HOW FOREIGNERS ROB NIGERIA, AFRICA
It has been clearly established that foreigners fleece Nigeria, rape the economy of Nigerians and Africa through very dubious means. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who should know as a result of his experience and exposure has argued that the developed world is complicit with regard to fraudulent activities committed in Africa. Obasanjo, in his Foreword to my publication: AFRICA: The Game Changers & Dynamics of Power lamented that ‘’Pervasive corruption, sometimes aided by the developed nations, is another obstacle to the realization of the key objectives of African nations.’’ Indeed, reports have indicated that the huge sums of money illegally taken out of Africa are far more in excess of international aid that is received in the continent. That means what comes into Africa as aid from foreign nations is far less than what goes out illegally to the Western world from African nations.The stunted growth of the economy may very well have accounted for the statement credited to the United States president, Donald Trump that Africans live in ‘’shit holes’’. Very unfortunate.
Well, if the meaning is that Africa doesn’t look exactly like Europe and the Americas, or is not as developed as the First World, there are reasons for that. Looking at this issue critically and dispassionately, one could safely say that slavery and slave trade, both have functional and dysfunctional effects on Africa. The positive effect is Western civilization; and the dysfunctional effect is the underdevelopment of Africa, following the massive transportation of Africans to Europe and the Americas to develop the economies of those continents, particularly during the period of the industrial revolution.The negative effects of the slap on Africa by foreign powers, far outweigh its positive sides. More importantly, the subtle and indirect control exerted by former colonialists of African nations has resulted into the destabilization of African nations. Apart from manipulation of the economy of Africa, political exploitation has also negatively impacted the fortunes of the African continent as world powers have really never beencomfortable with a totally independent Africa. Let’s take a look at the Report of the‘Thabo Mbeki High-Level Panel (HLP) on Illicit Financial Flows’ (IFFs) established by theAfrican Union in February 2012, of which most Africans are unaware. The Thabo Mbeki Panel examined the nature and patterns of Illicit Financial Flows from Africa; and established the level of such outflows from the continent. It also assessed the complex and long-term implications of Illicit Financial Flows. The findings are mind boggling. The findings were further bolstered by another report by the Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington D.C.-based research and advocacy organization,that discovered that Africa lost about US$854 billion in illicit financial outflows from 1970 through 2008, to the West. The GFI Report also asserted thatUS$854 billion was pilfered away; and total illicit outflows may be as high as US$1.8 trillion. This is one of the reasons why Africa may be erroneously called a ‘’shit hole’’
ILLICIT OUTFLOWS MORE THAN DEVELOPMENT AIDS RECEIVED BY AFRICA
This finding sounds almost incredible but it has not been contested. The Thabo Mbeki Panel discovered that Africa loses twice as much in Illicit Financial Flows as it receives in international aid. According to The Thabo Mbeki Panel, Illicit Financial Flow comprises three major components and these are: Theft, bribery, and other forms of corruption by government officials; criminal activities, including drug trafficking and funds money laundering, racketeering and counterfeiting as well as international commercial transactions, including tax evasion, trade mispricing, over-invoicing, involving mostly multinational corporations. But it excludes smuggling. The Thabo Mbeki Panel also revealed that ”International commercial transactions, including tax evasion, trade mispricing, over-invoicing, involve mostly multinational corporations from Western countries take thelargest percentage of Illicit Financial Flows from Africa. And proceeds of these criminal activities are piped into vaults of the developed nations.In actual fact, multinational companies are responsible for 60 per cent of the IFFs; and they are from Western countries, lampooning the state of underdevelopment in Africa.’’ Essentially, United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, Korea, China and India are said to be major destinations of IFFs.
