This piece speculates that perhaps one of the reasons why corruption is endemic in Nigeria is because Nigerians fund their governments not out of their personal pockets, taxes, but from oil money. Their governments are not funded by them but by nature; therefore, the thieves that steal their oil money are really not stealing from the people but from nature. It suggests that to stop the incredible level of corruption in Nigeria the people need to fund their governments with their tax dollars and put their oil money to capital development.
Is Unearned Oil Money the Cause of Nigeria’s Corruption?
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
Somehow, my mind cannot accept the high level of corruption in Nigeria. To it Nigerians cannot be this corrupt; corruption cannot be in Nigerians genes. There must be another explanation as to why Nigeria is the corruption capital of the world. Simply put, my mind keeps trying to find excuses for the absurd level of corruption in Nigeria.
My mind’s current causal hypothesis is that perhaps this astonishing level of corruption in Nigeria is due to the fact that most of Nigeria’s government revenue comes from oil.
Oil companies (mostly foreign) prospect for oil, find it and drill for it. They obtain oil and sell it in the international oil market, make profits and give the Nigerian federal government part of their profits in royalties.
Most of the money spent by the central government, the thirty six state governments and the over seven hundred local governments come from oil money.
Each month the thirty six governors go to Abuja and get their portion of oil revenue for that month, and spend it any which way they want…there is no accountability for how they spend this money.
The federal authorities redirect the major portion of their allotted share to corruption. Federal legislators are perhaps the most highly paid in the world. The president literally devotes billions of naira to his self and for his junketing around the world (while doing nothing for the country).
I keep asking myself this question: would the rulers of Nigeria do this sort of thing if the revenue they are spending came from the people’s tax payments?
It seems to me that if the people paid taxes and the governments were operated with the peoples taxes the people would be interested in how their moneys are spent.
In the USA, I have served on what is called finance committees (which every US city and county has). Here, a select number of citizens gather monthly and see how the city or county is spending their tax dollars. To start with, they must approve the budget submitted by the mayor or county executive (the accounting department) and receive monthly financial statements delineating how each department of the government is spending its allotted moneys. We scrutinize how every penny is spent and if there is suspicion that a penny is misspent the director of the implicated department is hauled in and asked questions. If his responses are not satisfactory the matter is reported to the police for investigation. If malfeasance is found the man goes before a county judge to explain what he is doing with the people’s money. And if he is found guilty off he goes to jail.
The point is that the people pay taxes and set up a committee to assess how their governments are spending their tax dollars and if there is inappropriate spending of their moneys public officials are looking at serving jail time. Thus, public officials are always aware that some folks are looking over their shoulders hence spend their allotted money properly. The people are invested in how their moneys are spent and public officials are always cognizant of this reality.
In Nigeria most of the recurrent and capital budgets at the various levels of government come from oil revenue. It is not the people that fund their governments.
Oil was produced by nature and strictly speaking revenue from oil is not the people’s money. Because the revenue being stolen by Nigerian public officials come from nature, not from the people, one can see how the officials do not feel like they are doing anything wrong; they are not stealing from the people but taking from nature’s largesse.
I am speculating that one of the reasons why most Nigerian public officials are thieves is because they do not consider themselves as thieves, that they see themselves as not taking from what belongs to the people but from what nature gave to them.
If my conjecture is correct, in effect, Nigerians have no business complaining that their leaders stole their moneys since those are not their moneys to start with.
If my hypothesis is correct it follows that the only way to stop corruption in Nigeria is to make Nigerians pay individual income taxes, business taxes, property takes, sales taxes etc. and run the governments with such revenue.
If Jonathan was spending the people’s tax dollars I think that he would not be spending several billions on his self; he would be mindful that he is spending the people’s money and that the people would come after his thieving black ass and haul him to jail for misappropriating their tax dollars for his personal use.
What do you think about my hypothesis? Is it too simplistic? Is Nigerian corruption caused by complex factors that my simple head cannot understand? Consider slavery. For over a thousand years Nigerians sold their people to Arabs and white men. They conceivably developed amorality in their thinking and behavior?
Is it the case that given their history of selling their people, contemporary Nigerians have acquired amoral culture and as a result have no consciences, no sense of right or wrong, no guilt feeling, no remorse feeling from stealing? Are they then mostly antisocial personalities?
Are Nigerians criminals and there is nothing we can do about their thieving proclivities except attribute them to inherited criminal genes and or culture? Is it the case that nothing good can come out of Nigeria and we might as well forget about them?
I do not know what to make of Nigerians; they are way over my little head to comprehend; why a whole people are mostly thieves is something my simple mind cannot wrap itself around.
If white folks suggest that stealing is in Nigerians blood, that they inherited criminal genes they feel offended and accuse them of racism, yet they do nothing to disabuse racists of their belief in Nigerians criminality and keep on stealing as if they are born thieves.
Nigerians are too much for me to understand. Do you understand them? If so could you shed some light on their incredible thieving behaviors? All I know is that if Nigerians are around me I immediately make sure that my pocket is not rifled; I defend against their anticipated criminal behavior, for the alternative is to live to complain about their criminal acts.
Is unearned oil money the cause of Nigerians amazing high level of corruption? Would taxing individual Nigerians, say, twenty percent flat income tax; taxing businesses twenty percent corporate tax; having the states tag ten percent sales tax on all purchases of non-food items in their area; and having cities levy property taxes, would using such revenue stream to run the various levels of governments in the country stop the country’s incredible level of corruption?
The revenue from oil could be dedicated to infrastructural development and capital projects in general. Would my suggestions make a dent in Nigeria’s corruption or am I too feeble minded to make a difference in Nigeria’s thieving culture?
Many people are increasingly writing Nigeria and Nigerians off as criminals. Something draconian has to be done if Nigeria is to be turned around; as it is she is heading into hell of her own making; blaming the West would not cut it; no one is listening to such blaming behaviors. If a country cannot govern itself she deserves to die.