Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
TUESDAY 30 JUNE 2009
Q1 Chairman: Thank you, good morning
and welcome. I wonder, first of all, if you would just introduce
yourselves so we have that on the record.
My name is Abdul Raufu Mustapha. I teach African Politics and
Development Studies at Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford University.
Mr Peel: I am Michael Peel. I
am a Financial Times journalist. I used to be the correspondent
based in Nigeria and I have written a book on Nigeria and oil
which is due to come out in September.
Mr Unom: I am Sam Unom. I am an
independent consultant. I used to work with DFID in Nigeria and
and I have been a consultant to both in Nigeria.
Q2 Chairman: We have got about an
hour and a half. Please feel free, but you do not all have to
answer all the questions so we move things along. Thank you very
much indeed for coming. As you know, the Committee visited Nigeria
earlier this month. Whilst it is a huge country and we could not
really get anything other than a feel for certain aspects of it,
I hope it has given us a better perspective than we had obviously
before we wentthat is the point of these visits. The big
issue, and certainly being briefed by DFID and the British High
Commission, is the issues of governance, the context of saying
this is a challenging environment, which is a kind of euphemism
for real difficulties. I just wondered if I could ask you collectively
whether that is the biggest problem, the lack of effective governance?
Indeed, within that context, what are the key failings of governance?
What are the weaknesses? Is it the lack of capacity in terms of
the quality of the ministers, the officials, or is it institutional
failures? What are the real things? Is governance the issue and,
if so, what aspects of governance is most vulnerable or most weak?
Dr Mustapha: I think governance
is certainly an issue in Nigeria. Maybe it is not so much lack
of capacity, as lack of the organisation and the institutional
business to pool the capacities together. The Nigerian elite for
various reasons are divided and they do not have a common vision
of where they want to lead the country. They spend most of the
time quarrelling and fighting amongst each other. This has historically
been the situation, but recently there has been a much more personalised
element in this fight, as individuals fight for their own control
over political and economic resources. So I would say that governance
is certainly an issue, because the elite are not able to have
a coherent picture of where they want to take the country. Some
of them are more interested in their personal ambitions.
Q3 Chairman: So it is a combination
or division between selfish and perhaps less selfish aspirations
of the rulers?
Dr Mustapha: Lack of a plan to
start with, and then the substitution of personal agendas for
a collective agenda.
Mr Unom: There has been no compelling
vision to commit to a future that is broadly agreed upon amongst
the elite and shared with the population. So the personal agendas
that Dr Mustapha has referred to substitute for that lack of shared
vision. They take the place of what should be a vision. DFID's
mission is that they are willing to provide technical assistance
to help Nigeria solve the problems that can be solved with international
help, but the commitment of the country itself to doing that is
patchy and uneven, so you find it in pockets here and there. You
find that the overarching vision that will be the basis for mobilising
a consensus for going forward has been a problem.
Q4 Chairman: If it is an issue effectively
of leadership and you mentioned vision, the President has his
own visionVision 20/20with his various points. I
think we heard of a seven point agenda and then somebody said
that it should really be a two point agenda. Is that a vision;
and is it something that could deliver an improvement in governance
and a more unified approach to leadership?
Mr Peel: The answer to these questions
is obviously complicated. I come from a very particular perspective
which I think is nevertheless one that has a real broader importance,
and that is the role of oil. Nigeria is quite unusual in an African
context, in that the aid budget, of DFID or anyone else, is really
miniscule compared with the revenues that are paid out from oil.
In a sense Abuja can always take or leave a DFID programme or
anything else, because of the dominant role of the oil industry.
I think looking at the role of oil, which was first exported two
years before the end of colonialism, it has come to dominate the
economy. Despite little reforms around the edges, not much has
changed in terms of the role that it plays. I think any solution
to the problems of governance in Nigeria has to look not only
at the Government and officials, but it has to look at the role
that everyone plays in that oil industry; and that of course includes
Western powers, China et cetera, multinational companies, right
on through to everyone else who is involved at a local level,
community leaders and so forth.
