Corruption in the Promised Land
Nigeria’s deep rooted corruption is well-known for depriving its own people of the basic necessities to survive. As a result, the majority of Nigerians are still under-employed, under-educated and under-fed. At the same time, the country offers over-generous opportunities to foreign companies which have slashed huge bites out of Africa’s economy. Nigeria especially is the ideal stomping ground for the likes of Shell, Exxon and Julius Burger -- these companies have even sanctified the country as the ‘holy, holy, holy Promised Land.’ Meanwhile, economic opportunity remains far out of reach for actual Nigerians.
Where is the US$15 billion in oil resources pumped out of its own ground? Where is the foreign aid packages of millions of dollars dumped on the country in the name of Millennium Development Goal? Does anyone ever sincerely ask these questions?
Take a look at the business enhancement programs in Nigeria for example. It was in July 2010, when Nigeria’s government offered loans and grants, and our Nigerian NGO, HFMCS took the opportunity and applied for a loan. This was after we bought a palm oil-expeller machine from India and land for a factory to produce palm oil in Uyo. According to the inspector on our case, we had the best chance of succeeding compared to other applicants. He promised us a loan of 5 million naira (approximately US$30,000) by January 2011.
Take heed, the Nigerian government’s promises mean absolutely nothing. This very same inspector demanded a bribe right after the inspection. Here was a shameless man without professionalism and integrity, simply taking advantage of us who already had big financial dent for machinery and land .
The loan was delayed endlessly with endless excuses given. In January 2011, a labor union strike reached nation-wide. Then came the elections in April, and riots broke out everywhere among PDP and other various political parties. During this waiting period for events, another government officer came to rob us with a stabbing message: “The loan payment will be delayed if you don’t pay a bribe!” Shockingly, we came to discover that those linked with high ranking officers in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources were amassing the interests of the money reserved for the loan! Employees there knew but kept quiet. The more they extended the waiting period on the loan, the more money they’d rake in to line their pockets. In the end, we waited one and a half years to get our funding.
After a nerve ravaging waiting period, a series of empty promises and non-justified demands for bribes, my Nigerian partner was enraged and developed a violent personality. He locked me up and threatened my life so that he could force me to demand money from my 80-year-old mother in Japan. In October 2011, he was arrested by the Commissioner of Police in Uyo on charges of threats, mismanagement, forgery and violence.
In December 2011, a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources delivered the final blow informing us that the sum of 5 million naira was granted to our project--with even more demands never mentioned before; new assignment to find a guarantor and a certificate of land ownership involved more money, more time — and more bribes.
Upon my partner’s release from jail, a lawyers’ group called International Federation of Women Lawyers provided protection for my daughter and me, transferring us safely away from him. .
Today in August 2013, the palm oil expeller machine still lies unused in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state. If used properly, it could have produced Palm kernel oil worth US$8,000 profit per month, and certainly benefit the state at a large scale. How ironic, you might say. There are those who have bread but don’t know how to eat it. That is the very reason most Nigerians suffer in the midst of rich oil production.
How long will foreign aid organizations ignore Nigeria’s exploitation of its own people? Millions of tax-payers’ dollars have been handed over to the corrupt government without ever questioning its management. And wealth creating projects are buried alive on corrupt grounds. What Nigeria needs is not bread, but someone to teach them how to eat bread with sincerity and honesty.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital empowerment and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.