ONLINE INTERVIEW by a Nigerian News Paper
Can we meet you sir? Who is Amadiebube Mbama? Amadiebube Robert Mbama is an Anti Money Laundering/Anti Terrorist Financing/Bank Secrecy Act/Office of Foreign Asset Control consultant resident in the United States of America. Amadiebube retired as a Supervisor of Financial Institutions with the State of California. Amadiebube was a former online faculty member of Accounting and Finance classes at the University of Phoenix. He is also currently the Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria USA District Society. The District Society covers United States and Canada. He has BS in Accounting, MBA in Finance and Banking, he is a Certified Public Accountant (USA), an Associate Chartered Accountant (ICAN Nigeria), a Certified Financial Forensic (USA), and a Certified Anti Money Laundering Specialist (USA).
What is the highpoint of your career as an Accountant?
I have had many highpoints as an accountant but the highest one was when I was elected the Chairman of the ICAN USA District Society. It is always a very big honor when your professional colleagues recognize your professional and leadership competence.
Can you give us an insight as to how corruption can undermine economic development in Nigeria in view of the country's experiences since 1999, if possible with the backing of statistics or data available to you?
There is a very strong correlation between high level of corruption and underdevelopment or no development at all. There is also a very strong correlation between indiscipline and high level of corruption. I am not going to bore anybody with the information that has been published by local newspapers such as spending at least $16 billion dollars to improve electricity and yet electricity output did not improve. The economic impact of such a huge waste is catastrophic especially to the manufacturing companies and that is why they are leaving the country. The high level of corruption is attributable to the insecurity in the country which could be traced to the number of secondary school graduates and tertiary institutions graduates that are unemployed. Some of the parents of these unemployed youths borrowed and sold some of their valued property to see their kids through school only for those kids to come out and become unproductive members of the society. There is a saying ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop’. Could you imagine the multiplier effect of $16 billion dollars that is injected into the productive sector of the economy? Could you imagine how many jobs that would have been created? We have a proverb that says ‘if you look up and spit in the air, it comes back on your face’. That is exactly what is happening to Nigeria at the moment. The most worrisome aspect of what is happening in Nigeria is that those in power do not see or refused to see the negative consequences of corruption to the economy and to the people. The two statistics below is self explanatory and speak volume. The correlation between very low corruption perceptions index and underdevelopment is self evident. Likewise the correlation between very low corruption perceptions index and low life expectancy is noteworthy. Nigeria ranks 220 out of 222 countries in the 2011 Life Expectancy estimate. Only two countries Afghanistan with 45.02 and Angola with 38.76 performed worse than Nigeria. It is sad that in the 21st century Nigeria does not have a functional rapid response system to help not only in national emergencies but also on individual emergencies especially health emergencies.
2001 – 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index – Transparency International
* CPI Score relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts and ranges between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt).
Nigeria’s Life Expectancy 2003 - 2011
Life expectancy at birth
Date of Information
Source: CIA World Factbook.
Ghana’s Life Expectancy 2003-2011
Life expectancy at birth
Date of Information
Could you also tell us if the Nigerian government is on track to bring down corruption for the economy to leap?
Corruption has been the main impediment to the development of the Nigerian economy. Take a look at the Life Expectancy chart above and you will see the effect of corruption. Nigeria is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil. She is endowed with both human and material resources that only a few countries can match. Yet Nigeria has been marred by perennial underdevelopment of her human and material resources. The answer to why Nigeria has continuously underperformed is mainly because of corruption. You have to remember that corruption breeds indiscipline, incompetence, nepotism, cronyism, mediocrity, sexism, money laundering and many other vices that inhibit economic development.
To answer your question, Nigerian government is yet to tackle corruption with the zeal needed to mitigate its disastrous negative effect on the economy.
Do you believe that Nigeria can ever tackle corruption successfully in both public and in the organized private sector?
I consider myself an optimist and as such I am always hopeful that things will turn around. However Nigerians must abandon the culture of impunity and indiscipline and confront this monster once and for all. For now I do not believe that the ruling elites are doing enough to tackle corruption. There are many things the regulators and law enforcement agencies can be doing to put the fear of God in every Nigerian including the ruling elites. For example, waiting for somebody to petition the law enforcement agency like EFCC before they do their job is ridiculous. They should have undercover agents to monitor the elites especially the politicians. They should even conduct sting operations to weed out the bad eggs. The law enforcement agencies should be able to question sudden wealth by any politician no matter how highly placed that politician is. There should be continuous and sometimes surprise audit of the personnel in various government agencies whether at the federal, state or local government level. Since the local government is the closest to the people and the one that could potentially impact the people, there should be annual audit with surprise field visit once in a while.
There are very many things that Nigeria can do to tackle corruption. They know it but the concern is that there is no political will to do the right thing for the country.
What will you say is the latest perception internationally on Nigerians involvement in money laundering and drug trafficking?
Not much has really changed.
Are there lessons that you are strongly persuaded that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) along with other anti-graft agencies could learn from for meaningful progress in the fight against corruption in the country?
Nigerians see every appointment as money making opportunity. It is good to have money but Nigerians should also have national pride in what they do for the country. I said earlier that the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies should not wait until they are petitioned before doing their job. They should also not wait until somebody is out of the office before they crack down on the person if the person is corrupt or is engaging in corrupt practices. They must devise a means to match people’s lifestyles with their income level. For example, if someone is making one million naira but is living the lifestyle of someone making fifty million naira, it will not take a rocket scientist to know that something is wrong. U.S. law enforcement and undercover agents routinely conduct surveillance on such individuals over here. Law enforcement and undercover agents in Nigeria must perform similar tasks. They should conduct regular and surprise audits of every government agency to at least put the fear of God in people. There are many other things that they can do but I will stop so far.
In your own perception, do you believe Nigeria will in the next couple of years enjoy international cooperation in its bid to stem financial transactions that are criminal?
One thing that I will let you know is that we live in a global village. Information is instantaneous and as such if Nigerians want other countries to change their perception of them, they must do more to fight corruption.
Do you believe steps taken recently by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are capable of attracting confidence from international financial institutions to do business with Nigerian banks?
Honestly the CBN is trying but it is not an island. The implementation of some of the laudable policies may be marred due to the level of corruption in the country. Again it is a global village and the international financial institutions know more about what is happening in Nigeria than Nigerians can ever imagine. Nigeria is a big market and will always attract some attention but the level of attention that Nigeria deserves will continue to elude her until corruption is drastically reduced. The two statistics that I showed above are public information just like many other ones that I did not discuss. Many investors including international financial institutions look at many indexes before they make their decision. Nigeria is a long way from commanding the type of attention that she deserves.