By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Charles Soludo is a professor of Banking and Finance. Before he became the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria under the administration of the President Olusegun Obasanjo he was a fire brand lecturer at the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka, in Enugu state. With the above credentials in mind, it is therefore safe to conclude that he remains a first class thinker. While still serving as the governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, he delivered a lecture at the founders’ day of the University of Benin, Benin city, Edo state on November 23rd 2006 titled “Can Nigeria be the China of Africa?”
China is one of the World’s fastest growing economies and that Asian tiger also has one of the stiffest penalties globally against corruption and economic crimes which minimizes the percentage of criminals that are churned out in that World’s largest country. But Nigeria which prides itself as the World’s largest black nation has some of the weakest safeguards against corruption and economic crimes and sadly, poverty and the frightening situation of fast collapsing social infrastructure steer the country menacingly in the face.
Coming back to that lecture by the erstwhile Central Bank of Nigeria governor in which he posed a critical question of whether Nigerians are ready to build the country’s economy to assume the envious position of becoming the China of Africa, it would interest my readers to note that this professor also painted a graphic picture of the devastating consequences of living in a nation with weak law enforcement institutions and a high rate of corruption and economic crimes. He wrote thus; “What a tragedy! In contrast, two brand names emerged in the international community to define Nigeria: Advance Fee Frauds (aka 419) and corruption as Transparency International consistently ranked it either number one or two most corrupt countries”.
In international relations, Nigeria was literally a pariah State, so says Professor Soludo. “In economic terms the decade of the 1990s witnessed an average GDP growth rate of 2.8 per cent–just about the rate of growth of the population (2.83 percent). This means that on a per capita basis, growth was zero during the decade of the 1990s and no wonder poverty incidence worsened to 70%. The entire basic infrastructure was in a state of crisis, with barely 1700MWH of electricity being generated for a country that needed at least 50,000″. The situation depicted above since 2006 hasn’t changed much now even with the rebasing of the economy which reportedly placed Nigeria as one of the fastest growing markets in Africa. Ironically poverty is still a huge challenge even as corruption and economic crimes which breed poverty are still very much with us in Nigeria and the anti-graft regime is somewhat compromised.
The members of the National Assembly which should play the constitutional role of oversight has increasingly being accused of allegedly soiling their hands since most of them are the same failed contractors that still handle most of the failed contracts across the country. Only last week the platform I currently head which is a pro-transparency Non-Governmental organization- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] raised alarm that there may exist a well entrenched racket within the management of the National Youth Service Corps scheme [NYSC] that has perfected mechanism for fleecing the country of huge resources annually through manipulation of the list of participants of the national service scheme and corrupt procurement practices.
We were approached by several persons and also got considerable volume of calls from concerned insiders who have also fingered officials of the Federal Budget Office and the relevant committees with oversight powers over the NYSC in the National Assembly in the huge swindle which may have gone on since 2010 costing Nigeria nearly N90 billion. From the allegations at our disposal there is every indication that several Billions of Naira is being fleeced Nigeria yearly through the NYSC scheme. For the past three years, the scheme claim in its yearly budget to mobilize 250,000 corps members whereas the actual mobilized figures is far short of these figures. A cursory look at these figures shows that budgetary allocations and release of corps members allowance is 98% for corps members monthly allowances. In view of this avalanche of allegations the question is what happens to several billions of Naira of released corpers allowance from the Federal Government? For instance, for 2012 and 2013, the total difference of released monthly corpers allowance which NYSC ought to return to the Federal coffers is reportedly N13,583,808 billion. And for 2014 Batch ‘A’ while NYSC received money for about 100,000 corps members which it claimed it was mobilizing, only 51,000 corpers were allegedly mobilized whereas the allowance of 49,000 unmobilized corpers amounting to slightly above N10.3 billion Naira may be unaccounted for if action is not adopted by the Finance ministry to recoup the difference.
From information and materials the above stated figures of expenditures are aside other allowances like N1,500 transport allowances to camp and N1,500 transport back home at the end of the service year as well as N1,000 local transport allowance which everyone of the supposed 250,000 is said to have been collected by NYSC management”. Another angle to this alleged massive looting of the nation’s treasury is that while government appropriates/releases N500 for feeding each corps member per day for 21 days in camp only N300 is actually said to be released to states secretariats for this. We hereby call on the relevant bodies to commence investigation to ascertain if these damaging allegations are anything to go by so as to save the nation the much needed resources at these trying periods” We learnt from reliable sources also, that yearly billions of Naira are released for clothing kits (uniforms) for the supposed 250,000 corps members.
How come for over four years the figure of 250,000 corpers has been constant. Nigerians need to also ask why has government not been paying corps members monthly allowance direct to them just like they do with workers. Are they saying there are no ghost corpers? There is need to stop this massive looting now. The Billions of Naira being looted into private pockets can as well be used to provide education and jobs for the youths whose name is being used to loot. I do also think that there is an urgent demand for a forensic examination of the financial books which as we were told may reveal that the above is just a tip of the ice berg in the colossal looting of the country’s commonwealth. In the light of these emerging frightening allegations, this piece therefore is a wakeup call to all Nigerians to ask where are the Billions going to, who is in possession of this money.
Emmanuel Onwubiko is on linkedIn