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Is Africa’s development tied to looted assets return?

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Over the years, corruption has become so endemic among African nations such that successive administrations around the continent cannot escape without being fingered in misappropriation of public funds. Somehow, one may want to think whether there is an award for such illicit conduct hence, the craze for corrupt practices among African leaders. Indeed, siphoning the continent’s wealth abroad is one of the reasons why things are not working across Africa irrespective of the natural resources, human capital and the huge budgets its governments file out annually. Therefore, the African publics have lost hope and confidence in their various governments to make life better for the masses. This can be drawn from the number of young Africans that seek greener pasture in Europe and America annually. Indeed, it is disheartening to note that some of Africa’s political leaders have descended so low into being heavily corrupt and lawless. Many among them are not just sit-tight leaders but are above the law and do get away with just any poor habit. In Nigeria for instance, several mismanaged funds were usually explained away as being swallowed by a snake or snatched by monkeys among other fairy tales. Consequently, the wave of corruption among leaders in Africa is not just alarming but believed to be driven by greed and selfish interest.

The other day, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) marked the third African Union Anti-Corruption Day where the acting chairman Ibrahim Magu pointed out that “the outcome of corruption which is flourishing illicit financial flow from the African continent is the major developmental impediment negatively impacting the achievement of the continent’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He further stated that corruption affects the security of a nation as well as distorts the stability and national economic planning process” True talk indeed, but it is not enough for Magu and his cohort to lament over African leaders’ inability to make adequate progress on infrastructural developments due to stashed funds abroad. If one may ask, is the EFCC’s job only to prosecute offenders? Can’t the commission prevent illicit financial flow by blocking the channels? A country like Nigeria, for instance, makes billions of naira daily on crude oil. Yet, the nation cannot utilise the wealth for meaningful development purposes, instead hopes to get back looted fund before it can tackle infrastructure development. Not too long ago, the last Abacha loot refund was a source of jamboree called Trader monie. What impact does such distribution of funds have in the lives of the people? Did it create jobs for the army of unemployed graduates?

Somehow, the looted fund return itself is seen to be a fraud because the International Monetary Fund (IMF) control and conspiracy behind the refund did not spell out good intentions for the country. This is in regard to guidelines and caveat associated with the fund release that was forced down the governments’ throat. At the end of the day, the nation is back to square zero where it all started and has no option than to keep borrowing. One may not be wrong to say that the fight against corruption seems to be selective. If not, what is so difficult to figure out those who are culpable in the illicit business and let the law take its cause? Today, we hear of Abacha’s loot because he is of blessed memory. By the time any other leader dies the can of worms during his tenure in office will boomerang and Nigerians attention will once again be sheepishly diverted.

For God’s sake, why is it only in Africa that governments don’t work for the interest of the people? Why do governments across Africa allow criminals to exist within its corridors without being able to flush them out? Why wait until after the stolen loot leaves outside the country before making frantic efforts for its return? A friend of mine said the other day that looted monies continue to be used by politicians and government officials as cover-up for their inability to perform. Therefore, until looted fund is returned citizens will continue to hope in vain. In a recent gathering, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) Prof. Bolaji Owosanoye said that Nigeria accounts for the bulk of Africa’s $90 billion assets stashed abroad yearly. According to him, “Millions of Nigerians suffering denial of basic social services and lack of infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, water and employment will receive succour when stolen assets are recovered…” Again, why would Nigerians wait for looted assets return before they can feel the impact of basic and social amenities? Is the nations’ development tied to money stashed abroad alone?

It is now obvious that President Mohammadu Buhari should take the fight against corruption to government-owned institutions. The other day, President Buhari admitted that his governments’ performance in power supply was not good enough. No enquiry about how money budgeted for power was spent or who did what rightly or wrongly just to know why the nation continues to suffer insufficient electricity supply so as to stop the trend. A peep into the education will show that over the years, the sector has been in great distress. Not long ago, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) raised an alarm that President Buhari’s government education policy is anti-masses due to its deliberate plan to starve public education of funds and thereby deny Nigerian youths the right to know and challenge misrule. However, in another forum and perhaps as a quick response to ASUU’s claim, the President said: “We will have a better society when education is not only for those who can afford to pay expensive fees in school…we must make education and health a priority relative to the resources available …” Again, if such a comment is not mere lip-service or cheap political statements, Nigerians ought to by now see serious positive action on education. Also, to a large extent, insecurity has ravaged the country as people across ethnic divides continue to suspect each other. In the face of all these, the President thumbs his chest and crows that his administration is winning the fight against insecurity. Again, several people are being killed and millions displaced from their ancestral homes everyday across the country.

No doubt, the road ahead for African governments is strewn with obstacles. Some of which are created by the governments’ themselves. Therefore, many African leaders are not bothered with reports such as the Oxfam International findings that say 69 per cent of Nigerians live below poverty line. When will our political leaders understand that poverty is a time bomb waiting to explode?


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