Q5 Chairman: Can I pick you up on
that. What is the role of an organisation like DFID? We accept
that entirelyNigeria is not an aid-dependent countrybut
there is a limited amount of aid and development programmes of
which the UK is a reasonable part. The actual money situation
over the last 10 years has risen from £15 million to £120
million. Now £120 million spread across Nigeria is not very
much. The point is: can it be spent in a way that would be effective
in building the institutions and the capacity? Is that a proper
role for it? Is that a useful engagement, given what you have
just said that Abuja can say, "Go away, we don't need you";
but, on the other hand, there does seem to be an engagement. Is
there real potential for that to make a difference?
Mr Peel: To look at a very specific
example, a small part of the piece, which is the work that has
been done on corruption over the last five years, in which DFID
and EU money has gone in, there I think you see a microcosm of
the problem; thatafter some mixed but promising results
in terms of investigations started, much better cooperation between
law enforcement authorities in Nigeria and here, some high profile
figures placed under investigationsuddenly, because of
a change in the political temperature, a lot of those limited
gains were lost; and suddenly you have a situation where joint
investigations, which I think people both inside and outside the
country see as very important in terms of improving governance,
have been stymied. The question then is: what do you do about
that? I think there is quite a strong case for saying, look at
a country like Kenya where Britain has introduced travel bans
against officials within the Government, whom it sees as demonstrably
involved in corruption. Nothing similar has been tried in Nigeria.
The question is: why is that? Is that because of the politics
of oil and so forth? Is it because of an embarrassment here about
the role of British financial institutions still in high level
corruption in Nigeria? If you look at the case of the former governor
of Bayelsa State, that is very informative in terms of the role
big banks here still play post-Abacha. I think there is a sense
in which certain tools which have been used in the context of
other countries and have been seen to be quite effectiveKenya
is one example, in a small wayare not being used in respect
of Nigeria. I think getting the answer to that would take you
some way to thinking how the problem could be solved.
Q6 Chairman: Perhaps I could ask
the other two witnesses if they feel DFID has a role to play?
Dr Mustapha: I think the DFID
project may be small relative to what the Nigerian Government
gets from oil; but there is a role for it in terms of helping
to improve the governance of the country. Despite the gloom, as
it were, there are pockets of efforts across the board that can
also be supported, along with the humanitarian support as well.
I would say I think there is a role for DFID in Nigeria. With
respect to your earlier question about a seven point agendaI
think it is not so much what is written on paper but what people
actually do that we ought to take into account. I think there
seems to be some slippage between what is done and what is promised
Mr Unom: On that last point, that
vision is truly the President's, but there is no indication that
it is being widely shared across the board or owned for that matter,
including even within his Cabinet. Even if he was committed to
it, he would still have a job to do trying to get everybody lined
up behind it. That is the difficulty of not having a modicum of
consensus amongst the elite regarding the direction of travel.
On the other question about what DFID can dogovernance
is the main challenge. That is the point we have been making.
DFID, and not just DFID, but the international community more
broadly speaking and the UK including the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office as well which is represented in Abuja, there has to be
a concerted focus on policy dialogue that persuades Nigeriawhether
through encouragement or the threat of stigmatisation, or whatever
it takesto begin to sort out itself. There are many processes
that are going on. The international community can insert itself
into helping along reform that is on the agenda now. There are
similar reform processesthe constitutional reform process
and the electoral reform processthat are also on the horizon.
The international community can help bring in useful ideas in
this regard. It is getting Nigeria to a point where it has a commitment
to do what is right and also can do what is right, and
that the international community can do. These are even
more critical than helping to deliver services on the ground,
because Nigeria's resources if they were used well would travel
Q7 John Battle: If I go back to Dr
Mustapha and Mr Unom and ask questions about whether the structure
is right. There is the Government, as I understand it, and there
is the federal state structure of 36 states with governors, and
then you have got a whole raft underneath that of local government;
and you have then got the tribal and village structure. I am just
wondering whether there is any discussion of the institutional
structure? Does that work against there being good governance?
