Libmonster ID: U.S.-1469
Author(s) of the publication: A. VASILIEV
Educational Institution \ Organization: Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Since the election of Olusegun Obasanjo as President of Nigeria in 1999, the country has seen positive changes.

The new leader managed to prevent the collapse of Nigeria, curb the predatory military elite, cancel clearly fraudulent contracts for offshore oil production, for the construction of radars at airports and telecommunications networks, and return to the treasury almost one billion dollars of money stolen by the clan of dictator Sani Abachi. Democratic changes have taken place in political and public life, and freedom has been granted to the press and television. Obasanjo regained the trust of international financial institutions and restructured foreign debts. Nigeria's international prestige has grown, and its foreign policy is being pursued in all directions, including strengthening ties with Russia.

Why is it that today, when more than half of his term of legitimate rule has passed, the president is facing growing public cynicism, frustration and bitterness?

A former general, a military leader who voluntarily handed over power to civilians in 1979, jailed by the Abacha dictator, Obasanjo could hardly have had the best record to lead Africa's most populous country, now home to 120 million people, in 1999. After twenty years of ruling generally incompetent and corrupt civilian and military regimes, his rise to power was greeted with a huge sense of relief inside and outside the country. The new leader's personal qualities - his deep knowledge of the armed forces and Nigerian society, his dedication to the country and democratic ideals, his ability to take into account the interests and characteristics of ethnic and religious groups, and his tenacity in achieving his goals - all made him the most suitable leader to stop the country's degradation.

Nigeria has regained a central role in the continent's international relations, especially in the sub-Saharan region. Nigerian soldiers continue to form the backbone of the peacekeeping force in war-torn Sierra Leone. Relations with its close neighbors have improved markedly: Nigeria was able to negotiate with Sao Tome and Principe, as well as with Equatorial Guinea, on the division of the continental shelf, which opens up opportunities for unhindered production of oil reserves discovered here. Obasanjo has been lucky in some ways: oil prices have doubled over the years of his rule, which means that the income of Africa's largest oil producer has increased. Foreign investments have started to be made in the oil and gas industry.

But Obasanjo was expected to perform a miracle, and he's not a wizard. The President and his government cannot magically overcome the deep and multi-layered crisis caused by deep-rooted corruption, incompetence of the bureaucracy, the decline of the economy, deep inter-regional and ethno-confessional contradictions, and dirty intrigues of corrupt politicians.

THE HARDEST LEGACY

When Obasanjo voluntarily handed over power to civilians in 1979, the per capita income of Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, was about $ 700. According to this indicator, it ranked sixth in sub-Saharan Africa after Gabon, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Mauritius, and Botswana. On average, the economy grew by 7.5 percent per year (4th place in the region). At the time of independence in 1960, agriculture accounted for two-thirds of the gross domestic product (GDP), and in 1979 - only 22 percent. By the end of the 1970s, oil production and industry had increased their share of GDP from 11 to 45 percent.

By 1999, when Obasanjo became head of State again, per capita income had fallen to about $ 260 (in 1997 prices). The country ranked 119th in the world in this indicator. And from the sixth richest country in sub-Saharan Africa per capita, it became the eleventh from the end. Perhaps, for the vast majority of the population, this decline was not so noticeable, because the previous good average indicators did not reflect the real situation: the ruling elite even then stole and exported a significant part of oil revenues from the country.

There were many illusions and even more disappointments. In 1980, the Nigerian Government published an economic and social development plan based on an estimated oil price of $ 40 per barrel. However, prices were three or even four times lower. But it's not just that. After the overthrow of the civilian government of Shagari, four military dictators were replaced in power: Generals Buhari (1984-1985), Babangida (1985-1994), Abacha (1994-1998) and the transitional regime of General Abubakar (1998-1999). In the 90s, the country did not enter

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foreign investments were received, with the exception of the oil sector. Both the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have stopped providing support to Nigeria. The "structural adjustment" program imposed by the IMF and the World Bank in the mid-1980s failed.

In 1998, Nigeria ranked last out of 20 African countries that were evaluated for competitiveness. The tax system, political stability, crime and corruption levels, electricity production and distribution, water supply, communications, road, railway and port infrastructure, and Internet access were taken into account. Of these countries, Nigeria has the least number of phones per 1,000 inhabitants. It is one of the three worst countries in terms of air traffic, port conditions and transport costs. According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Nigeria ranks 142nd out of 174 countries in the world.

In the country, there is a huge gap between the states in terms of economic level. Thus, in terms of HDI, the best state in Nigeria, Bendel, is five times higher than the state of Borno.

There are fewer literate adults in Nigeria than in poor countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zambia. In 1980, Nigeria had higher school attendance than the average in developing countries, but now it is much lower. Half of the population does not have access to clean water and health care.

Almost 20 percent of Nigerian children die before the age of five. And half of those who survive at this age are underdeveloped due to systematic malnutrition. Life expectancy in the country averages 50 years and may decline as more Nigerians begin to die from AIDS. However, the situation is not as tragic as in southern Africa: 5.4% of the adult population is estimated to be HIV-positive, although in some areas it is more than 20%.

Even with annual economic growth of 5 percent, the country will be able to return to the standard of living of the late 70s only by 2010.

Despite rising oil prices, Nigeria faces three major constraints to economic development: poor infrastructure, especially in the energy sector, weak investment opportunities in the public sector, and the reluctance of external investors to invest anywhere other than in energy.

