Who would have believed that the European Union would one day come out publicly to accept that massive corruption has been a serious problem in their individual governments and businesses in their countries since time immemorial?
Highlights of a research by the European Union (EU) Commission revealed that bribery and corruption at ‘breathtaking levels’ costs Europe’s economy 120 billion Euros (£100billion) every year and the rate keeps increasing.
Three-quarters of people across Europe felt corruption was widespread in their own country. Even in Britain, seventy percent of the people said ‘bribery and connections’ were often the easiest way to get the best out of public services.
The new study also revealed that over eighty percent of the people believe that close links between business and politics in their countries lead to corruption.
The report on the problem of corruption presented by the EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstroem said the true cost of corruption was “probably much higher” than the 120 billion Euros pegged.
Just as the pathetic situation we have here in Nigeria, the report said bribery is widespread in EU country governments and businesses and “the political commitment to really root out corruption seems to be missing.”
Comparative deductions from the EU’s Commission report show that Corruption risks are generally greater at local (LGAs) and regional (states) levels just as we have in the Nigerian situation.
Public procurement (public bodies buying goods and services) form about one-fifth of the EU’s total output (GDP) “and is vulnerable to corruption and so requires better controls and integrity standards.” This is not different from the problem we have here in Nigeria that necessitated the promulgation of the Public Procurement Act 2007/2008 and subsequent establishment of the Bureau for Public Procurement.
As said in the EU report, many shortcomings remain in financing of political parties. “Often codes of conduct are not tough enough and the existing rules on conflicts of interest are inadequately enforced.” Is this not the Nigerian situation?
Over half of the businesses surveyed by Eurobarometer, the assessment standard, described corruption as an obstacle to doing business in their countries. It was disclosed that “white-collar crimes like bribery and VAT (sales tax) fraud plague many EU countries,” just as we have in Nigeria.
An official of Transparency International in Brussels, Carl Dolan was quoted as saying, “Europe’s problem is not so much with small bribes on the whole. It’s with the ties between the political class and industry. There has been a failure to regulate politicians’ conflicts of interest in dealing with business.”
Despite all the smear campaigns to steer away from the real culprits, the sleaze in the nation’s oil sector was introduced and taken to a devilish height by two prominent (if not dominant) European operators in Nigeria’s Upstream oil sector. They are also critical partners in the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Project. These two European companies have been doing all sorts of terrible things in their operations to shortchange both the host communities and the Nigerian government in their joint venture relationships. The community crises across the oil producing areas of the Niger Delta were deliberately created predominantly by these two companies with the aim of weakening the community muscles to ask for their rights.
Till tomorrow, no single Nigerian either in the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) or National Petroleum Investment and Management Services (NAPIMS) can authoritatively say with any iota of exactness the volume of crude oil that actually leaves the three export terminals (Bonny, Brass and Forcados) operated by these two major European players in Nigeria. The amount this nation has lost to European oil thieves who are in joint venture with the NNPC is only better imagined.
All the propaganda about NNPC’s default in cash call payments was because few straightforward and honest-minded administrators of the nation’s oil sector at certain time started raising questions about the ever-increasing joint venture capital expenditures which these European operators spend unilaterally and turn around to ask for either outright refund or deductions from NNPC’s shares of produced crude oil. These operators would tell NNPC they used N300 million to build a six classroom block for a host community in the Niger Delta or N150 million for a water scheme which actually on ground is just one borehole that is not up to 50 metres deep and an overhead tank with five dispensing pumps. They would go and bring South American and Filipino okada and bicycle repairers and call them certified engineers all in attempt to defraud and siphon monies out of this country. And this is still going till tomorrow.
These are the same countries and peoples that have been teaching us how to fight corruption. No wonder the more our agencies (which we copied from them) try to fight corruption, the worse and more sophisticated the menace becomes.
Look at the two anti-graft institutions- Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) we copied from the European template. They are not only disabled, they were outrightly structured to fail and it was deliberate.
Do we need to be told in this country that the hottest spot in corruption and misuse of public funds is the government and public service? And funny enough, the two European-modeled anti-graft agencies- EFCC and NEITI were tied to the apron- string of government- the Presidency where they exist as units for breastfeeding (funding sustenance). So how does anybody expect any credible fight against corruption when the most corrupt ( at least as alleged) seat is where the two major anti-graft agencies go to beg for money for their operations (to fight corruption)?
This is the tragedy of copying templates that are not even working in areas where they were developed and until we change that mindset to begin to fashion home brand solutions to our domestic problems, way no way and go no go go o!
IFEANYI IZEZE is an Abuja-based Consultant and can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org; 234-8033043009)
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters