Monday, August 12, 2013
A country so corrupt it would be better to burn our aid money
Nigeria is not quite the most corrupt country on earth. But according to Transparency International, which monitors international financial corruption, it is not far off — coming a shameful 172nd worst among the 215 nations surveyed.
Only countries as dysfunctional, derelict and downright dangerous as Haiti or the Congo are more corrupt.
In theory, Nigeria’s 170 million-strong population should be prospering in a country that in recent years has launched four satellites into space and now has a burgeoning space programme.
Frankly, we might as well flush our cash away or burn it for all the good it's doing for ordinary Nigerians
Frankly, we might as well flush our cash away or burn it for all the good it's doing for ordinary Nigerians
Moreover, Nigeria is sitting on crude oil reserves estimated at 35 billion barrels (enough to fuel the entire world for more than a year), not to mention 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
It also manages to pay its legislators the highest salaries in the world, with a basic wage of £122,000, nearly double what British MPs earn and many hundreds of times that of the country’s ordinary citizens.
No wonder the ruling elite can afford luxury homes in London or Paris, and top-end cars that, across West Africa, have led to the sobriquet ‘Wabenzi’, or people of the Mercedes-Benz.
Yet 70 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line of £1.29 a day, struggling with a failing infrastructure and chronic fuel shortages because of a lack of petrol refining capacity, even though their country produces more crude oil than Texas.
And that poverty is not for want of assistance from the wider world.
Since gaining its independence in 1960, Nigeria has received $400 billion (£257 billion) in aid — six times what the U.S. pumped into reconstructing the whole of Western Europe after World War II.
Nigeria suffers from what economists call the ‘resource curse’ — the paradox that developing countries with an abundance of natural reserves tend to enjoy worse economic growth than countries without minerals and fuels.
The huge flow of oil wealth means the government does not rely on taxpayers for its income, so does not have to answer to the people — a situation that fosters rampant corruption and economic sclerosis because there is no investment in infrastructure as the country’s leaders cream off its wealth.
Corruption in Nigeria is endemic — from parents bribing teachers to get hold of exam papers for their children through clerks handed ‘dash’ money to get round the country’s stifling bureaucracy to policemen taking money for turning a blind eye.
It is at its most blatant, perhaps, in the oil industry, where 136 million barrels of crude oil worth $11 billion (£7.79 billion) were illegally siphoned off in just two years from 2009 to 2011, while hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies were given to fuel merchants to deliver petrol that never materialised.
Whether the country is ruled by civilians or soldiers, who invariably proclaim their burning desire to eradicate civilian corruption, it makes absolutely no difference.
The military ruled Nigeria between 1966 and 1979 and from 1983 to 1999, but if anything, corruption was worse when they were in charge since they had a habit of killing anyone threatening to expose them.
It is estimated that since 1960, about $380 billion (£245 billion) of government money has been stolen — almost the total sum Nigeria has received in foreign aid.
And that even when successive governments attempt to recover the stolen money, much of this is looted again.
In essence, 80 per cent of the country’s substantial oil revenues go to the government, which disburses cash to individual governors and hundreds of their cronies, so effectively these huge sums remain in the hands of a mere 1 per cent of the Nigerian population.
Political power is universally regarded as a chance to reap the fortunes of office by the ruling elite and its families and tribes.
The most egregious example was President Sani Abacha, a military dictator who ruled in the Nineties and accrued a staggering $4 billion (£2.58 billion) fortune by the time he died of a heart attack while in bed with two Indian prostitutes at his palace in the nation’s capital, Abuja, in 1998. Abacha’s business associates did nicely, too — one of them deposited £122 million in a Jersey offshore account after selling Nigerian army trucks for five times their worth.
Public office is so lucrative that people will kill to get it. Nigeria has 36 state governors, 31 of whom are under federal investigation for corruption.
In one of the smallest states, a candidate for the governorship occupied by one Ayo Fayose received texts signed by the ‘Fayose M Squad’ — and it was clear the ‘M’ was for ‘Murder’ when they stabbed and bludgeoned a third candidate to death in his own bed.
By the end of its term of office, the British Government will have handed over £1 billion in aid to Nigeria.
Given the appalling levels of corruption in that nation, this largesse is utterly sickening — for the money will only be recycled into bank accounts in the Channel Islands or Switzerland.
Frankly, we might as well flush our cash away or burn it for all the good it’s doing for ordinary Nigerians
Obama administration using housing department to compel diversity in neighborhoods
In a move some claim is tantamount to social engineering, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is imposing a new rule that would allow the feds to track diversity in America’s neighborhoods and then push policies to change those it deems discriminatory.
The policy is called, "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing." It will require HUD to gather data on segregation and discrimination in every single neighborhood and try to remedy it.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan unveiled the federal rule at the NAACP convention in July.
"Unfortunately, in too many of our hardest hit communities, no matter how hard a child or her parents work, the life chances of that child, even her lifespan, is determined by the zip code she grows up in. This is simply wrong,” he said.
Data from this discrimination database would be used with zoning laws, housing finance policy, infrastructure planning and transportation to alleviate alleged discrimination and segregation.
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Specifics of the proposed rule are lacking. Now published in the Federal Register and undergoing a 60-day comment period, the rule, "does not prescribe or enforce specific” policies.
But one critic says it smacks of utopian idealism.