The government has set a target of 10 percent annual economic growth, but this is hardly realistic: GDP grew by 3.8 percent in 2000, thanks to a jump in oil prices and a relatively good harvest. In 2001, according to optimistic forecasts, GDP may increase by 4.5-5 percent. An increase in oil production from deep-water fields may lead to an increase in state budget revenues, but previously concluded agreements with oil companies stipulate that they must first reimburse their expenses, and only then share the income with the state. "What is the level of their spending - we still need to calculate," - said Obasanjo, canceling a dozen contracts for oil concessions on the shelf.

Industrial development remains among the government's priorities, because the hypertrophied role of the energy sector means too much dependence on fluctuations in the global market. However, over the past 20 years, the African giant has fallen victim to deindustrialization. In terms of industrial development, Nigeria still ranks second only to South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa. But production per capita is simply negligible. Currently, Nigerian industry (without oil) accounts for only 7 percent of GDP, which is small even by African standards. And in the early 80s, this figure was equal to 11 percent. Currently, the production capacity is used only by a third due to the lack of electricity and fuel, the high cost of spare parts and outdated equipment.

Nigeria hopes that the share of industry in GDP will increase to 15 percent by 2010. But this forecast is overly optimistic. Creating a competitive economy requires a realignment of the economic and social system of national development and the mentality of the population, their own solution to Nigerian problems, in contrast to the failed "structural adjustment".

OIL AND GAS ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY, BUT...

It is expected that by 2010, proven oil reserves will increase from 22 to 40 billion barrels, or about 6 billion tons, and production-up to 4 million barrels per day against the current 2 million, or about 200 million tons per year. To do this, it is necessary to develop reserves on the shelf, which attracts oil companies due to the politically explosive situation in the Niger Delta. For several decades of their activity, this area has been recognized as the worst delta in terms of ecology on the planet. Local residents lost the opportunity to get food by fishing and agriculture, diseases and famine spread. The area that accounts for 90 percent of Nigeria's oil revenue is one of the poorest in the country.

Local ethnic groups opposed the oil companies and the government. Activists started blowing up oil pipelines and wells. Oil production fell by 400 thousand barrels per day. Sani Abacha was forced to send troops to the Delta. The problem was pushed inside, but not resolved.

A common pattern in Nigeria is kilometer-long queues at gas stations where gasoline is unavailable or intermittent. Sometimes fistfights break out if someone wants to get in without waiting in line. And on the side streets they sell fuel of questionable quality in cans at prices twice or three times more expensive than at gas stations.

The petrol crisis in Africa's largest oil-refining country is nothing new. However, there has never been a gasoline shortage as acute as in recent months. Previously, low oil prices made it possible to import relatively cheap gasoline, but as oil prices rose on world markets, gasoline imports fell, and queues became longer.

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in fact, a significant part of the economy has come to a standstill.

The Government now subsidizes the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation by one billion dollars a year. The capacity of its oil refineries is 445 thousand barrels per day (approximately 22 million tons per year), which is a third higher than the country's needs. However, although hundreds of millions of dollars have been formally invested in the refineries, they are only able to operate at 30 percent of their capacity. The trade mafia, which is linked to top government officials, earns money by "repairing" factories, importing fuel, and reselling subsidized gasoline on the black market. Top officials receive commissions for gasoline import contracts and are interested in the inefficient operation of oil refineries.

According to the Nigerian magazine "Oil and Gas Monthly", Nigeria imports $ 600 million worth of gasoline, fuel oil and diesel fuel in nine months. For half of this money, it would be possible to launch two of the four refineries at full capacity, but those who earn money from their idle time are doing everything possible to ensure that this situation does not change.

Obasanjo's economic recovery measures are being fiercely resisted.

Market liberals advocate complete deregulation of the fuel market, seeking to fill it by raising prices. This approach is fraught with a rise in the price of all goods and services and, as a result, social explosions. The government's attempts to solve the problem gradually fail. Discussions about deregulation continue, public opinion is divided and misled, and gasoline and diesel fuel shortages persist.

And at night, the Niger Delta is covered in dirty yellow reflections of gas torches: due to the lack of capacity and technical means for its use, associated gas is burned. Nigeria, which is close to Pakistan in terms of population, is losing more gas than Pakistan consumes - 2 billion cubic feet (56 million cubic meters) per day. This predatory exploitation, in its pure form, accounts for about a quarter of the planet's needlessly burned gas.

According to rough estimates, Nigeria's gas reserves amount to 115 trillion cubic feet (3.3 trillion cubic meters), which puts the country in eighth place in the world in this indicator. For every barrel of oil produced, there are approximately one thousand cubic feet of gas, of which nine-tenths are flared. The Government has set a target to end this waste by 2008. Severe fines have been imposed for burning gas, which give the treasury about $ 100 million a year. Chevron's subsidiary has been producing liquefied natural gas since 1997, including for the Nigerian market, but work on increasing capacity was suspended due to lack of funds from Chevron's partner, the Nigerian National Oil Company.

