Nigeria and illegal financial transactions

WITHOUT doubt, the report the other day, that Nigeria accounted for more than 30 per cent of illegal financial transactions in the continent from 2002 to 2012, is damning. Fundamentally, it is another pointer to the much vilified but unaddressed corruption in the country; and it is unfortunate that Nigeria keeps featuring among countries acknowledged for all the wrong reasons. Other countries listed were Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These transactions are technically described as “Illicit Financial Flow” in the international market. The only solution to the country’s prevailing negative image is for the government to demonstrate globally, its commitment to fight corruption.

The sources of these illegal funds are categorised as corrupt practices by government functionaries and private sector practitioners; consisting specifically of under-taxation, over-invoicing, fake billings and outright stealing and illegal exploitation of natural resources. These activities obviously require accomplices in developed countries whose leadership may be less concerned because these particular funds are not connected with drug trafficking and terrorism.

It is instructive that the findings came from a panel set up in 2008 by African leaders and headed by South Africa’s former President, Thabo Mbeki. Although the report is still being updated, the released information was described as “but the tip of an iceberg.” The shocking facts came out at a forum involving the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the African Union. The participants reiterated the negative implications of the practices for development.

This blight on the toga of Nigeria is indeed lamentable, signposting as it does, the exportation of the corruption that abounds at home. Corruption is criminal, inhumane and condemnable in all ramifications besides being a major cause of the country’s under-development; resulting in decrepit social infrastructure, dearth of health services, insufficient funding of education and a high crime rate.

It is unacceptable to adduce any reason to justify corruption. As a people, however, it is necessary for Nigerians to task themselves about the cause of corruption. Why are people so materialistic that they wish to acquire everything in sight, including what they do not need? Why does the nation allow easy access to massive wealth by a few privileged persons, leading to a diminution of a sense of value, along with an ostentatious lifestyle that is insensitive to the misery of the masses? How does one reconcile the paradox of having the highest number of private jets in Africa, while most of the people live in abject poverty? What is the country’s policy for tackling massive unemployment?

While it is true that the Federal Government established many agencies to combat corruption, the entire process has been jaundiced and enmeshed in so much noise with very little success. In Europe and America, companies and their officials are reprimanded and penalised for involvement in corrupt practices abroad. The United States and European community are no longer safe havens for ill-gotten wealth. But in Nigeria, instances of success in investigation and prosecution of offenders are hard to find. To address the movement of illicit money, the Economic Commission for Africa set up a Web Tracker to track, stop and return. Nigeria may indeed tap into the systems instituted by international agencies and other countries, but such efforts will be effective only if the country shows seriousness in its resolve to tackle the corruption in the country.

Above all, questions must be asked: what manner of man allows himself to be corrupted and to be consumed in greed? A great sage likened the acquisitive one to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as it follows the pilgrims into the holy city. There are too many such greedy ones who are headed to an unreachable island of illusory and material security. What goes on in the mind of such a person? Why is there a refusal to learn from greedy individuals from the past and present, who stashed funds in coded accounts in far away countries but never got the benefit of spending them?

The nation’s leadership should enforce vigorously the extant laws against corruption. Beyond that, however, is the need for a re-orientation of the individual human being. Man is the starting point of all that he experiences. The improvement of society and of all mankind must start in the human mind. This nation needs enlightened men and women whose minds cannot be corrupted, as an imperative for national survival.

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