Former World Bank vice president for Africa Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday disclosed that $400 billion of Nigeria's oil revenue was either stolen or misappropriated since the country's independence in 1960.
Ezekwesili stated this while presenting a paper captioned, "Corruption, National Development, The Bar and The Judiciary" at the ongoing 52nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja.
Ezekwesili also noted that while oil accounted for about 90 per cent of the value of Nigeria's exports over 80 per cent of that money ended up in the hands of 1 per cent of the population and stressed that the fight against corruption and demand for good governance must go beyond the actions or efforts of the government.
She said: "In fact, results reveal that as much as 20 per cent of the entire capital expenditure will end up in private pockets annually. The negative effect of corruption was starkly demonstrated by the fact that based on current track record. Nigeria will miss all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets set in 2000 in spite of its natural and human resources. There is no doubt that at the heart of any progress towards meeting these goals is the quality of governance at all levels of government, yet the general perception is validated by the revealed large scale corruption in the petroleum sector especially, but not limited to the management of the subsidy scheme by all the relevant agencies of government."
Poor governance of public resources and assets in Nigeria she added is worsening at every level of government, institutions of state, the private sector and is engulfing the wider society and said a more significant impact of corruption is on the government bottom line and in the teacher-less, desk-less schools which only hint at the extent of the problem in Nigeria.
Ezekwesili revealed that "a study by the World Bank, showed that annual worldwide losses due to corruption amount to between one to four thousand US Dollars while the Global Financial Integrity estimated that between 1970 and 2008 Africa lost more than $854 billion in illicit financial outflows, an amount which is far in excess of official development inflows.
"Another report of the Transparency International (TI) put the amount of bribes companies paid politicians and other public officials in developing and transiting economies annually at $ 40 billion in 2009 and consider that Africa would constitute a major part of since we know the continent's ranking on governance in the lower regions of the TI's corruption perception index," the former minister stated
She stressed that civil society organisations like the NBA and the nation's judiciary and non state actors can play a significant role in making public budgeting more transparent and accountable and engage in the various stages of the budget process that can strengthen the oversight process and accountability in the use of public resources.
She revealed: "An independent judiciary and the bar is important for preserving the rule of law and is, therefore, the most important facet of good governance. The judicial system has an important role to play ultimately in ensuring better public governance. There is no area where the judgment of the Supreme Court has not played a significant role in the governance of any nation whether in environment, human rights, gender justice, education, minorities, police reforms among other.
"The rule of law, one of the most significant characteristics of good governance, prevails in India for example, because India has an independent judiciary that has been sustained owing to the support and assistance from an independent bar which has been fearless in advocating the cause of the underprivileged and the deprived.
So my last words is "who among you is ready to let character be their destiny? Count me in should you need a slightly learned friend" she declared.