Wednesday, June 19, 2013

United Nations says $600 Billion Stolen by Nigerian Elite Since Independence

A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has put the estimated amount of looted funds from the Nigerian treasury at $600 billion between independence and 1999.

Making this known yesterday in Abuja at a two-day international conference on "Emerging Democracies in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities", organised by the Nigerian Institute for Legislative Studies, Professor Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin said findings had shown that the estimated sum of money stolen by the Nigerian elite between 1960 and 1999 from the treasury varied between $400 billion and $600 billion.

He recalled a UNODC report, which showed that as far back as 1999, the total amount stolen by members of the ruling class had been put at $400 billion.

He also cited the Director of Office of UNODC, Mr. Tim Daniel, who had reported that $110 billion was being looted annually from the treasury, while stolen monies stashed in foreign accounts increased from $50 billion in 1999 to $170 billion in 2003.

The professor, who disagreed with the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on unemployment statistics in Nigeria, said research had shown that the current level of unemployment in Nigeria was above 40 per cent and would rise to 50 per cent at the end of this year.

However, Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke on "Youth Unemployment and Violence" at the conference, had put the current unemployment rate in the country at 37 per cent.

While noting that the looted sums would have created millions of jobs, Iyayi quoted UNODC in 1999 as stating: "That is a staggering - almost 'astronomical' amount of money because if you were to put $400 billion bills end-to-end, you could make 75 round trips to the moon!

"Concretely, those $400 billion could have translated into millions of vaccinations for children; thousands of kilometres of roads; hundreds of schools, hospitals and water treatment facilities that never came to be."

In her presentation, Okonjo-Iweala put the present unemployment rate in Africa at 60 per cent, adding that by 2035, Nigeria's workforce would exceed that of any other country, including China.

She, however, observed that to achieve this, the country would need to invest massively in education.

She suggested that entrepreneurial studies should be included in secondary school curriculum with a view to helping the youths create jobs for themselves upon leaving school.

While insisting that the federal government had put several measures in place to address youth unemployment, Okonjo-Iweala said the government had concluded the first phase of youth scheme employment through which she said 1,000 youths shortlisted from 24,000 initially invited for examinations, had obtained between N1 million to N10 million grants to set up various businesses.

According to her, the output has been cheering with 15,000 jobs created so far from the initiative, adding that the second round of the scheme, which was essentially for women, had been launched.

While pledging that the third phase of the scheme would commence soon, Okonjo-Iweala said the employment initiatives were parts of the government's interventions in youth unemployment with the intention of creating jobs and averting violence among the youth.

She also said so far, 3.5 million jobs had been created in the agricultural sector of the society.

However, Iyayi recalled that an independent survey conducted by Rise Network showed that unemployment in the country was growing annually at the rate of 16 per cent, recalling also that a report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2011 had put the unemployment rate in both urban and rural areas at 42.7 per cent, with urban unemployment put at 17.1 per cent while rural unemployment was put at 25.6 per cent.

Iyayi described this high rate of unemployment in Nigeria as a time bomb waiting to explode, as he recalled that it was frustration resulting from unemployment that forced a youth in Tunisia to set himself ablaze leading to the Arab Spring in Northern Africa and beyond.

"The Nigerian youth unemployment rate is about three times the sub-Saharan African unemployment rate of 12.6 per cent. These statistics do not include youth unemployment. When these are added, the youth unemployment problem becomes really potentially explosive.

"This situation is not only alarming: it is a time bomb, especially in the light of the fact that while some 4.5 million of the population enter into the labour market annually (most of whom are job seekers) only 1 per cent can be absorbed. In effect, employment growth seriously lags behind labour market growth," he added.

Iyayi also noted that the situation would only be worse with the recent prediction that Nigeria's population would exceed that of the United States in 2050 and also grow further to 914 million at the end of the century.

He warned: "If the current labour trends continue and the labour market growth continues to consistently outstrip employment growth, the implication is obvious: the bomb will detonate!"

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