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Ribadu Talks About Corruption

By the fourth and final year of Nuhu Ribadu’s time as chief graft-buster in Nigeria, his Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had secured convictions in over 275 cases. “It was modest but revolutionary,” he said last week, “especially since the convictions were from cases against high‐ranking officials such as the leadership of the Nigeria Police, a number of state governors, ministers, legislators and top bureaucrats.”

Ribadu was making enemies, of course. Lots of them. He was fired in 2007. Then came two assassination attempts. So he fled to Britain, where he’s now a visiting fellow at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford.

Testifying last week in Washington before the House Financial Services Committee, he asked Congress to expand the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — “to bite both givers and takers of bribes.” He argued for eliminating safe havens and secret bank accounts. He pressed for public programs to promote investigative journalism and transparency. Above all, he said, international cooperation is the key. “In a globalized and networked world, we all need to believe that the fight against corruption must assume a transborder dimension.”

Ribadu cited these examples of the problem:

  • The African Union has reported that corruption drains the region of some $140 billion a year, which is about 25% of the continent’s official GDP.
  • In Nigeria, one leader, General Sani Abacha, is believed to have taken for himself between $5–6 billion and invested most of it in the western world.
  • Joshua Dariye, Governor of Nigeria’s Plateau State, was found by the London Metropolitan Police to operate 25 bank accounts in the U.K. He used various fronts to buy expensive real estate in a number of western countries.
  • D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha, governor of oil rich Bayelsa State, had four properties in London valued at about £10 million, plus another in Cape Town valued at $1.2 million. £1 million cash was found in his bedroom at his apartment in London. £2 million was restrained at the Royal Bank of Scotland in London and over $240 million in Nigeria. This is in addition to bank accounts traced to Cyprus, Denmark, USA and the Bahamas.
  • Between 1960 and 1999, Nigerian officials had stolen or wasted more than $440 billion. That is six times the Marshall Plan, the total sum needed to rebuild a devastated Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War.
  • An estimated $20 billion leaves Africa annually through the illicit export of money extorted from development loan contracts. The money is deposited in overseas banks by a network of politicians, civil servants and businessmen. This figure is now roughly equal to the entire amount of aid from the U.S. to Sub‐Saharan Africa every year.

What’s the human cost of all the sleaze? This outflow, Ribadu said, is not just abstract numbers: it translates to the concrete reality of kids who cannot be put in schools, who will never learn to read, because there are no classrooms; mothers who die in childbirth because the money for maternity care never made it to the hospitals; tens of thousands who die because there are no drugs or vaccines in hospitals; no roads to move produce from farms to markets or enable a thriving economy; no jobs for young school graduates or even ordinary workers; and no security for anyone because the money has been stolen and shipped out.

Download a copy of Nuhu Ribadu’s May 19, 2009 testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, “Capital Loss and Corruption: The Example of Nigeria Testimony” here.

The Washington Post ran a nice interview with Ribadu on Sunday here.

Special thanks to a friend of The FCPA Blog for helping assemble this post.

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