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The art and culture of living above one's income

By Kali Gwegwe
July 24th, 2011

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Corruption has since turned into an art following the sophistication of anti-graft protocols by national governments and the global community. The reason for this development is not far fetched. It has been acknowledged globally that corruption is mostly responsible for the many cases of poor political leadership, pandemic poverty, snail-speed economic growth, decaying socio-economic infrastructure, and political instability especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It has also become an acceptable norm for people who occupy public offices to acquire fleet of expensive automobiles and own landed properties in major cities across the globe. Those who fail to meet this mark are hurriedly dismissed as dull or out of tone with current realities. This is most regrettable.

A careful analysis of this sad development has shown that people are forced into living above their incomes for varying reasons. Chief among them are weak national socio-economic framework which is too feeble to support citizens survive on their legitimate incomes. People are therefore forced to seek alternative means of finding funds to take care of their basic necessities such as shelter, food, clothing, health care, and educational needs of their families. This is one of the many ways corruption grow in developing societies.

There is no gainsaying that in addition to the high level of unemployment, close to 50% of Nigerian subsistent farmers, artisans, and junior workers in the public service earn barely $1 dollar daily. Another 30% earn about $2 daily while 20% earn close to $5 daily. The percentage of Nigerians that earn up to $100 daily is less than 10%. With such realities staring us in the face, one can rush to the conclusion that most Nigerians are living above their legitimate incomes going by the cost of imported cars, household equipments, and sprawling mansions springing up every minute of the day across the country.

Disturbed by the near boiling-point anger of the masses, the political class has now devised some strange mechanisms to launder proceeds of corruption. These are in the form of outrageous allowances, over invoicing of contracts, frivolous travels and seminars among others.

As part of efforts to discourage people from living above their legitimate incomes, government must act fast and address the following issues:
1. Reduce to the barest minimum, the percentage of unemployment and poverty
2. Carry out Socio-cultural re-orientation
3. Redesign the nationís anti-graft protocols

In order to achieve these three fundamental objectives, government will need to energise the organized private sector to stimulate rapid national economic growth with specific emphasis on agriculture and other non-oil sectors of the economy. This will not only expand the employment market but also help to reduce poverty significantly. With this development, crime rate will fall drastically.

Furthermore, government will have to embark on the revitalization of all national socio-economic infrastructures like roads and power in order to reduce the high cost of doing business. Government should also pursue the inland waterways and railway transport infrastructure as part of efforts to reduce the high cost of moving goods and services around the country. Insecurity is another problem threatening the nationís economic growth. The various security agencies should collaborate and invest massively in intelligence gathering mechanism. More than that, government should strengthen existing specialized banks like Bank of Industry and National Agriculture and Cooperative Bank to provide cheaper access to funds for farmers and those that desire to establish new businesses. The commercial banks are usually not ideal for these kinds of enterprises.

The National Orientation Agencies to me have not been doing enough to service its mandate. The agency should liaise with religious, social, and community based organisations to re-orient citizens on the importance of hard work and integrity.

In addition to all the existing anti-graft legislations establishing and empowering both the EFCC and ICPC, there is still the important need to establish a National Wealth Verification Commission (NWVC). Whoever- citizen or foreigner that intends to spend N3m or more should be required by law to approach any recognized court of law to swear to an affidavit indicating the sources of the fund and lodge the original copy with the NWVC. Within a maximum of 24 hours, the deponent will be issued a clearance certificate with which to spend the said amount. However, the issuance of the Clearance Certificate must not be tied to confirmation of facts deposed to by the deponent. NWVC will however within a period of not more than 12 months carry out thorough investigation of sources of funds and issue a Certificate of Confirmation of the previous Clearance Certificate. Where the deponent is found to have sworn to a doubtful or false affidavit, such person will be
prosecuted in a specialized court set up to try cases of financial corruption alone. It is my belief that the introduction of NWVC will go a very long way to reduce the menace of corruption in Nigeria.

Kali Gwegwe
CEO, Nigeria Democracy Watchtower
2, Greenviall-Customs Link Road
Bayelsa State
0806 407 4810

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