Another consortium for the production of liquefied natural gas was created by a Nigerian company with the participation of Shell, Total-Fina-Elf and Ajip corporations. The consortium has built a liquefied natural gas plant on Bonny Island and purchased 6 vessels to transport it. The first two projects already produce 5.8 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year, and the third project is expected to be completed in 2002. The consortium plans to increase production to 8.7 million tons per year and order another 8 new tankers. The construction of the Bonny Island plant has become the largest investment project in sub-Saharan Africa. Liquefied natural gas is intended for export to Europe.

A consortium created by the American corporations Exxon-Mobile, Chevron, Texaco and Conaco also intends to invest in the gas industry.

ELECTRICITY GENERATION. DARK HUMOR OF NIGERIANS

NEPA - National Electric Power Authority, stands for Nigerian with humor: "No electric power at all". This institution has perhaps the largest number of employees in the world per kilowatt produced - 40 thousand. The capacity of its stations - 2,500 megawatts-covers about half of the country's minimum needs.

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Some factories and luxury homes have purchased their own generators, which increases the cost of electricity production. The majority of the population, however, makes do with the light of the sun and moon.

The popularity of Obasanjo depends to a large extent on the solution of the energy problem.

The president said in an interview with the Financial Times: "Things in the country were much worse than I thought, looking from the outside. People ask me: if I knew how bad things really were, would I run for president? Of course, I would have put it forward, but I would have done some things differently at the very beginning of the journey. For example, this applies to the NEPA Electric Corporation. When I became president, I removed its director and second-level managers, hoping that this would be enough. But of course, we didn't know how deep the corruption had penetrated..."

The government is going to increase the capacity of power plants to 4000 megawatts. In 2001, the state allocated half a billion dollars for the repair, maintenance, and development of power plants and power grids. However, the surplus of workers and employees and general corruption make the effective use of these funds almost impossible. Without purging NEP of corrupt leadership at all levels, no amount of investment will help.

The government is torn between possible solutions: privatize part of the distribution system? Build new stations? Put management in the hands of foreigners?

The state is trying to attract foreign oil companies to build thermal power plants, obliging them to use the gas that is currently being burned. The contract for the construction of a 550-megawatt heating plant in Abuja was signed by the Italian company Ajip. Exxon-Mobile is going to follow its example. But it is impossible to improve the situation in the electric power industry in a short period of time.

IS PRIVATIZATION A PANACEA?

The Nigerian state controls the oil industry, mineral extraction, banking, telecommunications, electricity and steel production - just 40 percent of GDP. Three billion dollars of taxes and oil revenues go to subsidies and benefits for state-owned enterprises.

Foreign investors, experts from the IMF and the World Bank argue that the only way to save the economy is privatization, in particular, the denationalization of four oil refineries, which, in their opinion, would eliminate the shortage of gasoline. The next step is also the privatization of Nigerian Airlines, telecommunications, fertilizer plants, and state-owned hotels.

Nigerian society is being bombarded with advertisements for privatisation. But the" culture of skepticism " and cynicism of Nigerians is expressed in a complete lack of trust in the words and promises of officials, including international ones. Both proponents and opponents of privatization understand that a purely economic effect, even in the case of successful privatization, will be achieved at the expense of the majority of the population.

According to Western authors, state-owned enterprises should be transferred to private capital because they were the institutionalized basis of patronage-client relations and corruption, and during the years of independence they created a layer of people who parasitize this system. This completely ignores the fact that patronage-client relations have been one of the pillars of social stability in most Nigerian ethnic groups for centuries, and it is impossible to eliminate traditional institutions by simply changing laws or ownership forms.

If privatization is not implemented in 2001, it will be postponed due to the upcoming elections in 2003. Under the pressure of the IMF and the World Bank, the state is in a hurry to do something. The task was set to achieve the sale of the telecommunications company "NAVITEL" for $ 2 billion (although $ 8 billion was invested in it) and its subsidiary "MTEL" (mobile phones). Only the auction for the creation of a network of GSM phones was successful. They paid $ 285 million for the license, the largest amount in this area in sub-Saharan Africa. The main investors are Nigerian entrepreneurs, including banks, industrialists, oil traders and even the governors of two of the 36 Nigerian states.

In total, it is planned to transfer 41 state-owned enterprises to the private sector. However, by the summer of this year, very little has been done. One of the reasons is that the World Bank, under whose auspices privatization is to take place, spends months developing its principles and sending expensive experts to study the problem. The $ 100 million allocated by the bank for the Nigerian privatization program is being eaten up by its experts.

It is expected that the most delicious pieces of state property will be transferred to the Nigerians themselves at such low prices that all sense of privatization will be lost. It is not by chance that the President's economic adviser Philippe Asiodou called for a cautious approach to privatization: "It is important to conduct it correctly. We don't want to privatize on the Russian model." Foreigners who offer higher prices or better management and maintenance are simply shunned from the deals. Such was the fate of the national petroleum chemical company, which fell into the hands of a powerful Nigerian businessman with huge political connections, and the more lucrative offer of the South African company was rejected.

Privatization of state property is a key requirement of the IMF. Its other requirements and recommendations relate to the distribution of-

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public spending on education, health, and economic infrastructure, especially transport and water, price deregulation, trade and currency exchange liberalization, and strengthening State institutions to increase transparency and reduce corruption. The recommendations seem fine, but ... "it was smooth on paper, but they forgot about the ravines."

