Africa: Further Aid to Nigeria would be a crime against humanity! ~ Japheth J Omojuwa
If the purpose of aid is to send free money to countries and places where resources are in short supply then Nigeria is outside of that purpose. I am absolutely pro trade and have always believed aid is just an excuse to pump money into private pockets in Africa to help service partner private pockets abroad. Aid is even more so unnecessary if a country has demonstrated it has more than enough resources to deal with its challenges. Do we think Nigeria is poor?
If being poor means the inability to meet basic needs, then Nigeria cannot be said to be poor. Yes there are 112 million poor people in this country but the reason this number keeps ballooning is not because Nigeria is too poor to make the lives of its people better. The rulers of Nigeria are the poor ones. No, not a poverty of bank balances but a poverty of morality. They are indeed rich with cash but abjectly poor in morals. I will explain. The Minister of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory yesterday sent his budget proposal to the country’s Senate. The document itself would pass for a scam proposal but let me point out the most absurd parts of it. Having pulled down the previous Abuja City Gate that was not just beautiful, befitting and functional, the minister proposed to spend $48 million on a new gate. That is, Abuja that houses poor Nigerians most of whom do not have access to $1 a day is expected to be “protected” with a $48 million gate! Now tell me why a country rich enough to invest in a $48million city gate would be poor enough to deserve the tax payments of hard working people in Europe and America. In a set up like this, a crime would be deemed to have been committed against the people whose sweat are sent as aid to Nigeria when Nigerian officials believe Nigeria has some $48 million to waste in the construction of a gate.
The absurdity does not end with the gate. The Minister, long considered a puppet of the country’s so called First Lady proposed a $25 million “Mission House” for the wife of the President. Thankfully the Senators regarded the proposal as scandalous publicly and one can only hope they maintain this stance even outside of the accusing screens of television cameras. In a country littered with unemployed youths, the sex workers’ loving Minister (he cares for their “salvation” I guess) proposed some $32 million for their “rehabilitation.” Some have punched more than a few holes in his proposal though. There is the unconfirmed accusation that the stipulated $32 million will go to SAP-CLN an NGO supposedly fronting for the aforementioned First Lady. In Nigeria, reports like this will never be confirmed but rest assured $32 million for the rehabilitation of sex workers will not be spent on anything that has anything to do with sex or workers or the combination of both words except for the fact that it is impossible to throw around that amount of money and not have some of it purchase some sex. Again, if Nigeria has $32 million to burn under the guise of rehabilitating sex workers, why should tax paying sex workers somewhere bear costs like this in form of aid? Why should hard working men and women in Europe and America pay taxes that’d end up being used to build a home for the wife of the Nigerian President who is not even recognized by law? Why should we take money from the poor in Europe, send same to Africa in an envelope marked “Aid” when we all know the money hardly if ever it gets to the poor people in these African countries. I can speak for Nigeria. Aid doesn’t get to reach the poor, if it did why would we have 112 million poor people? If aid reached those in need of it why would two out of every three Nigerians be poor? If this has not worked for five decades, why do we expect it to work now? If one government ministry in Nigeria is rich enough to propose such wastes in its budget why should poor people elsewhere bear the cost of this wrong choices? Nigeria has more than enough to take care of itself and this is not about more money, it is about leadership, transparency and accountability.
I am glad a world leader is finally seeing things very clearly. British Prime Minister David Cameron hit the nail on the head at one of the Davos 2013 sessions. “A few years back a transparency initiative exposed a huge hole in Nigeria’s finances, an eight hundred million dollar discrepancy between what companies were paying and what the government was receiving for oil - a massive, massive gap. The discovery of this is leading to new regulation of Nigeria’s oil sector so the richness of the earth can actually help to enrich the people of that country.
And the potential is staggering. Last year Nigeria oil exports were worth almost a hundred billion dollars. That is more than the total net aid to the whole of sub Saharan Africa. So put simply: unleashing the natural resources in these countries dwarfs anything aid can achieve, and transparency is absolutely critical to that end.”
If the poor people in America, struggling to make ends meet on meagre salaries and those of Europe have to pay for the cost of running inefficient systems and the corruption of leaders in Africa – especially Nigeria – then we should not look too far to see the reality the term “crime against humanity” at play. This is a classic case of a crime not just against the people of the aid receiving nations but the poor tax payers in countries where these monies come from.
This is not even about proposing to have interested countries trade with Nigeria. We’ve traded and made more than enough money to be one of the world’s richest yet we stay among its poorest. The more money we make, the higher the number of poor people. The problem then cannot be about making more money available but for everyone – partner countries, citizens and other stakeholders – to demand for a more accountable system. As it is today, the incentive is to steal from the state as there are no punishments for same as long as the numbers are in the billions.
Having said all of these and with the realities everyone can see, it would be safe to say those who continue to push for aid to Nigeria have other motives in mind absolutely paradigmatically different from reducing poverty. Aid has gone out of fashion even though it never was anyway!
Japheth J Omojuwa is the Editor of AfricanLiberty.org