The Report explained that “Multinationals are depriving some of the world’s poorest countries of money vitally needed to pay for schools, hospitals and other essential services.” International development agency, Action Aid, has discovered that ”Corporate evasion and avoidance was unfair on smaller domestic businesses that are typically responsible for the majority of employment in Africa.’’ That might be one of the reasons of underdevelopment and why anybody would refer to Africa as a ‘’shit hole’’.The agency called on the African Union and its member governments to immediately review tax treaties, which, it said, are someof the major routes through which tax avoidance usually occurs. “African governmentsshould look to renegotiate or, if necessary, to cancel the treaties to ensure that moremoney is available to help improve the lives of the majority of their citizens.” Action Aidadvised that: “African governments should also review their tax incentives and cooperate at aregional level to develop a coordinated approach to tax competition. It added that: ‘’Multinationalcompaniesoften relied on the global network of double taxationtreaties or agreements, which permit citizens who earn their income in a country otherthan their home country, to avoid or reduce the tax they should to pay to the governmentsin their areas of operation. ‘’Action Aid estimates that about $138 billion is given away by government in developing nations through income tax exemptions.’’
ILLICIT FLOWS TWICE MORE THAN OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE
It is most unpleasant that Africa has emerged the most aid-dependent, most indebted and marginalized region. Of the estimated 1.2 billion people living in abject poverty all over the world, Africa is host to about 300 million, which is grossly disproportionate to the overall population. The gap between the rich and the poor countries continues to widen. For instance, external debt service payments made between 2001 and 2003 by Nigeria was five times as high as the recurrent federal government budgetary allocation to Education, and about six times as high as the recurrent budgetary allocation to health. Nigeria was already condemned perpetually with the twin problem of heavy budget deficits and weak balance of payments position, with the prospect of building a virile and viable economy. Interests on loans from Bretton Woods institutions and the London and Paris Clubs, are most times higher than the actual amounts borrowed leaving Africa in perpetual servitude. It is such a worrisome development that the UN has developed guidelines to assist businesses to fight corruption.
Africa could have developed beyond its present state had the West been sincere about helping the continent to grow. Stolen funds in the vaults of First World nations could have been returned to Africa nations without stringent and seemingly impossible conditions to be deployed to addressing problems of infrastructure deficit and other huge development challenges confronting Africa. The Thabo Mbeki Panel turned in a damning verdict: ‘’About 30 percent of these movements have links with one criminal activity or another, including drug dealings, smuggling or human trafficking, while another 5 percent is traced to bribery to corrupt officials.’’ The report added that “Multinationals are depriving some of the world’s poorest countries of money vitally needed to pay for schools, hospitals and other essential services.” The Global FinanciaI Integrity Report also asserted that such outflows from the entire region outpaced Official Development Assistance going into the region at a ratio of at least 2 to 1. Studies have shown that even in modern times, Africa continues to be raped by industrialized nations that should ideally be the leading lights in helping the continent out of a depressing situation. The bulk of Africa’s losses to illicit financial flows annually were through various schemes by multinational companies to evade and avoid the payment of corporate tax in their areas of operations.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS, REPATRIATION AND CONDITIONALITIES
Why would the head of a government of an advanced nation refer to an African nation as ‘’fantastically corrupt’’ when his nation is one of the receivers of the huge funds believed to have been laundered? In Law, the giver and the receiver are both guilty, which is why it would be wise on the part of African nations to request that victims of Advance Fee Fraud (419) be brought into Africa to answer to charges of complicity as accessories. If any foreigner falls into the hands of a fraudster with intent to also benefit from fraudulent activities, that person is an accomplice and should be treated as such. Ignorance is not an excuse. Proceeds from such activities should be forfeited to governments of African nations since the intent, in the first place, is to defraud African nations. Regrettably, foreign nations seem to look the other way when mired funds from Africa enter their economies. It would sound very ridiculous for anybody to assert that it is possible for millions of pounds sterling, Euros or dollars to enter the economy of an advanced country without an alarm sounding in the financial services system of such nations, this age of technological advancements. I once asked aDiplomat the reason why foreign nations would attach seemingly impossible conditions to the repatriation of funds legitimately belonging to African nations, but are discovered in the vaults of advanced countries. I argued logically, and not diplomatically, that if your country holds funds from Nigeria in your country’s vaults for several years, that foreign economy must be made to pay interests onfunds illegally taken out of Africa and are domiciled in Western nations. Those nations too are more than fantastically corrupt, and are better that ‘’shit holes’’ because they have taken, and are still taking undue advantage of African nations. This is why we must pay particular attention to the integration of Africa and intraregional trade. It is also better to give considerations first to African businesses that will recirculate profits locally than patronize foreign firms, wherever African firms are adjudged as competentas foreign firms, and could perform equally well.
