Nigeria's past rulers stole $400 billion in public money

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Figures have revealed that Nigeria's past military dictators stole approximately $400 billion over the 39 years they were in power.

This amounts to nearly all of the aid given to Africa by the West over the same period.

Nigeria gained its independence from Britain in 1960 but was ruled by a succession of military leaders until democracy returned in 1999. In 2002, the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was set up to investigate corruption of past leaders.

Their figures showed that the military had squandered the public money on projects which did not help the country's citizens, and have left no lasting benefit.

The military siphoned the money off from sales of Nigerian oil - Nigeria is the world's eighth largest exporter of oil. Nigeria's last dictator, General Sani Abacha, may have stolen up to $6 billion, but only around $300 million has ever been recovered.

The chairman of the commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu described the military as having "institutionalised corruption", and of having undermined the public's desire to have efficient infrastructure in place.

"We are tired of giving ourselves bad names. Government must deliver on its promises. The moment we start doing things correctly, injustice will reduce, and corruption will also reduce. We need a leadership that is bold, strong and courageous," Ribadu said.

The G8 recently agreed to cancel the debt of 14 African nations to the IMF and the World Bank (a total of $40 billion), but excluded Nigeria on the grounds of corruption.

A professor at the Lagos Business School, Prof Pat Utomi, said that was the right decision. "Who is to say you won't see the same behaviour again if it is all written off?"