That Nigeria is one of the most endowed countries in the world is no longer just a fact. It is rather common knowledge to everyone with basic interest in international affairs. To highlight some of the basics, Nigeria is the 21st largest economy in the world, out of 188 countries listed, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$574 billion (IMF, 2014).
It sits at number 13 among the world’s largest crude oil producers, with a proven reserve of over 37 billion barrels (wikipedia.com), and a daily output that revolves around 2.5 million barrels (OPEC), though with an installed capacity that transcends that number. It has the 9th largest natural gas reserve in the world (5.1 trillion cubic meters), and an annual production of 31.36 billion cubic meters, keeping it at number 28 among the world’s largest producers, out of 94 countries (wikipedia.com).
The country also has a huge agricultural potential, with arable land forming 78% of its land area (World Bank). Needless to say that agriculture played a key role in the country’s prosperity in the past, with the cocoa and ground nut pyramids of old, et al, prior to the discovery and production of crude oil.
According to a forbes.com article titled: “Agriculture Is The Future Of Nigeria”, published on August 8, 2013, the bulk of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings in the 1960’s came from cash crops export. Then, Nigeria was the world’s largest exporter of palm oil. It also produced 47% of global groundnuts output, and 18% of cocoa.
However, these numbers have seriously declined over the past decades due to lax interest and poor investments in the sector, occasioned by the oil windfall that has triggered primitive looting of state funds by top public functionaries and their allies, most of which is transferred to their offshore accounts.
In a bbc.com article titled: “Nigeria’s Looted Oil Money Laundered Abroad” published on September 20, 2013, Christina Katsouris (writer) was quoted as saying that the country would lose a minimum of $3.6 billion to theft that year, using a benchmark of 100,000 barrels of crude oil a day as amount stolen.
In an August 4, 2015 article titled: “Nigerian Stolen Oil Funds: Nigeria, US Investigating Banks, Countries For Corruption”, the International Business Times mentioned that $150 billion has been stolen from Nigeria’s oil sector alone. It also referenced the pledge of the country’s new President, General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) to recover the country’s stolen money and bring the perpetrators to account.
In a March 18, 2015 article, “theguardian.com” reported that most of the $2.2 billion that General Sani Abacha (diseased) stole from Nigeria while head of state was in European banks. The same article reported that about $217.7 billion was illegally transferred out of Nigeria between 1970 and 2008, while Africa as a whole lost an estimated $850 billion within the same period.
These are outrageous sums of money by any standard, especially considering Nigeria’s position as a developing country with lots of infrastructure challenges. I can’t but imagine what the multiplier effects would have been if all these monies were invested within the Nigerian economy over the years, in the establishment of world class educational institutions, hospitals, mechanized farms, factories, electric power plants, public transit systems, roads, pipe-borne water systems, research institutions, etc.
The effort being made by Nigeria’s current President, General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) to recover the country’s stolen monies deserves commendation. So is the assurance of cooperation from the United States and Switzerland along this line.
Noticeable steps have already been taken by the Swiss authorities in bringing more transparency into their financial institutions’ dealings, leading to their agreement to return General Sani Abacha’s loot to Nigeria. However, such laudable initiative should also be complemented by a strong resolve to, henceforth, not let Nigerian public office holders and their proxies launder looted funds in their financial institutions.
“It would not be possible for African leaders to loot their national treasuries if there were no countries willing to receive these funds. If you preach transparency and accountability, you should not have the facility to transfer illicit funds to your own country” – Dr John – Mark Iyi (University of Johannesburg, South Africa).
With the current shortfall in government revenue, occasioned by the huge drop in crude oil price(s), there is not a better time to call for these actions. Because if $380 million is repatriated to the country, (as the Swiss authorities have promised on Abacha’s loot), while another $3.8 billion is being taken out of it, the country will only be much worse off.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alphonsus Aigbokhan is a freelance blogger and aspiring social entrepreneur. His work experience traverses the oil and gas services sub-sector, shipping / maritime, commercial banking, solar power technology, and logistics / supply chain industries. He lives in Ontario, Canada and tweets at @AlphLeo.