If you "distribute public funds" without destroying corruption, it will mean legalizing theft. Privatisation means handing over the best bits of State property to private hands for next to nothing, and combined with deregulation guarantees a surge in prices and inflation and the resulting social unrest in an embittered and impoverished country, while import liberalisation will ruin agriculture and finish off a dying industry. That is why Obasanjo and his advisers are so cautious about meeting the IMF's requirements, even though they are trying to meet some of them, such as the devaluation of the national currency, the naira.

DEBT PIT

Nigeria finally became a global debtor during the time of Shehu Shagari, the civilian president of the late 70s and early 80s. The country then began to take out large loans and fell into a debt trap. Now, according to various sources, Nigeria's external debt reaches $ 28-38 billion. Of these, 8.5 billion are actually received money, and the rest, that is, more than 70-80 percent of the current debt, is interest and fines.

According to Akin Arikawe, Director General of the Nigerian Debt Authority, most of the debt was taken out in the early 80s, when the interbank loan rate (libor) was 3 percent. A combination of collapsed oil prices in the mid-1980s, an increase in the libor to 13 percent in 1989, and the corruption of civilian and military regimes left Nigeria unable to pay its debts.

Three times they tried to solve the problem by restructuring the debt. But the IMF did not agree, and unpaid interest grew. Finally, at the end of 2000, an agreement was reached on the restructuring of commercial debts for a period of 18 years with a three - year moratorium, and the assistance received on an interstate basis for 20 years with a ten-year moratorium. All this means that Nigeria has to repay "only" about $ 2.2 billion a year over the next five years, and then the amount of payments will increase.

Representatives of Nigeria say that the country has already paid much more than it borrowed, and incurred billions of dollars in expenses, participating in the ECOMOG armed forces to maintain peace and stability in the region, in particular, in Sierra Leone. Therefore, Nigeria is entitled to receive the same special treatment as Poland or Egypt. Philippe Asiodou, the president's chief economic adviser, believes that the West should write off 80 percent of its debt. However, Nigeria does not meet the criteria developed by the IMF and the World Bank for debt relief from the poorest countries, although some Western experts agree with Asiodu.

CASSAVA BOWL PER DAY

So far, the government has not decided what to do with agriculture.

Continue to subsidize fertilizer production contrary to the recommendations of the IMF? Give loans to small farmers? Build roads? There is a chronic shortage of workers in the agricultural sector, because despite the appalling living conditions in the cities, many peasants still flock there. Western experts and Nigerians themselves say that the country's agriculture is not yet experiencing a large-scale crisis, but it is on the verge of it. 90% of food is produced in small farms (up to three hectares), the main tool of production of which remains a hoe. They need cheap fertilizers, loans, and roads. But for all this, even theoretically, if we ignore corruption, there is not enough money. The devaluation of the naira has benefited farmers, but if the government, under pressure from the IMF, removes customs duties, the country's agriculture will collapse.

Agricultural exports have fallen sharply over the past 20 to 30 years. At one time, Nigeria was one of the world's leading producers of peanuts and palm oil, but now it lags behind the countries of Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, both in total volume and in the production of palm oil per hectare. The production and export of cocoa is falling, the yield of which (4 centners per hectare) is three times less than in Ghana. However, scientists from the Agricultural Institute in the city of Ibadan, who are engaged in improving the grades of cocoa, tea, coffee, cashew nuts and Cola claim that they have developed cocoa hybrids that will increase yields by twenty times. But this requires a different agriculture and large investments.

Despite the ideal conditions for rubber carriers, rubber production is ten times less than the country's potential, and the export of cotton and peanuts has almost stopped.

Total food consumption in Nigeria is not much higher now than it was 15 years ago, although maize, cassava, and yam production have increased over the past decade,as have cattle and sheep. Rapid population growth has overwhelmed the increase in agricultural production, and food imports are negligible. People just started eating less. According to official statistics, every second Nigerian lives on less than 30 cents a day. His daily diet is a bowl of cassava, that is, starch, and most people do not even dream of protein.

CORRUPTION YESTERDAY...

Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha died in 1998. His heart

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couldn't stand the violent night with Indian prostitutes, which he spent, swallowing viagra.

Even the memory of it makes Nigerians feel disgusted. Abacha went down in history as a brutal and merciless dictator who did not stop at killing his opponents. He hanged the well-known human rights activist poet Ken Sara-Wiwa and his comrades from the Ogoni ethnic group living in the Delta, ordering them to film his execution on a videotape, which he enjoyed watching. He was going to execute the jailed General Obasanjo, but backed down in the face of protests from the international community and governments of many countries.

Under the Abacha regime in Nigeria, nothing could be done without a bribe-from a small bureaucratic reference to a big deal. Sani Abacha set a Nigerian record for robbing his own country, stealing $ 4 billion in five years. His family is now in the company of the Suharto clan in Indonesia ($40 billion in 30 years), Mobutu Sese Seko from Zaire ($5 billion in 30 years), and Marcos in the Philippines ($4 billion in 20 years). When Nigeria was ranked by Transperance International as the most corrupt country in the world, its citizens joked bitterly that Abacha had bribed Cameroonians to steal a little less for the right to become a "champion of corruption." Nigeria was followed by Pakistan, Kenya, and Cameroon in the list of 50 countries. New Zealand was the least corrupt, followed by Denmark and Sweden. South Africa ranked 20th among the most corrupt countries.

