Corruption: system vs. people

Are Nigerians inherently corrupt or the system that makes it easy to get away with looted funds to blame?

$2.1 bn is a lot of money in any country, more so in the case of Nigeria given the high poverty rate and the northeast Boko Haram insurgent.

Earlier this month former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki was arrested when it was clear the money allocated to fight Boko Haram was not used as intended. Since then, he has been dropping names as rotting wounds drop maggots.

Dasuki claimed to have distributed the money to different Nigeria politicians, supposed elders, awarding fake arm contracts by transferring money to different unregistered companies. And of course cash transfer to media houses for plenty of shoutouts – what a country!

Sounds awful but this is the reality of Nigeria. Corruption will only seize  when offenders pay for their crime.

All of these, Dasuki said was done following orders from ex President Jonathan Goodluck – no surprises there.

From what I have learnt in the last three decades in Nigeria, ex President Jonathan did not start corruption, however, he took it to the highest level in history.

Looking at all of these I wondered if Nigerians (including myself) are inherently corrupt so much so that it devoid any logic.

The way I see it is that one has to be completely stupid, evil, and everything in-between to receive a Ghana Must Go full of cash from a budget meant to fight security threat to the whole country.

A few months back a friend spoke to someone who is willing to invest in their business in Nigeria. The investor lives and works out of Nigeria. Like many in diaspora he is in touch with ‘home’ and wanted to help a friend grow her business as long as he gets the principal and a bit of interest back.

So he wanted to transfer some cash in US$ directly to the company account. This should be a straight forward transaction but nothing is straight forward in Nigeria.

The Nigeria company now wanted to set up a US$ domiciliary account – this makes it easier for owner to withdraw the cash in dollar and change it on the street for higher exchange rate.

Here is the twist:

Bank A in Nigeria says law regarding non naira dorm account has changed, that one needs to get a form signed by the EFCC for company to be verified. This will take about two weeks to set up.

Bank B says not to worry, you can transfer any amount from any country and your money is safe, EFCC has rules but we can bypass that as your company is very small. This will be done within 24 hours.

Given two conflicting information from two banks, friend asks for my advice. My response was to wait and do all the necessary paperwork required. Even when it means wasting a whole day for a needless trip to Lagos but it is better that way to make sure one is on the right side of the law.

To buttress my point, I said Nigeria would hesitate to prosecute Madam Iweala for approving Abacha’s recovered fund, $300M allegedly diverted to Sambo Dasuki illegally but Nigeria that I know will give no hearing space before jailing ordinary citizens because of $5k.

Not too surprising, my friend is a Nigerian to the core – ignored my advice and opted for the easy route – the one that bypassed the law and promised quick set up.

As it turned out, all that Bank B did was to get in touch with their agents in New York, collect their bank account numbers to give to the investor. This route is no good for anyone even if investing a kobo, money transfer agents receives commission for transactions and can not defend you if there is any problem.

All I said was “I told you so,” if you value your time and the help from the investor guy, ditch Bank B’s document and go with Bank A even if it takes a month to set up properly.

Need for middlemen is obsolete.

Getting the right information in Nigeria is very expensive. People often are given wrong information that literally means going against the law but it is often disguised under time saving advice.

Eventually, all this fight against corruption will die down, we are recovering some money already, maybe more will come. However, the bigger job that will last forever is to set up a system that makes it easy for ordinary people to abide by the law.