Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 700 - 708)



  700. Is there any restriction on the amount of money available to the Commission to pursue this work?
  (General Mohammed) We do not have an unlimited treasury, certainly. There must be some limit of money and every government, whatever work they are doing, allocate a certain amount. No department ever says this money is too much for them.

Mr Robathan

  701. High Commissioner, you said that under military governance you reached a peak of corruption. In fact you said it was endemic. I just want to take you back to my last question and perhaps General Mohammed might like to say something on this. We have heard that nobody has been charged yet by the Commission but how many generals and senior army officers have been dismissed and how many who were in office at the time of this peak of corruption are still in office, because this is 18 months on? I would have thought if I were an ordinary Nigerian I would wish to see action.
  (General Mohammed) The military discipline normally is done without bringing it to the public notice. A soldier is charged in the barracks, sentenced there, cashiered, dismissed or serves a sentence in the stockade or fined or asked to retire. That is how they deal with the military cases.
  (Prince Ajibola) But in addition to that may I say that when this Government came to power within the second or third week 94 very senior military officers were relieved of their commission.

  Chairman: The Committee is getting into a problem with time. Some of the questions which we had planned to ask you you have already answered and I would ask my colleagues simply to leave them out. Mr Worthington may have further questions on anti-corruption initiatives.

Mr Worthington

  702. The last time I was in Nigeria there were elections and I was asking politicians how much it was costing them to stand for election; I could not afford to stand. Because there are no big party structures to raise money you have to get money from asking wealthy people to support you. You have expenses in Nigeria you do not have here, we would expect our own party supporters to stand at the polling stations, you may have to pay them to do that. There are stories about people expecting something from you if you get into power. How are you going to tackle that issue of who can stand for Parliament? How can you make sure that they have not made promises they should not have done when they stand for Parliament?
  (General Mohammed) Every politician everywhere in the world when he or she is campaigning is bound to say something they cannot afford to do. I will give you one example, President Bush senior said he was going to cut tax. He said, "Read my lips", but that is what sent him out of office. President Bush junior was sworn in last week, tax cuts were also his election promise. We do not have a society which is rich, our society is really poor. Our people are not sophisticated or highly educated. You need money for the logistics of an election. Polling agents have to have money to transport people from point A to point B. At times you have to bring them to where they vote. You have to tell them, "Do not go to the market today, do not go to the farm today". Some of them do not know what they have, what they get today they eat tomorrow. God will provide. You have to pay for certain things. You do not have to pay them to vote for you but you can pay for them to come to the polling station. You can provide transport for them to come to the polling station. You cannot say, "Okay, come to the polling station, I will pay you this much if you vote for me", otherwise you could have collected the ballot paper at his house.

  703. Are you introducing any legislation to control fund raising for elections or setting up fund-raising? If an MP gets in and he has got in because he has promised to do something for a particular village or for a particular individual, then there is a risk of corruption being built into that system, is there not?
  (General Mohammed) We have a development plan which covers the whole country. Each part of Nigeria has its own peculiarity. In Northern Nigeria what they need is water, so you dig more holes for them there. When you go to Southern Nigeria they need roads. You look at the peculiarity of it, and then the annual budget takes care of the promise. This annual budget is set and not passed until you take it to Parliament. Each Parliamentarian will go through what is being done in their village, whether it is maternity, whether it is schooling, whether it is health care, whatever it is, it is incorporated. If you tell them you will do something for them which you cannot do, then they hold you responsible for it. You cannot make certain promises because the money is just not there.

Ann Clwyd

  704. Could you tell me how privatisation has helped to tackle corruption or do you think it has provided new opportunities for corruption?
  (Dr Bugaje) The privatisation programme is under the office of the Vice President and Chairman of the Privatisation Council. As you probably know, it took some time to work out the legal framework and it involved the World Bank and other world agencies to ensure that the process is entirely transparent. So far there has not been any major complaint from anybody who thinks that the process is not transparent. A lot of care has been taken to ensure that that is not going to be another avenue for corruption and that everybody involved in the process, even those who have lost, will be satisfied why they have lost. So far the requests we have had for the privatisation process have been quite appreciable.

  705. Could you talk about the problem you have had with mobile telephone licences and auctions? You are not the only country to have had that problem.
  (Dr Bugaje) The recent one?

  706. It has been subject to corruption in the past.
  (Dr Bugaje) This particular one that we did was so well done I have not heard of any complaints. The one that was done last week?
  (General Mohammed) What happened in the past was the last administration issued 16 or 17 licences without taking into consideration the number of frequencies that were available. The issue of these licences only cost $500,000, compared to other countries, Morocco was 1.2 billion and Cameroon, our next door neighbour, was 78 million. When we looked at that and we compared the number of people who were going to use the telephone in Nigeria, and some parts of Ghana, with the number of frequencies that are available and that are allocated, we can only give five licences. We said three are to be auctioned, one is to go directly to the government, one to NITEL, which is going to be privatised later, but it will not have any value without the GSM facility, so we have allocated one to it directly, and three are to be auctioned.

  707. Did you not have a planned auction last year which was cancelled and the entire Commission sacked? When are you going to hold the next auction, under what circumstances?
  (General Mohammed) The Government had not studied the implications then because it was based on those 17, or so, companies. They were not vetted to see whether they have the technology or the competence to do it. Somebody can issue a licence to somebody and then he will go about trying to sell it or to get an impact. We made sure the people who competed now are the people who have paid the $20 million deposit and who will in the next two weeks, if they win the auction, pay $285 million each.

  708. Who will supervise that auction?
  (General Mohammed) The World Bank and our officials.
  (Prince Ajibola) May I add to what is being said, that is one very good example of good planning and good organisation, devoid of any corruption. It was done openly. It was all clearly advertised and everybody knew what was going on at every stage. It is very clean. Consequently, you have one of those licences won by a company from South Africa. If I could comment on what has been said earlier, instead of the Government having the paltry sum of money out of the auction the Government can now boast of earning over $1 billion from the whole exercise, which would bring in money to the Government. The auction was done openly, the auction was publicly done and everybody was happy about all that was done. It is a very clear example of things coming our way in respect of transparency and accountability.

  Chairman: That is good. I think we should now move into private session. We can continue the questioning that we need to ask you about in private session. If you just stay there I will ask the public to leave us at this point and then we will continue in private session.

  Qq. 709-751 were heard in private and not reported to the House at the request of the witnesses and with the agreement of the Committee.

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