But you can also make lists of the most corrupt multinational corporations. According to the legislation of almost all countries, responsibility for corruption is assigned to both the taker, the giver, and the concealer of stolen goods. The main sources of bribes were multinational corporations, the recipients were Nigerian officials, starting with the chief executive, and Western banks and other financial institutions harbored the looted funds. But this is a different song.

According to Jack Blanc, an American expert on bank fraud, government corruption and money laundering, many of those who robbed Nigeria should be looked for in London among the richest people in England. He estimates an estimated $ 40 billion in illegal exports from Nigeria since independence, and some other experts put the disappointing figure as high as $ 90 billion. Blanc suggested that funds looted from countries in the South should be treated as harshly as money laundering by drug traffickers. Only this, in his opinion, can stop corruption at the global level. (Note in parentheses some naivety of the researcher: despite all the obstacles, an average of 100 billion drug dollars a year are "laundered" in Western countries.) Countries robbed by their rulers are usually very poor, but loans received and stolen by the departed rulers remain hanging on the debtor states. Restructuring economies, according to Blanc, is simply a form of squeezing money out of the poorest segments of the population to pay off debts incurred by the richest citizens of these countries.

One Nigerian political scientist wrote: "In Nigeria, corruption is not one of the components of the government's activities, it is the goal of the government's activities."

Abacha and his clan profited from literally everything. They simply robbed the Central Bank, took bribes from foreign companies for oil concessions, construction firms, especially those that were building the country's new capital, Abuja, and so on.

One of Abacha's" partners " in the construction business was the family of a Lebanese Shaguri. Shaguri's eldest son Gilbert became friends with him back in the 70s. When Abacha seized power, most of the construction business in the capital fell into the hands of Shaguri & Shaguri. In addition, it received the right to purchase part of the Nigerian oil.

The Abacha clan is believed to have stolen $ 2 billion allocated for the reconstruction and repair of four oil refineries. Their productivity fell three times, which caused a shortage of gasoline and other types of fuel.

Abacha's group behaved like a gang that had taken over a foreign country. The economy has become a trophy of the occupied state. The deeper Nigeria fell into the abyss, the more its rulers profited.

Unlike Mobutu, who bought palaces and villas in Europe, Abacha did not publicly display his wealth. He tried to hide the stolen goods not only in Europe, but also in the countries of the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia, and Brazil. It is noteworthy that one of Abacha's partners was the Swiss company Glencore, which was controlled by a certain Mark Rich, who fled the United States to escape charges of fraud.

Many Nigerians point out that the Obasanjo administration has focused mainly on returning money to Sani Abachi and his clan. Other former military dictators are much less affected: their numerous supporters still hold very high positions and enjoy great influence. While they are still alive, it is almost impossible to start a war against all the robbers.

The fate of Abacha's money is handled by lawyer Enrico Monfrini, whose office is located in Geneva. He managed to return about 600 million dollars, and through other channels-the government received several hundred million more. Montfrini receives information and assistance from countries such as Switzerland, Luxem-

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Burg and Liechtenstein, but England refuses to cooperate, although it is recognized that Abacha and his clan transferred $ 1.3 billion to London. London has taken no action to freeze these accounts, arguing that Nigeria should properly formulate the charge against Muhammad Abachi, the late dictator's son. According to some reports, there is a trade going on between the government and the Abacha family: corrupt officials are allegedly ready to return some sums to the government in exchange for stopping their criminal prosecution.

Despite the" lawlessness " of the Abacha regime, Western states continued to de facto support it. Only Nigeria's membership in the Commonwealth of Nations has been suspended. The oil giants Shell, Chevron, Mobile, and others, who were making huge profits in Nigeria, were united in opposing any action by the international community that might interfere with their operations. In addition, Abacha suited them as a leader who dealt with both the labor movement, one of the most developed and strong in Africa, and the rebellious ethnic groups in the Niger Delta. Britain, France and Italy secretly collaborated with Nigeria, believing that it was the center of pro-Western stability in West Africa. But the regime's main ally has been the American oil business, which imports almost half of the 100 million tons of liquid fuel produced in Nigeria each year.

CORRUPTION TODAY AND ... TOMORROW

"It is now clear that there is corruption in the country, and it is the rule of life at the state level," Obasanjo said. - I can't say that corruption is completely eliminated, but three or four years ago, the minister would have said to you: "Sit down at the table. What's in here? Good. Five percent of mine or your deal won't go through." No one dares to say that today. Thus, at the level of ministers and Permanent Secretaries, we have achieved success. We would like to root out corruption more deeply -among directors and deputy directors of departments, up to the level of messengers... But we argue that if dishonesty and corruption remain, they are just islands that will sooner or later disappear in the face of the dominant force that we represent."

The president of the country, faced with problems of such depth and complexity, cannot speak in any other way. If he doesn't have optimism and faith in the future, he can't claim to be the best person in the world.

to be a leader, even if the situation is actually worse than he publicly admits.

Under Obasanjo, a certain level of transparency has been achieved in the activities of the Government and the contracts concluded by it. For the first time in history, the National Nigerian Oil Corporation has published data on its activities.

An independent commission on corruption and related violations of the law has been established. It has broad powers to investigate or prevent corruption. The commission is headed by Mustafa Akanbi, who was once the chairman of the Constitutional Court and gained credibility with his honesty.

