Anti-corruption and Infrastructure in Nigeria.

Anti-corruption and Infrastructure in Nigeria.

Since those hard fought National elections, one year ago, President Buhari has been pushing ahead since his win, with a range of anti-corruption measures -he started with much needed reforms in key institutions, like Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration (NIMASA), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Military.

I could see evidence of this in Abuja, two weeks ago, while visiting the administrative capital, with the Nigeria All Party Group and the Westminster Africa Business Group (both from the House of Commons).  Across  Abuja conversations abound with talk of petitions and court cases-  anti-corruption is a subject that seems to hang in the air like the red dust off the Sahara Desert, before the rains. We met six FGN ministers in their ministries and the Vice–president of Nigeria at Aso Rock, they all wanted to talk about anti-corruption, national security and an increasing need for more foreign investment to support government plans for economic diversification.

Ministers also made it clear that they were working together to ensure investment of time and money was in a sustainable future for Nigeria- this means spending the depleted incomes from oil, wisely. Nigeria is short of money and so the need to recover assets and oil monies lost to corruption during the previous administration has never been greater but so too is the perceived need to set an example- that is proving very difficult and time-consuming work, as can be seen in #dasukigate: $2.2 billion dollars spent what is most likely pure political patronage. Corruption can be defined as the abuse of public office for personal gain or ‘party’ gain as we have seen in the trial of Col. (rtd) Sambo Dasuki the former National Security Adviser.

Buhari’s Ministers are trying to redistribute the country’s oil wealth, such as it is now, in order to reduce Nigeria’s reliance on a single commodity. This has been a  second or third priority, after anti-corruption and security but still an essential part of a bigger national plan to invest in much needed essential infrastructure: farming, power generation technology, mining and early education. BUT the collapse of the international oil price to under $40 per barrel from $100 has hit the country like a sledge hammer. Meanwhile the public (over 170 million people) grow impatient for results and most of all, better access to basic services such as water, electricity and early eduction. Most critically in this economic plan is the national transport network which falls short of the needs of the government and  disappoints ordinary people who  want to travel to find work in the cities. The government seeks to reduce waste and maximize the benefit of oil revenues to invest in upgrading roads and building new railways.

My observations on the Nigerian anti-corruption and economic plan.

  1. The NNPC has been reorganised- 30 new companies have been formed to break up the formerly monolithic and opaque national petroleum company. A former oil minister and some senior executives are being investigated for corruption. An MoU signed with the UAE will assist with asset recovery in banks and property there. Buhari continues to seek cooperation for anti-money laundering enforcement with the UK and the USA. Expensive court cases will continue.
  2. After some serious re-organisation and investment in the armed forces there have been real improvements in security in the northern states and in the Delta region. This is inseparable from anti-corruption measures because of oil theft and trafficking crimes. Critically NIMASA has also been reformed and opportunities for illegal bunkering have been greatly reduced in the creeks. I see AKA Tompolo, the former militant leader and “businessman” is top of the EFCC’s most wanted list for corruption, bribery and money laundering- involving the former director General of NIMASA. Google Global West Vessels Ltd for more information. An EXIT strategy is in place for the Presidential Amnesty Program, with Brig Gen Paul Boroh in charge. The Minister for the Delta Region and the Minister for Transport are cooperating to reduce unemployment in the region. They aim to provide linked infrastructure and invest in several Free Trade Zones in Delta and Lagos ports. More Foreign Direct Investment is wanted and needed.
  3. EFCC itself has been reorganised, and it’s partner the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (and other related offences- ICPC). Senator Godfrey Utazi is looking at amendments to tighten Nigerian anti-corruption law- the now outdated Nigerian Corrupt Practices and Other related Offences Act 2000 (ICPC) to fit in with international laws ie the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) for prevention, prosecution, criminalization and international cooperation. The ICPC has encouraged whistleblowing through petitions with some success: 942 petitions from the public about corruption- collecting N10 billion to date.
  4. The military has new leaders and better equipment. Military corruption is, in any country, often the most difficult to uncover because of the inbuilt need to make special provisions for national security and added secrecy. Military leaders are people who we have to trust more, so it is all the more shocking to have that trust abused. The Former Nigerian Defense Minister (Bello Mohammed) and the former National Security Adviser (Sambo Dasuki) were arrested for “abuse of the procurement process” and what appears to be $2.2billion in phantom arms contracts. This money was moved out of the Nigerian National Oil Block Account-so theft from the profits of legal bunkering and oil sales? More senior military staff are implicated in this scandal, as it is thought that most of the $2.1billion was shared out in payments for continued military support during the former President Goodluck Jonathon’s re-election campaign? See Twitter for #dasukigate. This is ongoing.

It is clear that President Buhari and his ministers are working hard to reduce corruption, invest in infrastructure and spend national oil revenues wisely. For example the Honourable Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi has led the way with key infrastructure- he has now signed a contract with a Chinese company for the construction of an important and decades overdue railway, connecting Abuja to the coast. Further construction projects, such as port upgrades and new roads are underway and the airports are under review too. But lets not forget that corruption bites back and while Nigerians are more vigilant and politicians are more determined, Nigeria will need more help from the UK not least in identifying large illicit cash flows out of Nigeria, but also in rationalizing it’s bureaucracies and modernizing it’s institutions. There is a bigger problem too, as estimates are that $148 billion leaves the continent of Africa every year through Western Banks- by corruption, money laundering and through non-listed shell companies. Lets see what happens at Prime Minister David Cameron’s Global (inter-governmental) anti-corruption conference, to be held here in London, in May.

Martin Brown