THABO MBEKI PANEL’S CONCLUSIONS
Thabo Mbeki’s panel’s finding is that ”Curtailing the Illicit Financial Flows would allow the continent to address its developmental challenges and retain such funds that illegally evade the continent each year to the developedcountries. That is: ‘’Africa would grow from being ‘’shit holes’’ if the West stops raping the continent and stealing its resources. These stolenfunds could be deployed to addressing problems of infrastructure deficit and other hugedevelopment challenges confronting Africa. ”The financial loss has had detrimental effectson African countries, a situation that has made them to be unable to garner the domesticresources needed to address their developmental needs. Mbeki reasoned that illicit financialflow is an African problem with a global solution; and therefore, “solutions need to be foundat the origin and destinations of funds.” The latest onslaught on Africa may very well be the result of ignorance. It is one of the reasons why a renowned communications expert, late Professor Alfred Opubor canvassed for stronger communications channels to beam information on Africa to other parts of the world. According to Opubor: “Africa has been the victim of other peoples’ information domination. ‘’Historically, Africa’s image in the world has been largely managed by non-African interests and institutions. ‘’Those who had the means to create powerful channels to disseminate information widely, had pre-empted the definition of what was good, what was right, what was important and what was civilized.’’ I hold that it is right to say that Africa is underdeveloped. Conversely, it is wrong for anyone to use a derogatory word to describe Africa. At this critical junction in world history, the global community faces the challenge of managing challenges posed by pervasive extreme poverty, that is provoking economic lopsidedness that could be dangerous to peace and international understanding.
I will make an allusion to two opinions voiced by two prominentNigerians. Former Osun State governor, Prince OlagunsoyeOyinlola in a lecture delivered at the University of Buckinghamasserted that: “You may find it interesting viewing on your television sets sordid occurrences of conflicts and disturbances in the developing world. ‘’I must highlight the fact that it is better for the developed world not to take delight in watching such occurrences. ‘’You must not be too sure such things caused by racial bitterness and the likes cannot happen here in the advanced world. ‘’Until the former Yugoslavia detonated less than two decades ago in the heart of Europe, no one could believe that such development could in a developed world.’’ This position is supported by Reuben Abati, a Nigerian journalist who argues that: ‘’There are so many unwarranted and generalized statements, which may not be reasonable. Such sweeping publications cannot be clinically or scientifically proved to be true. I wish to refer, for instance, to a broadcast by the CNN entitled “How to Rob a Bank” on Sunday June 11, 2006, which was unfortunately followed by an equally unpalatable derogatory publication on the BBC world service. Both reports contained disparaging reports about Nigeria and Nigerians. Abati, then an opinion writer in the Nigerian Guardian newspaper put up a brilliant defence and argued that: “The truth of the matter is that the credit card fraudsters, the con-artists, the drug couriers who seem to attract the attention of the international media constitute a minority. ‘’The majority of Nigerians is made up of honest, hardworking persons who are trying to earn a living. ‘’There may be problems in terms of the value system, in terms of an obsession with money for its own sake. But there is nothing in Nigeria that is so different from other countries. ‘’There are more criminals in America than there are in the whole of Nigeria. How about the ENRON scandal, the mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, the robberies and killings on the streets of America: do these necessarily make every American a gangster? Indians and Koreans come to this country to do business and they treat our people badly, but I don’t consider either Indians or Koreans superior to Nigerians. If the CNN were to investigate Italians and Hispanics, its investigators would find a lot to put on air, except they may not consider it politically correct to do so.”
Finally, this development is a good challenge for Africans and Africa’s rulers and leaders. The solution to Africa’s problems is good governance. President Joaquim Alberto Chissano, the first recipient of the ‘Mo Ibrahim Prize for Good Governance,’ who served as the second president of Mozambique from 1986–2005, has argued that: ‘’There is no alternative to good governance, if any African nation is to grow, ‘’Good governance is our best hope against these challenges. ‘’Governance entails choices. ‘’It demands a visionary leadership that will set enlightened priorities, and redeploy resources and retain skilled talent.’’ Let Africans stand up to the challenges of the times and be prepared to ride on storms. It is well with Africa.