The responsibilities of the Nigerian government do not end with approving of loans or fiscal allocations for the 36 states and the FCT, including the ministries, departments and agencies, but rather a duty is added as well, to monitor how those loans or monies are spent. It is duty and responsibility of the federal government to monitor whether those funds, though given for collective citizen’s welfare, are spent on buying arms and killing people, or are just siphoned to overseas bank accounts of the state chief executives.
Successive government who invested their time to investigate the use of their funds have found them not being used for the intended targets. For example, many earmarked monies for poverty reduction and micro-credits have not reached to the targeted grassroots, and many other projects were “drawn” to the area of influential leaders, rather than implementing them where they were really needed. One can easily find out from the records of working areas of the implemented projects that more projects are active in already developed areas like the Niger Delta, than in backward areas of South-East or Middle Belt, lets talk about the north later.
Further, if you look at the staffs involved in such federal invested projects and international organizations working in Nigeria, they seem to be overwhelmingly in the hands of ruling-class people due to their easy access to the government and power structure, and indigenous groups, Niger Delta people and the minority ethnic society are heavily under-represented. For example, according to a survey report by UNDP, participation of the Niger Delta in international organizations and projects is only 5%, whereas that of the north is 81%. Such a disparate representation in these organizations effectively allows ruling-classes people to “hijack” the projects to their areas, disregarding the real needs of other areas.
Also, the reports about various issues prepared by them in these organizations tend to fill-up with the attitude of ruling-classes people, and often ignore or underestimate or even suppress the issues of minorities, indigenous people, the Niger Delta and the Middle Belt. The issue of under-representation and marginalization of other indigenous groups and the Niger Delta being largely unknown or ignored by the world before the recent uprising is the consequential evidence of this.
The 2008 World Bank report signals significant deterioration of “voice and accountability” in Nigeria in case of project implementations. The report evaluates the “Monitoring and Evaluation Reports” as of lowest category of negative practices with score of 32 (< 33 negative, 34-49 mostly negative, 50-66 mostly positive, and > 67 positive), and the “Public and Legislative Involvement” as the lowest of all countries with score of 7%. Besides, Nigeria has CPI (corruption perception index) of 2.5 making it to stand at 117th position in a list of 158 groups of countries. And this CPI score relates to the corruption as seen by business people, academics and risk analysts who are still mostly affiliated with government themselves in Nigeria, leaving the possibility of real CPI score to be much lower (highly corrupt).
One example of sheer lack of accountability can be seen in recent allocation of funds by this government. Regarding the funds released by the government to the Niger Delta states at various intervals for ration, logistics and other needs of PLA personnel, finance minister Dr. Mansur Muhtar has said that the government has no knowledge of how the Niger Delta are spending money, further adding, “the Niger Delta have not submitted the details of expenses incurred so far from the fund.” The government has already funded billions of naira to the Niger Delta. Whether it be from public fund or from donor agencies, if the government is funding these Niger Delta communities, who were regarded as militants up to few couples of months ago, isn’t it the responsibility of the government to take the complete details of how Niger Delta communities have been spending the money and make it transparent? On the one side, finance minister have claimed to release more than sufficient money for the Niger Delta communities to feed for several months, whereas the communities in the camps have claimed not to get sufficient amount even for the food and had left the camps in thousands, and yet on the other side, with the cheque of hundreds of thousands naira.
There have been innumerable cases of human-rights violations during the decade long conflict in the Niger Delta, both from the government side and militants. Some of them are well documented and acknowledged as well. The miscreant cause atrocities and commits havoc; finally disappear to leave ordinary law-abiding citizen to bear the brunt. More than 13,000 people had been killed, hundreds disappeared and thousands others were displaced since the beginning of the Niger Delta insurgency. There have been hundreds of cases of arbitrary arrests, detentions, disappearances, abductions, tortures and summary executions, and innumerable cases of extortions. There have been several heinous crimes to kill innocent civilians like in Creek Market incidences inside Port Harcourt. “Shoot on Patrol” policy of some of military on both sides during the conflict just accelerated and elevated the human-rights violations to greater heights.
The human-rights violation by the government during the recent Militancy uprising is also not unknown any more. The government deployed thousands of its armed police forces, the military and the special forces to abate the insurgency, the militants lay ambush to innocent Nigerians, the military and the well-meaning Nigerians without a clear definition of their pursuit, keeping whatever struggle the embark upon to look selfish and meaningless. This situating has endangered the life of ordinary Nigerians in the street of the Niger Delta regions. We cannot sleep with two eyes closed. I used to imagine how look like in situation like this war. These parties (the militants and the military) are using live bullets and excessive force to suppress the voices of millions of Nigerian people in the area. More than 30 people died with hundreds others injured from the bullets of both forces. They even attacked hospitals, and manhandled civil servant, businessmen and official staffs.
The Niger Delta communities have representatives who are now a part of the national assembly, have nothing to say on how to stop this violent and the issue of human-rights abuse in the area. Most of them refused to call their communities in order especially their youths. They cannot tell Nigerians that they do not know these boys (the militants).Looking at their activities even for last one month; it seems to be soaring rather than showing any sign of slowing down. And now, they seem to have been institutionalizing the militancy, as the government has been quite aggressive about their activities, and it has been argued whether these crimes should be attributed to the Niger Delta communities or to the government. After all, the Niger Delta communities are the ones who have their big (and several times the final) say in the national assembly and the decision making process of the coalition.
Whether it’s financial misappropriation and corruption or violation of human rights, barely any case has been seriously considered by the state.
According to the government’s latest report, the blacklisted borrowers have defaulted N32 billion by the end of fiscal year 2008/09, but still there has been no effective action taken against such willful defaulters, and many of these defaulters have been involved in cabinet and States/national as well. The default loans account for a third of Nigeria’s annual revenues. Such lack of punishment for defaulters has grave impact on marketing system. In the words of an undisclosed diplomat, the World Bank chief in Nigeria, “The defaulting of huge bank loans conveys the message that the rich do have access to thousands o
f dollars and they are free to do anything with those loans, whereas the poor people are deprived of a small amount of credit.” The foreign manager of the world banks working in Nigeria have also complained that strong political affiliation of such defaulters have made it virtually impossible to force them to pay back their loans. Their efforts towards forcing the defaulters to pay back the loans have been unsuccessful several times in the past due to the government’s rejection or protection.
Corruption cases are even more worrying, as barely any ministers can be isolated from it including the ruling politicians. A Former President was once convicted in US$464 million Halliburton scandal, and multi-time national Independent Power project, he has been also involved in a number of corruption cases including Air Radar corruption scam. Ministers have been involved in past of misusing N4 billion from ex-president’s relief fund to its political supporters, under the guise of relief aid to Niger Delta communities victims. Whether it’s the case of the former President for making N30 billion by misusing his authority, or the former head of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation for illegal earning of more than N70 billion, or the former comptroller -general of Nigerian Customs Office for corruption case of US$140,000, all of them escaped court’s premises due to their political power, moments before the verdicts were delivered. Currently the court has more than 150 corruption cases, involving many senior politicians, ministers, administrators and police officials, but it’s highly unlikely that any of them will be ever prosecuted, as now all the parties themselves have ganged up in the government.