However, the results of the struggle of Obasanjo and his supporters with a terrible evil have not yet led to the desired results. Last year, the anti-corruption organization Transparency International again named Nigeria as the most corrupt country in the world. When receiving government orders, all companies must inflate prices in order to make a "rollback" later, or pay large commissions, or replenish the so-called party cash registers. It is considered that parliamentarians are bribed to pass relevant laws or amendments to laws. There is a belief that there is even less transparency at the state or local level.

One of the foreign businessmen working in Nigeria claims:: "It is possible that the direct theft from the treasury that took place during the military has been stopped, but now it is becoming more difficult for businesses to do business in many ways: you need to go through much more bureaucratic layers and much more complex ways to get appropriate decisions and permits." Local journalist Morenike Raire writes: "Corruption has become an institution of Nigerian life, and trying to remove any corrupt Nigerian from office means trying to create a situation where you can't find anyone who is fit to serve as a public servant."

Akanbi, head of the Anti-corruption Commission, says: "When people are used to stealing, it's hard to change them overnight." He has the cases of 40 major state - level corrupt officials on his desk, but higher-flying birds are in his sights.

In parallel, there is a special commission for reviewing contracts concluded by the former Government. There's a pile of papers in front of her. The fraud lies on the surface, but given the type of government that was in the country, the commission barely scratches the surface.

Government officials received large commissions directly, through relatives or through figureheads, earning money by signing some paper. They are used to "working"like this. It is very difficult to break this mentality, these habits. Head of the Colade Contracts Commission says: "Society has distorted the morality and character of doing business. When I was a child and lived in the countryside, women would take bundles of firewood out onto the road and leave them unattended. The prices were known, and if someone took a bundle of firewood, he left money. No passers-by touched money or wood unless they were buying it. It was an idealistic time." Maybe he's exaggerating, maybe it didn't happen at all, but the dream of such times lives on in the imagination of some Nigerians.

According to Colade, change should come from the top: "In general, people react to the behavior of leaders, so if leaders are bad, then people act accordingly." Nigerians are already used to anti-corruption rhetoric, when little changes are made, and this breeds widespread cynicism.

Obasanjo remarked shortly after the election: "Some of the problems can be solved in days, weeks or months, while others will take years. Let's not kid ourselves."

The process of Nigeria's degeneration into a so-called "culture of corruption" has been complex. Corruption in Nigeria is multi-faceted. One of its manifestations is nepotism, the distribution of positions not based on professional competence, but to members of their own ethnic group or clan. Often, government positions are simply bought. As a result, many good professionals are not in demand, which increases the sense of hopelessness in society, instills low morals, passivity and cynicism. The vector of social movement is directed towards self-destruction.

One example of corruption was the construction of a steel mill in Ajaokut. According to various estimates, the state has invested between $ 5 and $ 8 billion in construction, but the plant has never started production. To complete the project, you need at least another 1-2 billion. The plant began to be built in cooperation with the Soviet Union. But not all the stages of its construction were transferred to Soviet organizations precisely because at that time our country was the least susceptible to corruption and cooperation with it was impossible to fill your pockets. Built at a glance-

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In cooperation with the USSR, steel mills in Helwan and Iskanderun, Isfahan and Bhilai successfully produce steel for less money.

Corruption is also evident in the fact that dozens of illegal hospitals are opened under the guise of legal medical diplomas, where incompetent crooks "treat" people for a fee, or rather ruin them.

Since the 1999 elections, the Nigerian Senate has twice impeached its President, who is constitutionally the third person in the State, on corruption charges. The Speaker of the lower house of Parliament was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had falsified his university degree.

The first president of the Senate was removed for hiding his criminal past. The next chairman, it turned out, was involved in a deal that secured millions of dollars ' worth of government orders to his friends and relatives. He gave himself a Christmas bonus of 200 thousand dollars, one and a half times exceeded the amount of 245 thousand dollars allocated for the construction of his office, and at public expense purchased 32 luxury cars for himself. Even on a Nigerian scale, it was too much.

Obasanjo's anti-corruption campaign is bearing some fruit. "We all know that under the former military dictator Sani Abacha, armored vehicles moved millions of dollars of cash from the Central Bank to his own residence, and no one asked questions," said one Lagos banker, Yetundo Johnson. - Now people ask questions, and they need to be given answers. This is already a victory for democracy."

CRESCENT VS CROSS

Even after Obasanjo became president, clashes between Christians and Muslims resumed in Nigeria. Gangs of Muslim teenagers are targeting members of other ethnic and religious groups in northern states, especially in the city of Kano, where Hausa Muslims are dominant and Christians are being pushed out. Armed clashes between the Itsekiri, Urhobo and Ijo ethnic groups have broken out in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Here, in 1999, several hundred people were killed in just a week of fighting over disputes over government subsidies and the distribution of oil revenues. In the southwestern city of Sagama, nearly 60 Hausa people were hacked to death by Yoruba soldiers. And in the city of Kano, about the same number of Yoruba were killed. Five people were beheaded by a cheering crowd, and two Yoruba drivers were burned alive.

There are rumors that ethnic and sectarian clashes are fueled by generals and officers who were removed from power by Obasanjo. The election of Obasanjo, a Yoruba Christian who at that time enjoyed the support of a part of the northern elite, intensified the contradictions between the Northerners (Hausa-Fulani), who traditionally hold high positions in the armed forces of Nigeria, and the southern ethnic groups.

