Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has faulted President Goodluck Jonathan over his statement yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to the effect that “corruption was not the cause of all the problems confronting Africa.”
The president had said that, “In terms of security, Boko Haram is the biggest challenge we have at the moment.”
In response, SERAP in a statement today signed by its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said that, “the statement by the president shows clearly that this government has not come to term with the reality of massive corruption at the highest level of government, and the devastation and suffering it has caused millions of innocent Nigerians.”
The organization said that, “The evidence of corruption and underdevelopment is staring this government in the face. Staying silent or simply wishing the problem away cannot be the way forward. What more will it take to convince the president that corruption is this country’s biggest problem, and that effective action is urgently required to end it, and address impunity of perpetrators?
“Hospitals without drugs, bad roads, poor electricity supply, contaminated and undrinkable water, collapsed educational system alone provide strong evidence of the devastation that missing $400 billion of public funds have done to this country. That this amount is missing has been confirmed by both the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes and House of Representatives reports,” the organization said.
The organization said that, “These indicators of bad governance and mismanagement of the country’s natural wealth and resources should serve as proof of the need for this government to put the fight against corruption at the very top of its agenda.”
The group said that, “Anyone with a simple knowledge of this country will know that the root cause of insecurity and Boko Haram is the decades of corruption and impunity of perpetrators, and failure of successive governments to provide quality education to Nigerian children. The damage that corruption has done to this country is nearly impossible to describe.”
“What millions of suffering Nigerians need from this government is a clear commitment to recover the over $400 billion missing public funds and to spend this to achieve sustainable development and respect for basic socio-economic rights of Nigerians.”
President Goodluck Jonathan has described the activities of the Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram as the biggest headache of his government.“In terms of security, Boko Haram is the biggest challenge we have at the moment,” the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati had quoted the President.Jonathan spoke during a televised debate entitled, “Africa’s Next Billion,” held at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.His statement was however contained in a snippet of the debate posted by Abati, on his Twitter handle.President Jonathan in the statement said it was wrong for anybody to say that corruption was the cause of all the problems confronting Africa.“Everything that does not happen the way it should in Africa, people say corruption is the answer. I don’t agree,” Abati quoted Jonathan as saying.The President also reportedly told the gathering that the power sector privatisation carried out by his administration was already yielding positive fruits.He claimed that Nigerians had started witnessing increased electricity supply within a short period.In the full statement, which Abati later made available to journalists, the presidential spokesman quoted Jonathan as calling on all stakeholders in the continent to continue to work for greater security and political stability, which he described as prerequisite for sustained socio-economic development.“Security and political stability are key to development. Investors will not come to any country that is insecure or politically unstable. Happily, many African countries now enjoy political stability. It is a major reason for the positive economic growth rates, which we are now witnessing on the continent and we must continue to do our best to maintain and expand the frontiers of political stability on our continent,” Jonathan said.He said, “Economic inclusion is very important and we are already taking necessary steps to improve
financial inclusion in our country. Transforming our agricultural sector is one way in which we are doing so.“We are doing all that we can to transform agriculture in Nigeria into a much more productive and job creating sector. We are also working to create more inclusive wealth through better education, skills acquisition programmes and policies that encourage the addition of value to our primary products before exportation.”
Minister of Finance and Supervising Minister of the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday, said Nigeria’s economy is under threat, following the continuous decline in its Excess Crude Account.
Speaking in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Okonjo-Iweala said the depletion of the Excess Crude Account to about $2.5 billion, has made the country more vulnerable than it was in the past and put the economy of the country at great risk.
As a cushion against the depletion, she said, “We have tried to set the country’s main parameters in a very modest way. We have made our budget at a very reasonable benchmark price for oil.
“This is to shield us and to ensure we are not subjected to any volatility there may be in the oil markets.”
Okonjo-Iweala predicted a 6.75 per cent expansion in Nigeria’s economy this year, compared to a growth of 6.5 per cent in 2013, adding, however, that increased growth has also fuelled rising inequality in the country over the years.
She said: “In Nigeria we are growing very fast, but that growth has come with increasing inequality and lack of inclusion of certain segments of the population.”
The Excess Crude Account has been depleted from $8.65 billion at the end of 2012 to $2.5 billion currently, while Nigeria’s external reserves dropped 11 per cent from last year’s peak of $48.85 billion, recorded in May.
The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had on Tuesday, after its bi-monthly meeting, expressed concerns over the depleting fund, saying that the absence of such fiscal buffers increases our reliance on portfolio flows thus, constituting the principal risk to exchange rate stability, especially with uncertainties around capital flows and oil price.”
Mr. Sanusi Lamido, Governor of the CBN, who read out the communiqué of the meeting, decried the continuous fall in revenue from oil despite stable price of oil and production in 2013, adding that although the committee acknowledged output losses due to theft and vandalism, this could not wholly explain the magnitude of the shortfall in revenue.
He said, “As a consequence, accretion to external reserves remained low while much of the previous savings have been depleted, thereby undermining the ability of the Central Bank to sustain exchange rate stability.”
The CBN, therefore, urged the fiscal authorities to block revenue leakages and rebuild fiscal savings needed to sustain confidence and preserve the value of the naira.
The Swiss banking industry is slowly but surely abandoning its legacy of guarding the secrecy of customer accounts.
As many as 40 of the country’s approximately 300 banks have said they would voluntarily turn over client information to the U.S. Department of Justice in return for immunity from prosecution for helping Americans evade taxes, reports USA Today.
The Justice Department set a deadline of Dec. 31 for the banks to take deals protecting them from prosecution in exchange for handing out Americans’ account information.
“What’s really clear is that this [Justice] program is at the limit of what is tolerable for banks in Switzerland,” Sindy Schmiegel of the Swiss Bankers Association in Basel told the newspaper.
The effort is part of a government crackdown on tax evaders and overseas banks that heated up in 2009 after UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, agreed to a $780 million settlement for concealing identities and assets from the IRS.
The Justice Department is currently investigating 14 major Swiss financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Julius Baer, and the Swiss arm of HSBC, for shielding U.S. tax evaders, and many leading banks that are not yet being probed have been urging wealthy clients to turn themselves in to the tax man, Politico reported last month.
“The banks have every incentive to shove their American clients into compliance in order to reduce the penalties,” tax attorney Jeff Neiman, who prosecuted UBS for the U.S. government, told the publication.
Politico cited three letters from Swiss banks to U.S. clients urging them to come clean.
“Your account information may be subject to a treaty request from the United States to the Swiss Federal Tax Administration, which may result in your account information being turned over to the DOJ or IRS,” warned one letter sent by Corner Bank.
Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum taking place this week at Davos, Switzerland, will reportedly hold a forum dedicated to how the country’s banking industry can reinvent itself in the absence of banking secrecy.
“Swiss bankers accept that they are living in a new reality,” Bruno Patusi, head of wealth and asset management at Zurich-based financial services firm EY, told USA Today.
“But we will only see a change in certain areas. Confidentiality is still extremely important. It is true that we are seeing assets flow out [of Switzerland], but that’s partly because the next generation is more interested in spending than saving.”
This figure is contained in the details of the 2014 budget breakdown, which states that N7 billion is to be spent on the national dialogue.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on January 18, 2005, requested the approval of N932 million to fund a three-month National Political Reform Conference scheduled to begin mid-February of the same year.
In the breakdown, Obasanjo said delegates would earn N21.68million as sitting allowance and N650. 25 million as allowances in lieu of accommodation.
Also included was N1.7million for return tickets from London, Washington, Beijing and Johannesburg, in addition to N28,800 for return flights to Abuja for the inaugural session and subsequent conference meetings.
Delegates, he noted, would be given N14,400 for airport taxi and local transportation within Abuja. There was provision for, at least, two CVU long wheel cars to be hired and fuelled at N2.9 million.
However, in the case of the Dr. Jonathan administration’s national dialogue, there is no breakdown of how the N 7 billion will be spent.
