'Layi Abegunrin, Department of political science, Howard University, Washington, D.C., dismisses the claim that Nigeria needs aid (see No. 344)
This is very surprising to hear Dr. Okonjo- Iweala, Nigeria Minister of Finance saying that, "Nigeria desperately needs debt cancellation and a new start. But we are hobbled by misconceptions, which are understandable given past decades of misrule and instability. People think that because Nigeria has oil, it is a rich country, and that debt cancellation would be wasted because the money would disappear into a black hole of corruption. I want to persuade you otherwise" (USA/Africa Dialogue, No. 344: Nigeria begs for money). It was at the height of the oil boom in 1974 that one of Nigerian leaders said "money was no problem but how to spend it" (Daily Times, Lagos, 16 November 1974).
At the pick of the oil boom in the 1970s Nigeria was producing about 1.4 to 1.8 million barrels per day. Since the middle of 2002, Nigeria has been producing 2.2 million barrels of petroleum per day till now. The current price of Petroleum is $47 a barrel. Therefore, at this rate with 2.2 million barrels production per day, the country is making $103.4 million per day. Where is this money going? Yes, Nigeria is an underdeveloped country but with these millions of dollars been realized everyday things should be better for the country, but instead things are getting worse everyday. Politically the country is unstable and economically the nation cannot maintain her infrastructures and Nigeria is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to the U.N. Annual reports for the past two years.
Corruption has become the way of life, especially for Nigerian leaders. Governor Kalu of Abia state, a member of President Obasanjo's own political party-the PDP has accused Obasanjo that " Even the Western world knows that Obasanjo is very corrupt, that's why they don't take him seriously when he rants about anti-corruption," (African Magazine, February 2, 2005).
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, also said, "Nigeria owes $34 billion, much of it in penalties and compound interest imposed on debts that were not paid by the military dictatorship of the 1980s and early 1990s. We make annual debt repayments of more than $1.7 billion, three times our education budget and nine times our health budget" (USA/Africa Dialogue, No.344). What was this money used for? There is nothing to show for this $34 billion. The Nigerian peoples did not benefit from it. The military leaders who ruled in the 1980s and early 1990s should be held responsible for these debts. These military leaders, Babangida, and his cronies, including their civilian political class of that period should be made to pay these debts by seizing their assets. Those leaders should have been locked up and their assets seized before now to pay these $34 billion debts.
On May 29, 1999 during his inaugural speech President Obasanjo told Nigerian people that, "There was no sacred-cow," but what has he done since. No military leaders or politicians had been prosecuted for looting the country's treasury. Only the dead man- probably if Abacha has not died he would be walking as a freeman on the streets of Nigeria, and also keep the Nigerian peoples' money he looted. Babangida and his cronies are untouchable for Obasanjo. Nigeria would not be the first nation to punish her leaders
for such corruption and criminal practices. Countries like Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, and South Korea punished their corrupt leaders and earned the respect and support of the world thereafter (The Washington Post, October 19, 1998). It is only Nigeria where a man was made Inspector General of Police and in a matter of two years in office he had 15 bank accounts and 4 billion naira lodged in those accounts at home. This is besides, his foreign bank accounts. ("EFCC Freezes Tafa Balogun's N4 billion," Daily Independent, Abuja, January 31, 2005).
Where is the report of the government commission headed by Pius Okigbo in 1995? Babangida should be made to account for the $12 billion oil windfall that Nigeria made in 1991 during the first Gulf war. The military leaders and politicians from 1976 to 1999 should be made to be accountable for all Nigeria debts. It is very shameful on the present Obasanjo administration running around the world asking for debts relief. These people are bunch of jokers. Can anybody trust Nigerian military and political leaders or take them serious? Other African countries can get debts relief but the western leaders and their financial institutions will not give Nigeria any debts relief. With the rate of corruption in Nigeria now, any debt relief would be wasted because the money would disappear into black hole of corruption as usual.
Nigeria, the western proclaimed "giant of Africa." and the hope and pride of Africa has turned into a "giant with clay feet." Nigerian leaders can prove to the world from their deeds, and not from their rhetoric. Honesty, accountability and transparence will earn Nigerian leaders respect when they change their ways of doing things and learn to be responsible, and "take a new start."