In February 2000, there were clashes between Christians and Muslims in Kaduna. According to independent reports, about 400 people were killed on both sides. The intervention of the army, the transfer of reinforcements from central Nigeria and Lagos stopped the outbreak of violence, which could lead to a minor civil war. Christians began to migrate south, to Lagos, to the southwest, or to Eastern Nigeria. Interethnic clashes with human casualties also occur in the Lagos metropolis.

Sharia law as the dominant legal system was first introduced in the northern state of Zamfara in December 1999. Nine Muslim-majority states followed his example.

According to sharia law, alcohol, adultery, premarital affairs, women's soccer teams are banned in the northern states, and schools and public transportation are segregated by gender. In Zamfara State, one man received a hundred lashes for having an affair with a married woman, and another was flogged for drinking alcohol in public.

Sharia law has become the banner of the northern political elite, which uses religion to pursue its own political ambitions. But in response, groups have emerged that advocate self-determination for Yoruba, both Christians and Muslims, and in the Niger Delta region, the movement of local ethnic groups for autonomy has grown stronger.

Obasanjo, realizing that the relationship between the center and the regions must change, did not take a single position.-

page 13


what is the position regarding the introduction of Sharia law, even though it was contrary to the secular constitution of Nigeria?

Nigeria was created by the British colonial authorities in the early 20th century, when Lord Lugard united the Muslim northern and southern Christian protectorates. In 1946, three regional councils for the North (Hausa-Fulani) were established. East (mostly Igbo) and West (mostly Yoruba). These are the three largest ethnic groups. But there are only 250 small and medium-sized ethnic groups in Nigeria, and to avoid clashes, they decided to divide the country into smaller and smaller states. Now their number is 36.

Muslims predominate in 18 northern states. In 9 of them, Sharia law has already been introduced, and in the 10th-Kano - it is actually valid. Both the governor and the emir of Kano, the country's second-most populous city and capital of the state of the same name, have long opposed the introduction of Sharia law, as Kano is home to almost a million Christians, including Yoruba and Igbo. But under pressure from religious groups and Muslim Ulama, they were forced to back down - there was a danger that the state legislature could impeach the governor.

If strict sharia law is introduced, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of people will exodus, and the state's economy will collapse. Christians are afraid to end up in the northern states in the position of second-class people. The Kano Legislature has already introduced sharia law, and it applies de facto. The governor did not approve this resolution, but did not veto it either. However, given the tradition of Nigerian cynicism and skepticism, it can be assumed that, despite Sharia laws, the sale of alcohol, gambling, and prostitution continue behind closed doors.

What is the appeal of Sharia law? First of all, it is a form of protest. Many ordinary Muslim Nigerians are told that if civil government, democracy, the military regime, the constitution have failed, if corruption and lawlessness prevail in society, then the only way out is to return to Islamic norms. It is unlikely that the majority of the population knows that Muslim Pakistan and practically Muslim Indonesia are considered to be among the most corrupt countries on the planet. But when people protest against the rise in crime, violence, armed robberies, arson attacks, contract killings, corruption, and the theft of public funds in an open and shameless way, they pin their hopes on the revival of morality according to Islamic canons.

However, many see the introduction of sharia law in 10 states as a ticking time bomb that could split Nigeria. Perhaps this is an exaggeration. But tensions between the North, on the one hand, and the West and East, on the other, are increasing. Many governors have promised Obasanjo that the application of sharia law will be limited, but they cannot control the situation, realizing that their future, i.e. re-election, depends on the support of Muslim activists and ulema.

ARMED SORCERERS

The erosion of public trust in the police and courts has created a new phenomenon based on traditional institutions.

Chinenye Okponpu, the leader of the Vigilante group in Onitsha, claims that his ability to administer justice is based on connections with otherworldly forces and demonstrates items for witchcraft: a stuffed hawk and two turtles, a crudely carved wooden statue of a man with a knife through his head, and another set of witchcraft and ritual objects. With their help, he allegedly can track down armed robbers, protect people from malicious intent and violence.

Okponpu claims that bullets fired at it do not cause harm. "Try it," he says, handing me a loaded pistol. Naturally, I refuse such an honor.

The activities of the Vigilante group known as the Bokasi Boys, led by the Okponpu, clearly demonstrate the corruption and impotence of the police and other services designed to ensure the functions of the state and protect the population from robbery. When lawlessness occurs, people resort to traditional, sometimes extreme forms of social organization. In the south-western and eastern regions of the country, they turn to combat groups created on the basis of some kind of "secret societies" with a mystical and witchcraft coloring.

Bokassi Boys operates in the state of Anambra, their center is the city of Onitsha, which is a giant market for imported goods. Located on the eastern bank of the Niger River, it used to be an important center of agricultural trade. Now they sell everything from music CDs and cassettes to shoes and statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. This is mainly the land of the Igbo, who were defeated in an internecine war in the 60s. It is believed that there are about 100 thousand merchants in the city of Onitsha, who became the main victims of robbery. The state's governor says he is forced to hire the Bokassi Boys to counter armed robbers who are involved in racketeering and once killed 40 bus passengers to intimidate others.

According to Okponpu, his group is armed only with daggers, but not rifles or submachine guns. And he turns over all captured robbers to the authorities along with their weapons. "Where did your guards get their rifles and submachine guns?" "We took this from armed robbers."

