RE-OPENING THE ID CARD BRIBERY SCANDAL

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THE general dictum that the wheels of justice grind slowly but exceedingly fine cannot be more appropriate to describe the momentous judgement of a Paris court recently which fined the French Aeronautics and Defence Group, Safran, the sum of 500,000 Euros ($630,000) for inducing top government officials in Nigeria to award it the production of 70 million National Identity cards contract in 2001 at a cost of $214 million.

THE alleged offences were committed by a former electronics firm, Sagem, the winner of the contract, which merged with another firm, SNECMA in 2005, to form Safran.

NIGERIA, always providing a safe haven for corporate crooks and ingenious fraudsters, was, expectedly, an attraction to another multinational company, the Halliburton, which also exploited the ethical tenuity of the country’s government officials when it (Halliburton) paid $180,000 in bribes to some Nigerian officials in 2007 for the construction of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in Eleme, Nigeria. This led to a fine of $579 million by a United States judge.

WHAT should be of concern to discerning Nigerians is that while the corporate organisations that were accused of these underhand deals already pleaded guilty to offering bribes to some government officials in Nigeria and were therefore sanctioned appropriately through the instrumentality of the laws in their countries, some of the beneficiaries of these grafts in the country are still walking free and criminal charges against other suspects have been quashed on technical grounds due to lack of diligent prosecution.

THE passivity with which the scandals that trailed the identity cards project, Halliburton deals and other projects involving international companies was handled leaves much to be desired. It is ironic that while the bribe givers were exposed to the full wrath of the law in their home countries, the bribe receivers in Nigeria were only exposed to the symbolic fangs of the laws without even a bite or a scratch.

UNFORTUNATELY, this kind of placid disposition to socio-economic malfeasance by the authorities will only engender the growing embrace of corruption as a virtue in Nigeria.

THESE foreign verdicts also unveiled a few of the factors that can be associated with the nation’s economic vegetation and therefore the prevalent grinding poverty. For a country like Nigeria, which is blessed with enormous resources and rated as the sixth largest producer of high grade oil in the world, with luxuriant agricultural endowment to be graded as the 20th poorest nation in the world, should be seen as a red card for the leaders. With about ninety-two per cent of the citizens living below the poverty level, while subsisting on less than two dollars (N320) a day, the future of this country can be said to precariously hang on the precipice. Relying on the findings of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), about 33 million Nigerians are unemployed and many of them are university graduates.

THE 2010 Global Monitoring Report of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is very explicit in the statistical analysis of the nation’s socio-economic morass. For instance, the population of children out of school remains at eight million, infant mortality rate is 85.8 of 1,000 live births, under five mortality rate is 137.9 of live births, malnutrition prevalence is 41 per cent of the population, insecurity rate is alarming, while life expectancy is 48 years. Sadly enough, the damning UNESCO report on Nigeria is quite avoidable but for the nation’s morbid lust for corruption for which it has been put at 13th position in the world. For Nigeria, which was rated by the NBS to be 15 per cent poor in 1960 to now rise to 92 per cent in 2012 despite the astronomical increase in petroleum production, shows clearly that the increase in the wealth of the nation has not impacted on the well being of its citizens.

WE are compelled to call on the government to expeditiously address the issue of the endemic corruption in Nigeria which has continued to exacerbate the reign of diseases, squalor, declining productivity and development. All pending cases of larceny and other economic crimes should be accorded accelerated hearing to serve as deterrent to other potential saboteurs.

THIS action, it is hoped, will help in the gradual decimation of the tribe of economic rats and, in effect, lead to upping the ante of the country’s sagging image in the global community.

 

In : Nigeria

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