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Saturday, 19 November 2016

State of the nation: Everyone benefited from corruption – Bolaji Akinyemi

BY CHARLES KUMOLU

A FORMER Minister of External Affairs, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi has said that the current hardship in Nigeria was birthed by the wrong application of resources by Nigerians, noting that everyone benefited from the circle of systemic corruption in the country.

He also cautioned that the failure to acknowledge that the hardship was collectively caused would ensure that similar mistakes were repeated when the nation eventually survives recession.

Speaking on the topic, Nigerian Exceptionalism: Nigerian Quest for World Leadership at the 2016 convocation lecture of the University of Ibadan, he assessed the state of the nation against the backdrop of prevailing economic crisis and concluded that everyone was culpable.

His words: “A major factor responsible for our present state is not lack of resources but a scandalous application of resources, not by government alone but by Nigerians. How can you describe as poor a country which spent a total of N1.18 trillion on the importation of toothpick, fish, milk, textiles, rice, and furniture between 2014 and May 2015? ‘’

Let me make one thing absolutely clear. I accept that there is a lot of suffering in the land. I am not denying that there is a lot of poverty now and that we are in a recession. But I am also claiming that we bear our share of responsibility for this financial peculiar mess.

It is not government alone that is responsible for N62.8b of imported French fries rather than the potatoes produced in the Middle Belt,  the $6m daily of imported rice while 800,000 tons of rice go unbought in Kebbi,  the N7.2b spent on imported toothpick and billions of naira spent on Brazilian, Japanese and Indian hair pieces. Was it the government that was travelling and bringing in goods from China, Dubai, and Italy among others?

“Another issue  is the proposition that corruption has had a negative effect on Nigerian exceptionalism. The latest figures on corruption are quite illuminating. We are not even the most corrupt country in the world. China leads the world over a 10-year period which was from 2004 -2013 with US$139 trillion in illicit outflows, followed by Russia, Mexico, India, and Malaysia with Nigeria at number 10.

China also had the largest illicit outflows of any country in 2013, amounting to a staggering US$258.64 billion in just that year. ‘’

Here is a message on social media that aptly summarises the culpability of all of us and is titled: State of the Nation. I have been following closely the activities of this government and whenever I have the opportunity, I try to find out the opinions of people as regards the performance of this government. I just realized that the hardship faced by many Nigerians is simply as a result of the fact that almost every one of us benefited from the cycle of corruption.

”The bricklayer, plumber, laborers and tiller are all complaining because building construction has slowed down massively because the thieves no longer have money to spend on real estate. The car dealers are grumbling because their cars are begging for buyers. Thieves can no longer spend wastefully. The private school owners are shouting because parents can no longer pay outrageous sums and are withdrawing their wards. The fact is, we have been living above our means. We have been staying in houses that ordinarily our incomes can’t afford. Our children are going to schools we can’t afford.

Now the reality is before us and we don’t want to accept it. This shows how morally bankrupt we are. You can’t eat your cake and have it.

”You got billions from bank without collateral using your political influence. You put half into your business and spent the other half on exotic cars, jewelries among others. Your business employs 100 people normally.

You got illegal waivers and concessions to import raw materials at rock bottom prices and you got over-inflated contract to supply some goods your company produce. In short your company is kept afloat by corruption. Now the new Sheriff in town says: no more ridiculous waivers, no more inflated contracts, no more bank loans without collateral, in fact its time you or your company pay off the billions of debt owed.

”Corruption is relevant in the misapplication of resources which undermines the corpus of resources available for development. If we do not understand all these issues, as soon as we start to come out of recession, we will make the same mistakes all over again as we did with the recession of the 1980s.”

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