Friday, May 19, 2017

[Chronicle] Nigeria: The art of fighting corruption

In Nigeria, for decades, all leaders have announced that the fight against corruption will be their priority. But beyond the fine speeches, the struggle against the bakchich does not seem to retreat. On the contrary.

Muhammadu Buhari, with his ascetic gait and sober outfits, possesses the physics of employment. Prior to his election to the presidency in April 2015, he even received barefoot guests at his home. A sign of detachment of material goods that had strongly impressed his Western interlocutors.
The fight against corruption, the Fulani raised in a poor village in northern Nigeria had even made him his battle horse during the campaign. Had not his party, the All Progressives Congress, chosen the broom as a symbol? We were going to see what we were going to see. A spring cleaning was announced as soon as possible. The armed soldier went to clean the stables of Augias. During his first incursion into power from 1983 to 1984, General Buhari led the "war against indiscipline". He came to power through a coup d'etat. Officials arriving late at the office were sentenced to frog frogs in public. The Nigerians who did not respect the lines were whipped.

Buhari has aroused great hope

Even the young voters, were tired of the multiplication of cases of embezzlement of funds thought that Buhari was the man of the situation. The austere Northerners could straighten out the country.
Two years later, where are the changes? It would be very difficult to say. A sign of the times, the Guardian Lagos, the daily newspaper, continues to distribute a cartoon about corruption every day. It is aimed above all at the political elites. The Guardian has been publishing this comic for years without anyone getting tired of it.
Every day, like a metronome, the Nigerian press reports new cases of corruption, money laundering or "  evaporation of money  ", whether public or private. According to experts, nearly 20% of oil production is not declared to the State. The sums mentioned in the press are not ridiculous. These cases can involve billions of dollars. In 2014, Lamido Sanusi, who at the time headed the central bank, denounced the disappearance of ten billion dollars from the state budget. Everybody gets moved a few days before moving on to something else.
Buhari tried to act
To be fair, it should be noted that Buhari did not sit idly by. He has arrested anti- corruption judges suspected of ... corruption. The charges against them are very thin. Lawful searches of their homes in the middle of the night showed that they had money at home. As such, it is not a crime. Nigerians have very little confidence in banks. They prefer to keep large sums in cash at their homes. An old habit that has a hard life.
The regime arrests alleged corrupt. Lacking proof, he is forced to release them. In private Buhari regrets the old days of military regimes where he could arrest anyone he wanted and leave them in a dungeon for as long as he wanted without being accountable to justice.
But today, as he has proclaimed himself "  born again  " of democracy, he must make good hearts against bad fortune and respect the rules of the rule of law. The press was quick to note that the supposed corrupt were figures of the opposition or people with whom the regime had to settle accounts.

Is Buhari in a position to fight corruption?

"The presidential campaign costs billions of dollars. To have a chance to be elected, we must water everywhere, starting with politicians, traditional leaders, and the media,  "notes a politician from Lagos. He adds: "  It is also necessary to give money to the "influencers ", to use a trend word. Many influencers are taking money from both sides. " Who funded the Buhari campaign? Where does this money come from? Is the president in a position today to hold his generous donors accountable?
Another dilemma is how to ask the base official to suddenly become a paragon of virtue when his salary has not been paid to him for months. Two-thirds of Nigerian states are unable to pay the salaries of their officials. As a result, civil servants demand more bribe than ever before. Many motorists prefer to avoid driving in December. Before Christmas, police officers are in dire need of money to buy gifts for their children.

Wait until the "decant" border

Many motorists who have to cross the border of Benin or Cameroon prefer to go there on Sunday morning when a large part of the customs officers are at rest or at mass. The border then settles. They will have to undergo four or five checks instead of the twenty or so checkpoints that may exist. Most of the time, it's a ragged t-shirt man who does the job on behalf of the customs officers who sit quietly in the background. If this goes wrong, the customs officer can always say that he has nothing to do with this attempt to extort money.
"The customs officer must make a good turnover. Every day, he must give money back to his superior who got him this lucrative location. If he does not return enough money to his superiors, he will be sacked,  "said a former customs officer. At airports too, demands for bakchichs are more insistent and open than ever. "  Something for the boys  ". The expression becomes a little heady music.
"Only those who never go to the field can believe that the fight against corruption pays off,  " said a Western businessman who finds that foreign companies are more "  racketed than ever  ". He adds with a bitter smile: "No one ever believes in this campaign slogan. To the point that the fight against corruption appears more and more like a vast joke."

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