Interview on Nigeria economy

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 Ribadu's sack has affected our global reckoning on graft war

 BACKGROUND My name is Amadiebube Robert Mbama, I am from Ibiasoegbe in Oru West local government area of Imo State. I am a CAMS, CPA, CFF and ACA and also have a consulting business dealing with financial institutions in the USA, helping them to track money laundering and terrorist financing, Bank Secrecy Act and Office of Foreign Access Control of U.S.A, government everything else.

 Sir, why is developed countries known to have a more stable economy being worst hit by economic melt down when compared with their developing counterparts with unstable economies?

 You have to understand that the economy of the developed or western countries is market driven, it is the market that determines what goes but in the developing countries, the government intervenes in every aspect of their economy so it does not truly show implications of what the system is going through. A typical example is Nigeria where the Central Bank and the federal government intervene in everything including even the stock market which is being stage managed, while in the advanced countries, the stock market goes up and down depending on the supply and demand of the market forces. So I think if the economy is left on its own to ride out the economic instability, may be Nigeria would have been worst of than is currently been shown. So the government is actually propping up a lot of what is happening here which in the long run may not be in the best interest of the economy. The economy should be allowed to move up and down depending on the forces of market.

 Could you presently see Nigerian economy as improving when compared with the immediate past administration?

 If you look at certain indices that determine whether we are moving forward or backward, it depends where you are coming from. In U.S they say either you believe that a glass is half full or is half empty. It is either you are an optimist or pessimist but if you look at it pragmatically, things may have improved but not that much. Take for example life expectancy that was 60 years in the 1960's, you can agree with me that life expectancy of Nigeria is in the 40's, so that is not a good sign. Furthermore, if you look at child mortality, you will agree with me that the death indices are fallen, showing that the system is going through a lot of strength but if you look at the G.S.M, virtually every Nigerian have four or five different handsets and networks meaning that if you use that as a yard stick to measure progress, may be I would rightly say that Nigeria is progressing. I would be very fair instead of being too pessimistic that i was really impressed when i drove to Enugu and back home during the festive period, the roads seem to be very well kept and I was really surprised. So, that way they have done a little bit on the infrastructure of the road system in Nigeria but outside that everything else is really bad, including the security of lives and property. You can also agree with me that for you to be secured in Nigeria today, you have to provide your own security and that is what government is supposed to provide for everybody. Let me tell you, if you use road, water supply, security and power supply to measure, I can assure you that Nigeria has really gone backwards when compared with the past. I have been in my village for almost two weeks now without an hour steady supply of power while Ghana can boast of years of uninterrupted power supply. So if you are an industrialist and had the choice of either establishing your industry in Nigeria or Ghana where will you prefer to establish it? If you answer the question correctly, you can see where you are going.

 From your assessment, do you see the anti graft agencies as having lived up to their responsibilities, considering the high wave of corruption in Nigeria?

 I must tell you that am disappointed with the outcome so far just like I said at the presentation I made at the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN). When you say that you are fighting corruption and people that are fighting corruption are themselves corrupt and are at the helm of affairs, it is difficult. I have always asked whether it is possible to give a chicken to the fox to hold, I don't know whether the fox will eat it or let it go, it depends but let me give you an example, so many people have been indicted because of corruption and how many of those people have been jailed. I happened to have the opportunity to chat with some of the Nigerian legislators who handle the EFCC side of the whole legislative process and honestly speaking, they have not done the job to the best of their abilities, they are still lacking woefully, especially when you consider what is going on. If you look at a former Governor who is still a legislator and a senator, and the same person from all indications is under indictment. I think that is a travesty of justice.

 Taking a look at the recent ranking by transparency international, it appears the current position of Nigeria is in conflict with yr assessment?

 The ranking by Transparency International is like anything else, they have a time lag or frame and looked at the past strength at the time the former EFCC boss Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was still in power, when the rest of the world were still looking at Nigeria as making progress even though Ribadu himself is not a saint. I must tell you that a Nigerian legislator who was in the U.S. for anti-money laundering conference in Las Vegas told me and you can quote me that the fear of EFCC and Ribadu is the beginning of political wisdom in Nigeria. I was very impressed that at least Ribadu was able to instill fear in our politicians and as soon as that stops happening, I can assure you that things will start taking a return for the worse. As for ranking yes I will agree that it improved but just because they said Nigeria was gradually moving in the right direction but right now, I don't think that the international community is looking at Nigeria that way so let's wait and see next year where Nigeria will be in the ranking.

 Do you support those advocating for life imprisonment on any public office holder found guilty of corruption in Nigeria.