Besides, N4 billion is to be spent on hosting the WEF in Abuja.
These figures are captured under the Service Wide Vote of the Federal Ministry of Finance for 2014, with other expenses submitted for appropriation to the National Assembly. They include N35,409,859,962 to fund the presidential amnesty programme for the reintegration of transformed ex-militants; N546,300,000 for the presidential amnesty programme for the reintegration/transition safety allowances for 3,642 ex-militants (third phase) and N3,699,933,814 as operational cost for the programme.
Besides, the fund allocated to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections, N21 billion is voted by the Ministry under its service wide vote for election logistics support. There is also N7 billion proposal for payment of outsourced services.
Under the miscellaneous heading of the ministry’s service wide vote in 2014, N27.5 billion is proposed to be spent on unexplained contingency funding; N5,149,600,000 is set aside for adjustments to the recurrent budget and N5 billion for capital cost adjustments.
The capital expenditure of the ministry’s service wide vote is estimated to cost N433,584,612357. From this amount, N100 billion will go to finance constituency projects for legislators of the National Assembly; N62.8 billion for special intervention; N8 billion for national job creation scheme; N30 billion for the sinking fund for infrastructural development; N14 billion for Nigeria Electricity Liability Management Company (NELMCO) and N16 billion for the bulk trader.
In the budget, N5 billion is budgeted to be spent on “2011 election violence and civil disturbance (damage done to public property and places of worship) and N12.6 billion on special intervention Millennium Development Goals (MDGs 1 and 2).
About N10 billion is to be returned to a special account (not specified) and another N10 billion to fund the Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO) under the electricity provision programme. The government, through the ministry is asking for N25 billion to pay off maturing domestic bonds and N5 billion for payment of local contractors’ debts; N16 billion for Development Finance Institution (DFI) and N4,060,000,000 to fund galaxy backbone infrastructure.
“I love to tell stories,” declares 2010 alumna Deborah Ahenkorah.
And as the founder and executive director of Golden Baobab, an organization that awards three annual prizes to the best authors and illustrators on the African continent, she has a powerful story to tell—one of disappointment, faith and grace.
A Childhood of Books
Deborah’s life has always been full of stories. As a child growing up in Ghana, she read everything she could get her hands on, from Bible stories to Nancy Drew mysteries to romance novels to Christian fiction.
“I had a very intimate relationship with books,” she says. “In reading I got to go on all these journeys by myself in my own imagination. … My head was such an interesting place to go back to.”
But books weren’t just interesting to her; they also encouraged her to trust Jesus more deeply. Though she grew up going to church and having strong faith modeled to her by her mom, being a Christian didn’t seem very cool to her as a child and middle schooler.
But in Christian books that she read, “the authors would talk about the deep peace people would have when they came to faith,” she explains. “That made me yearn for some of that.” She began to embrace and press into her faith in new ways.
Becoming a Leader
Upon arrival at Bryn Mawr College, an all-female campus in Pennsylvania, she knew she wanted to be part of a Christian community. At the recommendation of a friend, she joined InterVarsity.
“A lot of my Christian growth has been around community,” she reflects. “The InterVarsity women I met as a freshman were these older women who were so beautiful and so happy and so real who loved God. … To see their life experience and have them share about it drew me into a very trusting family that I benefitted so much from.”
As a lover of books, Deborah was delighted not just with her mentors in InterVarsity, but also with one of its central activities: manuscript Bible study. In her words, “it was incredible.” She invited several friends to chapter camp her junior year, and started a Bible study called BOYL: Bible Study of Your Life.
“BOYL gave us a space where we could take our friendship to a deeper level,” she says. It also took Deborah to a higher level of leadership and growth in her faith. “I started as a member—being cared for and shepherded,” she says. “Then, as a leader, I became the one to care for and shepherd others.”
