Letter to the President of United States of America
Dear Mr. Obama,
My heart was exceedingly gladdened over media reports of the ongoing enforcement of the US Presidential Proclamation 7750 on former and current corrupt Nigerian government officials. There was great joy all over the world at your emergence as the US President due to the anticipated positive change you were to bring to America and the world in general. Behold that wind of change blowing through the shores of Nigeria. This may well be the take-off of the much needed and long overdue revolution in Nigeria.
It is no longer news that these unrepentant rogues have stolen a total of over 500 billion dollars from the Nigerian coffers since independence. And this demonic looting of the public treasury has resulted to the gross under-development of infrastructure in Nigeria with a ripple negative effect on youth employment, education, health, agriculture, transportation, etc. Today, Nigerian citizens who are economically frustrated at home are forced to migrate and in many cases engage in sundry criminal activities in their host nations.
I want to believe you have enough information on the criminal records and activities of some Nigerians living in the US. Your Secretary of State, Mrs Hilary Clinton has repeatedly described the situation in Nigeria as heart-breaking.I would not bother you with the details of how corruption (in both public and private sectors) has damaged Nigeria beyond repair. The US ambassador to Nigeria may want to brief you on the reputation of the Nigerian Police, the Judiciary, Ports and Custom authorities, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, immediate past leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission,INEC, some Chief Executive Officers of Nigerian banks, State and National Houses of Assembly, Chairmen of Local Government authorities, etc.
But Sir, permit me to draw your attention to a particular heart-breaking situation in Nigeria which suggests that MORE THAN A VISA BAN is urgently required before common sense and corrupt-free leadership can be enthroned in Nigeria. I am glad to inform you however, that a semblance of common sense leadership is currently in place in Lagos State, Nigeria; many thanks to Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN). Is it not laughable that Nigeria as a worldâ€™s major producer of crude oil cannot even boast of an efficient post office system? And yet, this same country is talking of such a sensitive and delicate technology like nuclear power; longing for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council; and tells whoever cares to listen how they would join the league of 20 most industrialized nations by 2020. What a bunch of jokers and day dreamers!
It bleeds my soul to inform you that letters posted from one Nigerian city to another take up to two weeks or more to reach the recipients. In many cases, letters get outrightly missing with nobody to hold responsible. Infact, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Nigerian Postal Service has an official website in place. On some occasions, besides the long delays, letters and parcels coming into Nigeria from overseas are tampered with by the post office officials, apparently searching for valuables such as foreign currencies, jewelleries, and other precious items.
This is largely why most Nigerians living abroad resort to the use of courier companies to send across letters and parcels to Nigeria. To send a letter from here in the UK to Nigeria using any of these courier companies costs about Â£ 40.00 per letter. Now imagine the tens of thousands of Nigerians living in the UK and the volume of letters they send each year, and then extend this same calculation to the millions of Nigerians all over the world. That will give you an idea of how much postal ineptitude costs Nigerians and their economy annually.
Most Nigerians, both home and abroad are afraid of transmitting important documents such as original certificates, international passports containing visas, postal orders, and other important documents through the Nigerian post office. Chances are that those documents may not reach the intended recipients whether or not they are registered. What does it really take to have a postal system with a reasonable degree of efficiency? â€“ Personnel to sort and distribute letters, computers, vehicles and motor bikes. As a graduate student in Britain some years ago, I still remember how the British Royal Mail would recruit tens of thousands of university students as ad-hoc staff to help sort and distribute mails during peak Christmas period.
The Christmas period is when they experience the movement of millions of mails within and outside the UK and hence require more hands. In the case of Nigeria, given the suffocating and drowning levels of graduate unemployment, 200,000 university graduates could be easily recruited within two weeks to help sort and distribute letters all year round. And I am talking of young, first rate graduates who would be quite glad to work for a salary of just Â£ 90.00 per month. Yet, some of the types of people you see in our post office branches are grand mothers who come to work with their grand children, spending most of their man-hours attending to those children.