 Life imprisonment may be because of my western orientation I would say yes so that I don't go as far as China that theirs is execution. China executed their second in command for being corrupt and I can make bold to say that the problem we have in Nigeria today is that people commit all manner of atrocities and get away with them. I have continued to tell people all over the world that what happens in Nigeria also happen in any other place in the world but the only difference is that in Nigeria, people get away with whatever crime they commit but once you put effective rules and regulations that should be no respecter of anybody nor matter how highly placed you might be, then these corrupt practices could be stopped. So, life imprisonment is the least we can do to stop this run away corruption that has completely humbled Nigeria and had completely destroyed our economy. The Nigerian economy is completely in shamble and we can watch and see now that oil money has gone down what happens in few months or years.

 As a financial expert, what could you say are the economic implications of this mass movement of our funds out of the shores of Nigeria?

 Well, the worst thing anybody can do to any economy is to take money out of that economy that is supposed to be used to develop the economy. Anybody can pick up economics 101 and read it, one hundred naira can have what is called a multiplier effect and before you know it that one hundred naira will multiply to one thousand naira. For example you give one hundred naira to a market woman and she goes to the market and probably buy a bag of beans, she comes home and sell that one bag of beans to others who process it into either akara or moi moi may in turn sell to other people and it continues in that order. Take the opposite effect by taking out the one hundred naira outside the country instead of giving it to that market woman and you will agree with me that the one thousand naira that would have grown out of the one hundred naira is gone out of the economy, so it can shrink the economy by making life miserable to quite a lot of people. What is your take on this issue of over dependent of the Nigerian economy on oil? There is what we call the welfare mentality in U.S., there are some people in U.S that do not work, government gives them money and as such they become so lazy to the extent that they find it very difficult in the morning to even get up like so many others who by that time should be on their way to work as early as possible. They sleep till ten oclock because at the end of the day they will get paid by the government and as such have remained poor even though they don't care. So, Nigeria has developed sole dependent on oil and has become so lazy to do any other thing except to wait for that oil money to come in. Fortunately, Nigeria is endowed with a lot of natural resources both human and materials to the extent that if Nigerian government is true to its course, we would have transformed this economy into one of the most viable economy in the world, it would have been one of the most potent economy in the world. Unfortunately, the dependency on oil money has ruined Nigeria and the earlier we move away from this over dependent on oil, the better for us. Looking at it politically, if Nigeria had not solely depended on oil, the Nigeria Delta issue wouldn't have existed because the issue wouldn't have existed in the place because there wouldn't have been any basis for holding Nigeria to ransom, but right now, they have the power because all the money that comes into the system is generated from there. Once you move the economy away partly from oil and then diversity for example, in the 60s when there was lots of groundnut and pyramids from the North, and a lot of palm oil and kernel produced from the East, cocoa and all that from the west, Nigeria was almost like a bread basket if not for the whole Africa but to west Africa but what is happening now? We have lost virtually everything. So that is not good and it is as a result of over dependent on one commodity which is oil.

 What do you suggest as the way out of the fast declining economy of Nigeria?

 Nigeria should go back to the basis, first and foremost, there is too much concentration of power at the centre which is the FCT, Abuja should not be the centre of everything just like Lagos in the past. Nigeria should decentralize the economy in such a way that there will be seats of economic power at the various regions or zones in the country just like I advised some of my friends at the EFCC and legislators who are into these areas. First, lets sanitize the system and the best way to do that is to start at the local level. Ten local governments areas each could be taken from each zone especially those that are highly funded and let EFCC go in or even any government auditor that will not take bribe even though most of them are corrupt and if they can swear to do the job to the best of their abilities, they can go in their specifically to review these finances for at least five years and once you do that, give this country one year and you will see a lot of development. The problem like I earlier said is too much concentration of power in Abuja and as such every decision or directive comes from there. However, anything that is too concentrated at least will also be too corrupt. When you decentralize authorities, then you decentralize corruption too. A typical example is my trip to Awka to get my E-passport but surprisingly I could not get it for three days because they said they were waiting for line to go through to Abuja . That kind of situation in the first place shouldn't have arise because Awka ought to be a centre of its own where one could go and get it straight without those stories and process. So you can be rest assured that the person in Abuja by that type of arrangement will capitalize on the opportunity to selfishly enrich himself to the detriment of the economy. The economy is the way it is toady because the system is really bad, if the economy is to be decentralized, it is also important to make sure that those who will be assigned to monitor the system are honest people, of course I know that it is a very tall order in Nigeria because I don't know what else to say than to go the Nigerian way of keeping our fingers crossed and pray to God to change the situation because that is all Nigerians believe in, hence nobody wants to use his brain to change the economy positively except for God to come down from heaven to do it himself. I will like to end this interaction with a funny story I keep telling people I come in contact with somebody was drowning and God sent someone with a very little boat to rescue him and he said go I am waiting for God to come and rescue me, God sent another man with a big ship and he still insisted that he is waiting for God to come and rescue him and eventually died and went to heaven, when he saw God he asked him why didn't you come and rescue me and God said what do you want me to do, I sent you a small boat you refused, I sent you a ship you refused, so you want me to come down and bring you up. So God has given us all the powers, all the resources in the world to be the best country in the world.