Golden Baobab Is Born
Those leadership skills served Deborah well in other arenas. While at Bryn Mawr, she started a student organization that collected donated books and sent them to various African countries. She realized, though, that virtually all the books they were sending were Western books—the same books she had grown up with. So she took her organization a step further, starting a literature prize, the Golden Baobab Prize, to encourage African writers to write children’s books.
By the time her senior year of college arrived, Deborah strongly sensed God’s leading to focus on developing Golden Baobab as a full-fledged, ongoing organization. She had no idea what a test of faith that process would be.
The first priority was finding funding, so she spent much of her senior year applying for a large grant that seemed like a perfect fit to fund Golden Baobab. “I believed I had God on my side,” she recalls, “and I thought I aced the interview for the grant.” But she ended up not even making the cut to the second round. “That was a very big blow to my faith,” she says.
Having always been taught that if she worked hard enough at anything she’d get it, she couldn’t understand how she could have worked so hard and sensed God’s leading so strongly but still be rejected for the grant. “I didn’t even know what to say to God for a while; I decided that the voice I thought had been His must not have been.”
With graduation approaching, she began sending out applications for jobs, but nobody called her back. She also kept applying for grants. In the end, she received three grants for Golden Baobab that, together, came to about the same amount of money as the first grant she’d applied for. And the circumstances of these three grants allowed her to go home to Ghana after graduation, which would have been impossible if she had won the first grant.
“It was a very interesting faith journey,” she recalls. “My faith took the harshest battering, and out of nowhere came a better solution than the one before. I was happy … but it was difficult for me to go back to fully believing in God’s sovereignty.”
With her faith still a bit shaky, she returned to Ghana to learn more about the children’s literature industry and to continue to raise funds for Golden Baobab. She found out about another huge grant—three days before the deadline.
“I applied to be respectful [to the friend who had told me about it],” she says. But it felt like a joke to her even to apply, as she’d be competing against people who’d spent months working on the application. “I sent it in and completely closed my mind,” she says. “There was no way I was going to get it.”
After each round of cuts—from 3,000 applicants to 200 to 22—she was still a contender, despite her unbelief and comparative lack of preparedness for each stage. Hope but also fear of being disappointed battled inside her.
“Being in the top 20 was battering to my unbelief,” she says. “I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go back to not believing, because [making it that far] was certainly not me. I was competing against lawyers and business graduates—people who were top dogs.”
The phone call that informed her she was the winner of the grant was cause for rejoicing—but, she says, “that left me even more confused. I hadn’t believed enough, and it wasn’t my capabilities [that won me the grant]. It was sheer grace. And I didn’t know what to do with grace.”
Changing the Face of African Literature
Now, several years into Golden Baobab’s life, Deborah continues to see God’s grace at work, providing what she needs to persevere and overcome obstacles. Twelve Golden Baobab Prizes have been awarded since 2009 for the best stories in three categories: best story for ages 8–11 (Junior Category), best story for ages 12–15 (Senior Category), and Rising Writer (a writer who’s 18 years old or younger).
Stories that have been submitted range in genre from African sci-fi to African retellings of traditional fairy tales. Winners are connected to literary agents and publishers who can help turn their stories into actual books.
Though the work is hard and the days are long, Deborah loves that she’s helping artists—writers and illustrators—live out their dreams of being published. And she loves that children all over Africa are experiencing the power and beauty of stories told from their own cultural framework.
“Books give you the power to feel so many different things out of your own imagination … and to be the director of what happens in your own head,” she says. “So many children in Africa … have never had choices. But in books, they can; they can transport themselves wherever they please based on the book they choose. … That can be very special.”
Deborah still draws on the lessons of faith she learned early in Golden Baobab’s existence. “So much of myself has gone into this,” she says, “but I recognize that so much of it could disappear. … I don’t have any control, essentially. I have to work on faith every day, believing that … God is sovereign, and that he will make things work out by his will and by his grace.”
For this lover of stories, that one—the ongoing story of faith and grace God’s been writing in her life, from childhood books to InterVarsity to helping others realize their dreams through Golden Baobab—may turn out to be her favorite one of all.
