has been stolen or mismanaged since independence in 1960.
Presenting a paper entitled “Corruption, National Development, The Bar and The Judiciary” at the ongoing 52nd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), she said oil accounts for 90 per cent of Nigeria’s export commodity.
The former education minister, however, lamented that over 80 per cent of the money ends up in the hands of one per cent of the population.
To check the trend, she opined that the fight against corruption and demand for good governance is a collective effort of government and citizens.
Her words: “in fact, results reveal that as much as 20 per cent of the entire capital expenditure will end up in private pockets annually. The negative effects of corruption is starkly demonstrated by the fact that based on current track record, Nigeria will miss all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target set in 2000 despite the richness of is 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 revealed large scale corruption in the petroleum sector especially but not limited to the management of the subsidy scheme by all the 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 private sector and fast engulfing the wider society. 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″ she declared.
Dr. Ezekwesili said one study by the World Bank indicted that a data modeling revealed that annual worldwide losses due to corruption amount to between one to four thousand US Dollars or 10 per cent 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 a major part, since we know the continent’s ranking on governance in the lower regions of the TI’s corruption perception index,” she added.
Ezekwesili also a one-time Minister of Solid Minerals Development, urged civil society organizations, the NBA, the judiciary and other stakeholders to play a significant role in making public budgeting more transparent and accountable and engage in the various stages of the budget process that can strengthen the oversight process and accountability in the use of public resources.
“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, 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 of you would rise into action and become the Remnant group that has always historically paid the price for the greatness. There is a price to be laid for the return of our Justice. So my last word is, “who among you is ready to let character be their destiny?
At the occasion, Mr. Lucius Nwosu (SAN) condemned the plans by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, to print N5000 notes, stating that it would only go ahead to increase corruption in the system.
According to him: “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 and quota system.
Also contributing to the debate, Prof Dakas S.J Dakas (SAN) said “I think that the impact of corruption on national development is beyond context because if the quantum of looted funds are repatriated, this country will go a long way. There are very many corrupt judges on the bench.
The challenge is for judges to take a look at themselves in the mirror to see if they lie if they like what they see, lawyers also need to take a look at themselves in the mirror as they are the conveyors of the bribes to the judges.
Joseph Oteh Executive Director Access to Justice said in spite of the increase in the salaries of judges, corruption in the judiciary has escalated.