Corruption in Ghana, Nigeria: Where Rawlings Comes in (1)
By Samuel K. Obour
I was writing an article commending Nigeria on her military strides in the sub-region, especially after she deployed troops to Guinea Bissau to help protect lives and property. And I was making considerable progress when I heard the news. The devastating news:
A plane flying from Abuja had crashed into a residential building in Lagos, killing 153 people aboard and an unspecified number of people on the ground.
I stopped writing immediately; I could no longer commend a government that was protecting lives in a foreign country, but had failed to protect the lives of its citizens.
It emerged, rather agonisingly, in the following days that the crashed plane, belonging to Dana Air, was in no condition to fly – at all. It was a flying coffin.
The foregoing conclusion is supported strongly be a transcript of desperate, last minute conversations between the pilots of the plane and Air Traffic Controllers at the Muritala Mohammed Airport.
The transcript, exclusively obtained by the Punch Newspaper, revealed that the plane had had “dual engine failure”. This was affirmed clearly by the pilots on the plane themselves.
It is regrettable and unpardonable that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA) criminally failed to institute measures that would have helped identify and impound the sick plane before it could wreak havoc.
The aviation authority, which itself is sick, sat idly by as a foreign, profit-inclined airline gambled with the lives of Nigerians. Now, at least 163 people are dead, including a family of nine. An atmosphere of fear and panic has also been created among air travellers within and outside the country.
It is an unfortunate development which exemplifies the massive corruption, mismanagement, non-commitment, and utter ineptitude that have plagued African governments and institutions for decades.
Corruption has especially been endemic, eating into the very fabric of society and depriving millions of ordinary Africans of much needed economic and infrastructural development.
Selfish and self-seeking public officials continue to aggressively serve their parochial interests at the expense of the joy and fulfilment of millions of Africans; sometimes, at the expense of human lives.
While many of us are making the effort to affect positive change within our societies, and at least guarantee a better future for our children, these officials are satanically and sophomorically undermining our efforts.
An example each in Ghana and Nigeria should suffice.
Farouk Lawal had been a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives (an MP) since 1999. He was so highly esteemed that he was made Chairman of a Parliamentary committee to investigate what Nigerians now call the ‘fuel subsidy scam’, after it emerged that some oil marketers had collected oil subsidy money from government, but had failed to supply fuel.
Farouk was mandated by the Nigerian people to simply identify marketers that received monies but failed to supply fuel.
Farouk, according to reports, appeared to perform this task diligently, and soon discovered that some companies had brazenly stolen an astonishing two trillion Naira ($12, 270,000,000) in fuel subsidy money.
The ‘honourable’ Member of parliament proceeded to make recommendations as to how the monies could recovered, and the companies punished. He made statements to the media detailing how his committee would ensure that the ‘corrupt’ companies were prosecuted according to the laws of the country.
Many Nigerians accepted the report and began calling for the prosecution of companies that were indicted.
However, in a shocking and utterly incomprehensible move, Farouk went behind Nigerians to solicit bribes from some of the indicted companies in exchange for having those companies struck off the list. He grabbed an astonishing $620,000 from one of the oil marketers – part payment for the $3 million bribe he demanded – and struck the company’s name off the list.
Long story short, the law caught up with our ‘honourable’ MP, because the marketer had liaised with the Nigerian security services and captured the entire transaction on video.
Farouk has been arrested and is expected to face prosecution, but his criminal behaviour has severely undermined the authenticity of the findings of the parliamentary committee he headed.
As things stand, I’m certain that those findings will crumble in the face of legal scrutiny, and Nigerians many never get to find the thieves behind the ‘fuel subsidy scam’. Farouk’s criminal action has also dented the confidence many Nigerians reposed in the Nigerian legislature and undermined the integrity of the body. All these, because a lawmaker who should have known better, betrayed the Nigerian people by putting his interest ahead of the nation’s.
In Ghana, we all saw how Alfred Agbesi Woyome, a businessman and reported financier of the ruling National Democratic Government (NDC), engineered the release of about GHC51 million ($27,000,000) in judgement debt from the government.
Woyome was awarded the money after he went to court on utterly false premises, as affirmed by the immediate past Attorney General, Mr Martin Amidu, who was fired by President Mills for apparently opening his mouth too wide on the Woyome situation.
At least two others with knowledge on the situation have testified in court that Woyome neither had any contract with the government nor did he do any work for the government for which he deserved payment.
Instead of fighting back in the interest of Ghanaians, the Attorney General’s department inimically allowed Woyome to have his way in court. Indeed, the Department agreed to part with the said GHC51 million ($27, 000,000) to have the case removed from court.
This happened in 2010, and it has taken bravery on the part of an opposition MP, Mr Kennedy Agyapong, to blow the alarm on the situation this year.
Investigations by Ghana’s Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO)
revealed the Woyome had paid $400,000 in bribe to the Chief State Attorney at the time.
There are also widespread reports that Woyome connived with some high ranking people in government to rob the country of that huge amount. The former A- G, Martin Amidu, seems to think so too.
The government has now capriciously turned around to charge Woyome with ‘wilfully causing financial loss to the state’ as part of efforts to retrieve the money.
The other day, I saw a post by a certain Bluemurder on Nairaland.com, a Nigerian forum.
Bluemurder prescribed capital punishment for corrupt politicians and individuals in Nigeria. According to him, the practice had helped China curb corruption tremendously and should be considered in Africa.
In the past, many wouldn’t hesitate to dismiss this suggestion, but in the face of the unprecedented corruption and greed that have enveloped many African countries and crippled their economies, it is only a matter of time before people become more and more amenable to the idea.
It reminds me of Rawlings’ Ghana in the late 70s, and the 80s, where individuals deemed to be corrupt were convicted by the courts and shot at the stakes. Many top military men, including three former heads of state; politicians, public servants; private citizens were convicted, and shot for engaging in acts that were deemed by the courts to be inimical to the national interest.
Indeed, some Nigerians have prescribed a similar cure to their corruption menace. I’m sure they understand what such a cure means for the someone like former leader, Ibrahim Bademosi Babangida, who is believed to have stolen billion of dollars from the Nigerian treasury.
In Rawlings’ Ghana, even people who could not explain how they came by their property and the monies in their bank accounts were not spared. They were either imprisoned or shot. Many fled the country. Corruption was virtually uprooted.
A fundamental question thus arises: Do we still need a Rawlings to introduce or restore sanity to our politics? I will be considering this in the second part of this article.
The writer is a Ghanaian journalist based in Accra.