LA Times Columnist, Joel Brinkley (pictured above) wrote that Nigeria is the most corrupt country in the world and feels president Goodluck Jonathan should be impeached. He wrote an article titled Nigeria’s Squandered Opportunity on Friday March 22nd. See it below…
Just outside President Goodluck Jonathan’s office sat 17 ambulances, just in case he or one of his aides fell ill. They were seldom if ever used.
No actual health-care facility nationwide had as many, and in fact a few still have none at all. But as soon as a Nigerian newspaper took a photo of the ambulances and published a story about them, they suddenly disappeared — probably to an underground garage.
Jonathan is president of Nigeria, which should be among the world’s most prosperous nations. After all, it produces an estimated 2.4 million barrels of oil each and every day. With oil now selling at $93.61 a barrel, that’s $224 million in income daily. And yet many hospitals can’t afford to buy an ambulance. The reason, in my view: Nigeria is the most corrupt nation on earth.
It gets more interesting. Continue…
Sure, Transparency International lists almost three dozen states as more corrupt — Chad, Haiti, Laos, Yemen, Cambodia and the like. But are any of those nations as wealthy as Nigeria — taking in $81 billion annually, just from the sale of oil? No, not even one of them. So Nigeria steals and squanders more money than any other nation, making it the world’s most corrupt, by that measure.
Nigerian journalist Musikilu Mojeed finds all this so discouraging.
“With its geopolitical power, economic resources and middle class,” he laments, “no country (with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia and Egypt) has the power to change the course of black/African civilization like Nigeria.” After all, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous state — and large, twice the size of California.
So Nigerians are living an opportunity squandered — particularly now. Egypt is in turmoil. In just the last few days, in fact, many Egyptians have been calling for a military coup — anything to rid the state of its widely despised Muslim Brotherhood government. And a new report by the World Economic Forum ranked Egypt the least safe and secure tourist destination among 140 tourist nations evaluated.
Egypt has lost its place as the Arab/African worlds’ leader, and Saudi Arabia never had it. So for Nigeria, the time is ripe. But its leaders seem interested only in stealing the state’s money to make themselves rich beyond imaging. Think about it: $81 billion a year just from the oil, while most every local government official still tells his people the nation just doesn’t have enough money to fix the roads, schools or hospitals. (Roads are in such terrible shape that government officials generally travel any distance by helicopter.)
And Nigeria’s people — well, they are as mistreated as any on earth. In only nine nations — among them Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia — do more mothers die during childbirth. And in only 10 states, including Chad, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, is the average life expectancy lower. Right now the average Nigerian’s average life span ends at 52. That may be why the median age of Nigerians is just 18.
A few months ago, the Economist Intelligence Unit published an evaluation of the best places for babies to born in 2013, given their probable welfare as children and the chance for a safe, comfortable, prosperous life. Switzerland, Australia and Norway were the top three. The United States came in at 16th, largely because “babies will inherit the large debts of the boomer generation.”
Dead last: Nigeria. “It is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013,” the report said.
Even with all that wealth, only just over half the population has access to clean drinking water, and one-third to a toilet, UNICEF says. Two-thirds live below the poverty line. Only one child in four who contracts pneumonia is given antibiotics, and only about half the population is literate.
The CIA also cites endemic “soil degradation; rapid deforestation; urban air and water pollution.” All this in a county whose gross domestic product stands at $236 billion a year, in the same league as Denmark, Chile, Israel and the United Arab Emirates — prosperous, successful states to be envied.
Goodluck Jonathan is certainly aware of all of this. After all, taking the oath of office, he swore to “devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria. So help me God.”
Well, just last week he demonstrated who he really is and what he stands for when he pardoned a former state governor who’d been convicted of embezzling state funds and laundering the money. That pardon triggered a broad, angry uproar.
Good luck, Mr. Jonathan. It’s time you were impeached.
(Joel Brinkley is the Hearst professional in residence at Stanford University and a Pulitzer Prize-winning former correspondent for The New York Times.)