"This is just the latest of a series of attempts by HUD to social engineer the American people," said Ed Pinto, of the American Enterprise Institute. "It started with public housing and urban renewal, which failed spectacularly back in the 50's and 60's. They tried it again in the 90's when they wanted to transform house finance, do away with down payments, and the result was millions of foreclosures and financial collapse.”
Some fear the rule will open the floodgates to lawsuits by HUD -- a weapon the department has already used in places like Westchester County, N.Y., where mayors and attorneys representing several towns, like Cortlandt, are writing HUD to protest burdensome fair housing mandates that go far beyond those agreed to in a 2009 settlement with HUD.
One letter written by Cortlandt town attorney Thomas Wood expresses a common dilemma.
"Cordlandt is mostly residential and has only a few vacant parcels that could be developed for commercial use," he writes. "In order to stabilize the tax base amongst the most affordable in Westchester County, the Town Board needs to encourage the development of commercial property for commercial use."
Rob Astorino, the Westchester County Executive, recently said, "What they are trying to do is to say discrimination and zoning is the same thing. They are not. Discrimination won't be tolerated. I won't tolerate it. Zoning though, protects what can and can't be built in a neighborhood."
Also troublesome to critics is that the HUD secretary, in announcing this proposed rule, blamed poverty on zip codes – rather than other socio-economic factors that studies have shown contribute to poverty.
Parents' anxieties keep children playing indoors: Fears about traffic and strangers leading to 'creeping disappearance' of youngsters from parks
Paranoid parents are responsible for the 'creeping disappearance' of children from parks and streets, a charity warned yesterday.
Anxieties about traffic, stranger danger and a host of other fears mean record numbers of children are being forced to play indoors.
Half of adults played outside at least seven times a week when they were growing up - but less than a quarter of children are allowed as much freedom today.
Yet two in five youngsters say they are desperate to spend more time outside, according to a survey by Play England and its counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The findings suggest parents are playing a significant role in the lack of activity that is creating an obesity epidemic among the current generation of schoolchildren.
Child experts have also warned youngsters' development is being stunted by over-protective parents who prevent them experiencing the rough and tumble of outdoor play.
Play England director Cath Prisk said: 'It's up to all of us to turn around the creeping disappearance of children from our streets, parks and communities. 'One hour a day playing outside could make a major difference to 'every child's health, to the number of friends they can make and, most of all, to the fun they can have', she added.
Some 53 per cent of parents blame their reluctance on letting children out of their sight on the danger posed by traffic, while 40 per cent fear their child will be snatched by a stranger.
Over a quarter worry their neighbours will look down on them if they allowed their children to play outdoors unsupervised.
The same number thought noise would upset people in their neighbourhood.
A third of adults and a fifth of children said a lack of suitable 'community space' hampered opportunities to play.
Concerns have been raised about the number of playing fields being sold off by consecutive governments. Many are snapped up by developers to build homes.
The siege mentality among families is also having a devastating effect on social cohesion.
Two-fifths of adults said children playing outdoors improves community spirit and nearly half believe it helps families to get to know each other.
Nearly two-thirds of adults admitted they would feel confident enough to let their kids out if others were.
A total of 3,000 adults and children were questioned for the poll, which was released to coincide with Playday today, the national day for play in the UK.
Play Wales director Mike Greenaway said: 'We need to recognise the importance of providing children with time, space and freedom to play in their own way.
'We need to support them and recognise that for their health, wellbeing and long-term development, children need playful places and opportunities to play outside.'
Other research has shown just a quarter of children travel to school alone now, compared to 86 per cent in 1971.
A third of youngsters have never climbed a tree or built a den and one in ten cannot even ride a bike.
The NHS has also reported a huge drop in the number of outdoor injuries among children. But indoor incidents, such as repetitive strain from playing on computer too long, have soared.
Sociologist Professor Frank Furedi said it was a myth that children preferred to spend all their time 'inhabiting their digital bedroom'.
'Every time kids get the chance to be outdoors they immediately jump at it and almost see it as something aspirational,' he added.
'The idea that children go out and make their own friends is just not known anymore. Now it's sleepovers and play dates done under parental supervision.'
Australia: Law requiring Muslim women to remove burqa to prove their identity to police introduced to WA Parliament
A NEW law that would require Muslim women to remove a burqa or niqab to prove their identity to West Australian police has been introduced to the state's parliament.
The legislation was drafted in specific response to public outcry about the case of burqa-wearing mother-of-seven Carnita Matthews, who had a conviction of knowingly making a false statement quashed.
Ms Matthews was originally given a six-month jail sentence after being found guilty of falsely accusing a senior constable of forcibly trying to remove her burqa when she was pulled over while driving in Woodbine in Sydney's southwest in June 2010.
She was later acquitted on appeal after the prosecution could not prove she was the woman who signed the statement while wearing the garment.
As part of WA's Criminal Investigation (Identifying People) Amendment Bill, the law will require "a person to remove headwear or do other things to facilitate the officer being able to confirm a person's identity".
Officers will also get explicit powers to detain a person while they comply.
It will apply to an item of clothing, hat, helmet, mask, sunglasses or "any other thing worn by a person that totally or partially covers the person's head".
The WA parliament will be told the law was in direct response to the NSW case.
"Having regard to that case, the government has taken action to ensure that similar injustices do not occur in Western Australia," Attorney-General Michael Mischin said. "The amendments provide a explicit power ... where the subject person refuses to remove an obstruction that is preventing the officer from being able to identify the person's face."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.