As a Nigerian in the Diaspora, one cannot but take more than a cursory look at the current spate of revelations regarding the profound rot in the NNPC. One can argue that, the current regime of President Umaru Musa Yar Adua is a good wind blowing on Nigeria, (this is the era of servant-leadership) otherwise, Nigerians would never have known the degree of misrepresentation and abuse of public trust that prevailed in the last 8 years in Nigeria under the watch of the NNPC leadership. The grand corruption, nepotism, self-service and recklessness are suffocating to say the least! Even at peacetime, Nigeria can still drain away our national treasures?
Supported by modest and trusted people like Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, Prof Soludo, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Dr Usman, Haman Tukur RMAFC Chairman, we are beginning to unravel the amount of economic damage and needful reconstruction efforts needed to make Nigeria great again. To institute a commission of enquiries to the abuse of our collective wealth should be non-debateable. Nigerians would like to know what transpired and who should be held accountable for the colossal loss of our national treasure. There should be no lip service to this resulting from misguided political allegiance or sense of loyalty. Nigerians are all the more aware and wiser than before. However, while we pensively observe the progress of events, it is imperative to analyse the opportunity cost of this fund so that Nigerians can begin to relate in development terms, to every mismanaged public fund and the impact it could have had on our society, were it managed judiciously and responsibly.
When governance and public service has been reduced to personal duty, when servitude and solemn personal sacrifice has been flushed through the drain of grandiose pride, when arrogance and selfish ambitions have been given pre-eminence in running of public office, these are the inevitable fallouts and who bears the brunt? Nigerians home and abroad do!!!
With respect to the $5 Billion NNPC funds, one do not need to be an economist of the mould of Okonjo- Iweala or Prof Soludo to know how poor and patriotic Nigerians have been chronically deprived of what benefits could have accrued to them, if the funds had been used for the public goods.
Is there any wonder why despite all the trumpeted noise on the economic reform, public services reform, international image reform, and our socio-economic indicators suffers so much inertia towards the minimum standard expected of an oil-rich nation like Nigeria?
THE REAL COST AND OPPORTUNITY COST
While the bogus contracts and nepotism prevailed in NNPC in the last 8 years, and the fund was being bounced around different bank accounts in Nigeria and abroad, 40 out of 1000 mothers die inevitably during childbirth due to lack of adequate antenatal care, illiteracy, malnutrition, gender discrimination, deplorable home environment, decaying hospital facilities, rock-bottom staff moral and inadequate staff strength with outdated skills.
While interest was accruing on the NNPC fund spirited out into foreign accounts in partnership with bogus Technical partners, 60/1000 child under five years old are dying of malnutrition, homelessness, absent parental care, maternal deprivation, malaria, HIV, communicable diseases, pitiable psychosocial milieu, insanity, poor home environment, lack of portable water, cholera, bird flu, environmental degradation and dehydration. Houses are falling like a pack of cards killing innocent Nigerians.
The entire health system is moribund and it has been for years, no effective accident and emergency facilities, even the private sector struggle to keep up basic minimum standard of care due to lack of coordinated system of healthcare delivery and inadequate regulatory framework. Even, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) struggle to keep up its mandate of health for all in consonant with the Millennium Development goal and agenda (MDG), the funding system is inadequate and infrastructure to deliver are lacking. There is sporadic doctors strike in different parts of the country, and even the gladiators of NNPC mismanaged funds cannot trust the health system they have put together for long-suffering Nigerians, they have to be flown abroad for routine medical procedure.
I recalled that when Bill Clinton needed a heart surgery, he used his nearest health service centre, when Tony Blair needed an intervention for his heart, he used his constituency NHS service, and Fidel Castro is kept alive by the indigenous health facility he invested in as a leader. The same cannot be said for our own people, it is a shameful fashion to hear that they patronise the foreign hospitals for routine medical checks. Recently, the Speaker of the National Assembly left the shores of Nigeria, ostensibly, for a routine medical check. Even the Human Right activist and fiery radical Lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), is recuperating in London following a major heart Surgery. Without being judgemental, I know it is within the right and choice of an individual to seek medical attention wherever, it pleases, but seeing our leaders abandoning our own facilities for foreign patronage is an indication of the lack of confidence they have in the infrastructure and expertise they have left for millions of Nigeria to use. One of the best Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeons in the UK is a Nigerian; one of the best Neurosurgeons in the USA is a Nigerian, the Immediate past Chief Examiner and President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in a Nigerian. What does that say about our situation? Your guess is as good as mine.
While the argument still rages on whether the NNPC $5 billion has been wholly or partially accounted for, diverted, managed or otherwise, 500, 000 Nigerians are going to lose their jobs with the attendant socio-economic and livelihood implications on their dependants, 8 out of 10 University graduates remains unemployed either in private or public organizations, pensioners are dropping dead on the queue for their legitimate entitlement for years of meritorious service to the nation. They have become victims of ‘Old Age poverty syndrome’ just because they served a nation and trust that when their strength cannot allow them more service in the frontiers of national treasure building; Nigeria would come to their aid.
The controversial NNPC $5 billion and all the monies recovered by the EFCC so far by the controversial option of plea bargaining, could have turned our health, road, transportation, education, energy infrastructure around if it had been purposefully targeted at those development goals that common man on the street can benefit and relate to, and not paper-based theoretical yardsticks of trumpeted achievement that is far distance from an average Nigerian. Recently, the news from Nigeria revealed that over 900billion Naira expended on our energy sector in the last 8 years has produced no visible or appreciable benefits to the Nigerian masses. So where are all these monies? What can a man do with all these stolen funds? At the risk of sounding like a preacher, I dear say that many who have done likewise, have not lived to spend a penny of these nor benefit from the acquired properties and private jets they fraudulently acquired. So, it is time for a rethink of our attitude to public funds! Our leaders should desist from this acquisitive compulsive megalomania and obsessionality. It is without doubt the bane of our socio-economic development. We are aware that the current government has declare a national emergency of the power and housing sector, but Nigerians would wait in earnest to see if this is not another spin aimed at making Nigerians belief that there is light at the tunnel.
One do not need the World Bank to advice us that if those funds had been used for aggressive investment on affordable, equitable housing facilities across the landscape of the nation, many Nigerians would not have ended up under the bridge at night, many children would not have been victims of malarial death, neither would people have been victims of collapsed old dilapidated buildings.
The real and opportunity cost of these misappropriation and selfish diversion of the NNPC funds has meant that many Nigerians studying abroad in various Universities and Colleges have to spend more productive hours working in bars, care homes, shops or even expelled, to make ends meet and also meet their scholarly financial obligations simply because our elected and appointed leaders would rather satisfy the mundane desire than invest in our future and human capita development.
The forgone conclusion of the foregoing is that while the wheel of investigation rolls about the NNPC $5 billion, many Nigerians will still go to bed or lie on their mats, as the case may be, without knowing where they are going to when (and if) they wake up, without any hope of living a life where basic amenities are least of their worries.
Suffering in the midst of plenty can only best describe the opportunity cost of the growing evidence of personal abuse of public trust and funds by our leaders on the scale that has now become a public knowledge.