The supreme patron of the Vigilantes is the local traditional chief Ike Komo Onyekaonwu. He is convinced that God has sent these young men to help the people of the state. But he reports that the" boys " kill bandits almost every day and it is even impossible to count the number of their victims. However, the fact is that with the advent of the Bokassi Boys, armed robberies in Onitsha have decreased. Local residents say that the Vigilantes only kill robbers and do not touch merchants, and that unlike the police, they do not extort bribes or engage in racketeering.

page 14


This creates forces that are not accountable to anyone and grow out of a traditional society. The law of the jungle applies, but there is simply no other law, because the state structures are powerless.

The local governor is using the Bokassi Boys as a militia of his own to help him win new elections. Photos of him hugging Vigilante leaders are posted all over the state. None of the officials say how much the Bokassi Boys are paid for their services.

There are fears that organizations of this type will begin to take violent revenge on Muslims who participated in the murder of Christians in northern cities of Nigeria, and this will lead to unpredictable consequences.

A THORNY PATH TO NEW ELECTIONS

Nigeria, in its 41 years of independent existence, has known periods of ups and downs, crises, peaceful labor, and a 30 - month internecine war. For a little over twelve years, including two years of the current Obasanjo regime, civilian leaders have been in power and military dictators have been in power for 29 years. Several constitutions were adopted, 4 republics were proclaimed, and a dozen "successful" and unsuccessful coups d'etat took place. The vast country, artificially created by the British almost a hundred years ago, has been torn apart by sharp regional, clan, class, ethnic and religious contradictions.

Traditionally, in the recent history of Nigeria, there has been a confrontation between the civilian political elite and the army, which has become an independent and influential political and social force. The military, dominated by Northerners, fought against centrifugal tendencies and advocated preserving and strengthening national unity. Perhaps their positive role was limited to this. Do not forget that the main wealth of the country-oil and gas-lies closer to the coast, and the North, isolated from the South (more precisely, East and West), would be doomed to vegetate.

The current Obasanjo regime, by combining flexibility and firmness, has proved capable-albeit slowly-of responding to challenges and threats. Approximately 150 generals and senior officers were dismissed from the ranks of the army and police under the pretext of depoliticization in several stages. The Commander - in-Chief of the armed Forces and the renewed generalitat are embarking on longer-term measures-the reduction of the armed forces in order to transform them into a modern, compact, well-armed and trained army. These plans are designed for the long term. Obasanjo controls the armed forces, including with the help of Defense Minister Danjuma, a long-time supporter and author of many reformist ideas.

To solve a number of social and economic problems, the President is often forced to bypass the National Assembly, which either delays or sabotages his proposals. This gives the impression of a certain authoritarianism in the style of managing state affairs and causes a fire of criticism from the liberal media and parliamentarians. Obasanjo, irritated by the attacks of the opposition, still does not allow political repression.

The new President of the Senate, Pius Anyin, is both an ally and a rival of Obasanjo. He is one of the leaders of the People's Democratic Party, which nominated Obasanjo for president. But the party itself is a combination of political bosses, businessmen, and military personnel who were in opposition to Abacha. They have their own selfish interests, which do not always coincide with Obasanjo's course.

Maybe that's why Nigerians are becoming increasingly gloomy and impatient. Obasanjo is accused of surrendering to "old guard" politicians linked to previous failed attempts to establish civilian rule. His drive to end corruption clashes with the selfish interests of the groups and clans that helped him come to power, but are objectively interested in the chaos and decline of the country to line their own pockets.

Two years of rising oil revenues have resulted in significant increases in the federal budget and revenue in all 36 states. But the lines at gas stations have become even longer, and crime is on the rise, even though there have been fewer victims of political and ethno-religious clashes in recent months.

The problems of decaying infrastructure are so great, and other "bottlenecks" in the economy are so numerous, that it will take years and years to restore order and ensure stable economic growth. So far, unemployment has not resolved, and more and more disillusioned and angry young people are entering the labor market.

And new elections are less than two years away...

This is how the Catholic bishops who once raised their voices against the military regime and helped Obasanjo become president assess the situation. "We see now that many members of the political class at the federal, state and local levels think and care not about the needs - even the most basic - of the population, but spend time and money with one goal - to be elected again in two years. Once again, we are seeing the government at various levels spend so little resources on projects that do not directly improve the lives of the people."

All of Obasanjo's supporters understand that the closer the election gets, the harder it is to implement unpopular reforms, and the harder it is to give Nigerians the bitter medicine. Willy-nilly, populist measures are needed with a positive effect on the population, even if they are short-term.

"Democracy is not only a value in itself. This is also what I call the democratic dividend: improving the quality of people's lives, " Obasanjo said. "They have a right to want it, because that's what leadership is all about. I should be able to say: "Yes, I am doing something to improve water supply, I am doing something to improve electricity supply, repair roads. Of course, you can't do everything in a short time." This is the realism of an intelligent and experienced politician. But the path he follows is difficult and thorny.

...How infinitely far away from Russia Africa, Africans and their concerns seem. There is a different sun, a different civilization, a different level of social, economic, political and cultural development. And yet... It is not out of place for us to take a look in the African mirror once in a while. Perhaps we will see in him painfully familiar features, maybe the bitter experience of others will help us better understand ourselves.


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