With a daily crude production of over 2 million barrels per day, would it be a herculean task for the Nigerian government to buy computers and vehicles for its post office use? And yet, this same country, with one of the worst socio-economic indices in the world, is proposing to spend a whooping Â£ 43 million (10 billion naira) for a so-called Independence Day anniversary celebration. With the British government cutting back on frontline public services and introducing all sorts of belt-tightening regulations, as a response to the prevailing economic reality, is it not obvious that Nigeria is in dire need of leaders with even common sense before we start talking of integrity?
I do not wish to bore you with the endless tales of Nigerian woes. But permit me to inform you that due to the corrupt and irresponsible activities of these officials, Nigeria has officially degenerated to a failed state status. According to Prof. Ben Nwabueze, an erudite legal scholar, Nigeria has been added to the list of 11 failed states in Africa and 17 in the world.Given the above, I think the US government needs to be thorough and far-reaching beyond the late President Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s cabal members in the visa ban/revocation exercise.
Visa approval is an absolute prerogative of the issuing country and a privilege not a right to the recipient. Therefore the US reserves the right to impose a visa ban on anybody even for a mere allegation of corruption until the person is given a clean bill by the relevant local and international anti graft agencies. The US authorities do not necessarily have to wait for the outcome of a court proceeding before such a ban can be imposed.
Based on this, one expects that the 31 former state governors accused of corruption by the former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, should be banned; a past president who was alleged to have squandered 16 billion dollars on so-called electric power projects with nothing to show for it should be banned; a past military head of state who was alleged not to have properly accounted for a 12.4 billion dollars gulf war oil windfall should be banned (if not already banned); all members of the State and National Houses of Assembly with any slight corruption allegation against them should be banned; present State Governors and Local Government Chairmen with any slight corruption allegation against them should be banned; top echelon of the nationâ€™s financial institutions should be investigated and banned if found wanting, for example the former Chief Executives Officers of banks who had axes to grind with the Central Bank of Nigeria; present and past political party chiefs should be investigated and banned if found wanting; Court Judges and Justices who deliver kangaroo judgements (e.g. the type of judgement we heard from an Asaba high court) for material gains should be banned; Education chiefs, for example university Vice Chancellors who have any corruption allegation against them should be banned.
In fact, the list is endless I am afraid.Going forward, it is instructive to say that more than a visa ban is required by the US authorities in order to achieve their goals. The US government can use its influence to persuade its European and Asian allies to enforce similar visa ban on corrupt Nigerian government officials. It could also use its influence to instigate tougher UN sanctions on corrupt Nigerian officials and other African heads of state.
Another area the US government can use to help fight corruption in Nigeria is by being very thorough with the evidence of funds people present for visa applications. They must insist on the documentary evidence of the source of the money in the bank statements people are presenting. A drug dealer or money launderer would find it difficult to present any evidence to back up his source of income. A government official who is presenting papers for phoney contracts and companies should be apprehended and sanctioned. Any government official presenting any income not captured in his/her payslips or letters of engagement should be subjected to further questioning. These evidences must be independently verifiable.
Another way would be for the US government to tighten its visa policy for Nigerian government officials from the local to the federal government level. In the short term, these officials could be made to compulsorily submit clearance letters from the EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC and the court as part of supporting documents for their visa application. Such letters which should be thoroughly verified by the embassy must be signed by the chairpersons of the anti graft agencies and a high court Judge. In the medium to long term, the embassy should introduce a psychiatric examination policy for all Nigerian government officials before any visa could be issued to them.
This examination has become imperative given their unbelievable capacity for primitive accumulation of wealth. Once the noose is tightened and there is no longer any safe haven for these officials, they will be forced to sit down and genuinely make efforts to develop their country. I want to see a situation where these twisted officials and their family members are forced to study in Nigerian universities, forced to seek medical attention in Nigerian hospitals among other activities.Can Nigeria be great again? Yes We Can! Long Live Mr. Barack Obama.
Kingsley Izuakor is an International Public Affairs Analyst and has written in from Edinburgh, U.K.