Former Secretary of State John Kerry speaking with Nigeria’s President about combatting corruption.
By: Dilibe Iloeje
The West African nation Nigeria faces potential for strong economic growth with an abundance of natural resources and large population of almost 150 million. In 2012, it overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. Furthermore, oil was discovered in the 1960s and 1970s, and since that discovery, Nigeria has been an important global exporter. As a leading member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the nation exports about 2.5 million barrels of oil per year making them the world’s sixth largest oil exporter and the largest in Africa. In fact, 80% of Nigeria’s annual revenue comes from oil. With a GDP of $568.499 billion, Nigeria is thriving compared to its other African counterparts. Despite such wealth and international power, The National Bureau of Statistics revealed that the number of Nigerians in “absolute poverty” had risen from 54.7% in 2004 to almost 61% in 2010. It is clear that the wealth in Nigeria is by no means being evenly distributed. Consequently, large parts of the country are poorly maintained, abused by corrupt politicians and vulnerable to poverty and misfortune. corrupt politicians and vulnerable to poverty and misfortune.
In the Northeast and Northwest of Nigeria, which is relatively poorer and less developed than the south, the poverty rate in 2012 was 76.3% and 77.7% respectively. In contrast, the Southwest of Nigeria had a poverty rate of 59.1%. This divide is likely one of the major reasons why the extremist group Boko Haram appeared in the northern Borno State where about 50% of children are malnourished. The North-South divide in Nigeria makes Boko Haram more appealing to poor disenfranchised youth who have lived in poverty their whole lives. Despite the obvious poverty crisis in Nigeria, the government attempted to take away oil subsidies in 2012, which many Nigerians rely on as their only source of income.
Some of the decisions enacted by the Nigerian government are purely the result of corruption. The government has been notoriously corrupt, and these harmful actions show no signs of slowing down. Out of the world’s sixty leading countries, Nigeria was ranked by US News as the most corrupt in 2016, putting it ahead of countries like Russia, Iran, Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico. The nation’s GDP is heavily concentrated in the hands of politicians such as governors, ministers, and the President’s cabinet. In addition, an endless stream of corruption scandals has not only deprived the Nigerian people of opportunities and benefits but has also tainted Nigeria’s reputation internationally. Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, was found guilty of over N123 billion in fraud during his term, between 2009 and 2010, mostly because of his orders to plunder the nation’s natural resources for the gain of few.
Furthermore, an audit performed by an outside group, covering the period 2005 to 2010, found many more cases of financial irregularities, including outright theft. Despite this blatant criminal activity and corruption, no action has been taken to bring all those involved to justice. The problem seriously undermines the work of good politicians and citizens, when officials are pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars. Economists from PwC stated that Nigeria’s economy would be 22% bigger if its corruption levels were closer to Ghana’s, a neighboring west African country.
In sum, Nigeria’s wealth and resources are not being fairly shared mainly due to high levels of corruption by the elite and politicians alike. The Nigerian people who suffer from extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure are continuously compromised by a government that is supposed to operate on their behalf. Long term growth and prosperity are almost impossible with the current levels of corruption. According to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, the poverty rate will continue to rise if no changes are made. Hopefully, the Nigerian government can overcome this problem for the sake of its people and the future of its nation.