For national security and economic development, fighting corruption matters

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For national security and economic development, fighting corruption matters

_”Good governance should be an expectation, not an exception” – Abigail Spanberger

Astute analysts of the Nigerian government’s actions since May 2023 concur that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu demonstrates a genuine commitment to enhancing Nigeria, particularly in the realms of security and economy, aligning with the provisions of Section 14 (2) of the Constitution. Regarding the security sector, despite the recent surge in kidnappings, there have been overall improvements.

Crime tends to adapt and mutate over time. As efforts are made to combat one form of criminal activity, new challenges inevitably arise. Thus, akin to other pivotal sectors, the security domain remains dynamic and necessitates continuous innovation and adaptation. Analyzing the economic landscape, it becomes evident that the current administration faces formidable obstacles due to the legacy of their predecessors.

The preceding administration’s actions significantly deteriorated the economic foundation. These adverse effects include External Debt Accumulation, Fiscal Mismanagement, and Dual Borrowing Approach – the reliance on both external borrowing and internal money printing for consumption exacerbated macroeconomic instability.

The Naira experienced depreciation due to the excessive printing of money, further fueling inflation. A significant portion of the newly printed money flowed to politically exposed individuals, who often converted it to United States Dollars, thereby exacerbating inflationary pressures and contributing to the ongoing foreign exchange crisis.

While the current administration inherited an economically battered state, its challenges are distinct from those in the security sector. Unlike security matters, where pragmatic approaches can be discerned, the economic domain is entangled with loyalties and political settlements. Navigating this intricate landscape requires intelligent decision-making and innovative strategies to restore stability and foster growth, especially now that it is evident that IMF prescriptions with fatal consequences have not solved our economic problems since 1987.

However, a critical aspect that appears to elude their grasp is the imperative of waste reduction and the relentless battle against corruption. They seem to treat the matter as trivial, underestimating the profound impact it has on both the security and economic sectors. While their intentions to enhance security are commendable, they seem to overlook the intricate relationship between corruption, wastage and our prevailing challenges.

Consider the following: A significant proportion of security threats stem from the inflow of illicit arms, many of which infiltrate our borders undetected. The paradox lies in the fact that certain public officials entrusted with safeguarding our nation exhibit a remarkable inability to recognize the smuggling of oil tankers and food commodities.

Yet, they are expected to effectively counter the influx of arms – a task that demands heightened vigilance and astute border control. Agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) seem to be more interested in revenue generation and remittance discussions, which overshadows the critical role they play in enhancing internal security.

To initiate any meaningful reform, we must embark on the essential process of purging corrupt and inept public officers who bear the weighty responsibility of safeguarding our nation’s security. Only then can we lay the groundwork for a more robust and effective system. The second emergency is to reduce wastage. Mr Waziri Adio’s extensive research on about sixty government-owned enterprises has unveiled a disconcerting reality.

These entities predominantly function as drainpipes, facilitating rent-seeking, serving as ATMs for the political elite, and perpetuating egregious resource wastage. Some of these agencies, with little value to the economy, spend more on themselves than some state governments combined. Annually, trillions of funds are squandered through these agencies. Wastage diminished the financial resources for bolstering both national security and economic development.

Thirdly, the outdated Oronsanye Report appears to lack genuine commitment toward authentic realignment, comprehensive restructuring, and strategic repositioning aimed at enhancing the efficiency of the existing one-thousand-plus federal agencies. A thorough assessment of these sixty “Super Agencies,” as termed by Adio, has the potential to yield substantial savings for the nation, amounting to trillions of Naira, while concurrently enhancing operational efficiency. Prioritizing this critical evaluation is paramount, rather than diverting public attention to the Oronsanye Report.

In the absence of these necessary corrective actions, a substantial portion of the N8 trillion allocated for Capital Expenditure is likely to dissipate, mirroring patterns observed in previous years. To illustrate this point, consider a recent publicized instance: N82 billion earmarked for constructing 427 boreholes, primarily to provide water access for disadvantaged communities.

Surprisingly, this allocation translates to approximately N192 million per borehole! The Abubakar Widi-Jalo Foundation has, in the last few years, drilled and operationalized 443 boreholes with approximately N332 million. With their efficiency, given N82 billion, they will drill 109,300 boreholes instead of the 427 the federal government wants to do! Even if we hypothetically equip each borehole with amenities such as air conditioning, generators, DSTV, and Starlink internet, the total cost will still fall short of N3 million per borehole. This is just one example out of hundreds.

And fighting corruption and reducing wastage is not about ‘strengthening’ EFCC and ICPC. Similar to addressing police challenges, the solution lies not solely in manpower and resource allocation but in evidence-based strategies that yield positive outcomes. Allocating additional resources should directly correlate with a reduction in various forms of corruption, including grand corruption, political corruption, procurement fraud, nepotism, abuse of office, and asset misappropriation.

Simply run a nationwide poll on whether these have increased or decreased and await the response. The reason why there has been low impact in spite of more resources pumped there is that the leakages and mechanisms for the prevention of organized crime are too weak. The legislators are evidently not up to the task. Billions cannot be siphoned by the political class on a yearly basis, and then you send anti-corruption agencies to chase them around for recoveries. The president needs to act.

Umar Yakubu is an anti-corruption crusader and public affairs analyst, umaryakubu@live.com

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