About 50 % of the budget goes down to the state level, but does
it ever reach the local level which is supposed to be delivering
schools, clinics and the rest of it? If one or two politicians
or individuals siphon off the money there is no accountability
back to the centre. Is there a structural problem; or is that
even discussed as a means of tackling governance?
Mr Unom: Thank you for asking.
We have prepared something which we wanted to share with you,
so we were hoping you would ask! We will leave this with you and
I will be speaking to it. Dr Mustapha has done extensive research
in this regard and has published a lot of material. We have just
extracted a couple of his articles here and these things are discussed
in depth here but we can speak to them here as well.
Q8 John Battle: Would you like to
make some comment now on the record of whether the structure is
Dr Mustapha: I think there are
certain agreed principles that Nigeria has to be a federation
but the units that compose that federation are in dispute. Some
people want the 36 states that there are now and others want moretheir
own fiefdom as it were. There has been the argument that these
units are too weak vis-a"-vis the centre, and that is part
of the imbalance in the system. The argument is that we go to
six zones, into which the country is informally divided as a way
of building sub-national units that can have some effect. Federalism
is agreed but the units into which that federalism is broken are
in dispute. The basis on which those units are determined as well
is in dispute. Some want ethnic units; others want territorial.
Historically what we have had is territorial that corresponds
Q9 John Battle: Especially in the
Dr Mustapha: Yes, but they want
an explicit recognition of the ethnic factor. Those are the constitutional
aspects: but when we look at the way in which the current units
work, what Obasanjo
did effectively in the eight years he was there was to weaken
the parliament and the judiciary vis-a"-vis the executive
at the federal level, and also to use federal might to weaken
the states. The states have become beholden, not just because
of oil money but deliberate policy and the use of federal institutions.
Q10 John Battle: I would have thought
it was the other way, because some states seem to have a weak
budgeting system to account for the money that they get from central
government. Should not the federal government impose conditionality
and some exchange? The 50 % of the money they get from the federal
system should be accounted for, and when they apply for it next
year it should depend on how they have used it the previous year.
Am I wrong to say there is not a proper budgetary and financial
accountability between the states and the centre?
Dr Mustapha: The argument is that
the states have a right to those monies constitutionally, so it
is their right to get it and when they get it it is the State
Houses of Assembly who are supposed to impose that accountability,
but they are even worse than the federal legislature.
Mr Unom: Historically the executive
has been very strong in Nigeriathe executive at the federal
level and the state level. There have been no instances of checks
over the executive. The states having the autonomy simply means
that the state executives are free to use the money as they like;
and the other institutions that exist on paper are either too
timid or too corrupt to impose a check on this. By bringing in
the federal government we raise all kinds of constitutional issues.
Q11 John Battle: You have mentioned
your paper which we will receive and read, but is there any public
and political pressure within Nigeria at federal level, state
level or government level for structural and institutional change;
or is it coming from without? You have commented on it but is
there a foment of concern about the structure not working?
Dr Mustapha: My reading would
be that many communities are struggling to get their own shareto
get a foot inin a complex situation they feel unable to
control. That would be where the energies of most people go to,
and the elites encourage that as well because it favours their
own career prospects. Beyond that, among the middle classes there
is certainly a feeling that things are not working well. If I
may add on the earlier question, the current problem on the table
is the way in which the states have made it difficult for local
governments to function through appropriating all their resources
and powers. If the local governments were much closer to the people
and were able to function better, there would be improvements
in some of the service delivery.
Mr Peel: I have a couple of comments
on that: the state versus federal disconnect. One thing I was
very struck by, which I did some reporting on in my book, was
at the time of the G8 summit here in 2005when there were
a lot of very warm words between Abuja and London about various
reforms and so forth at a federal levelthat what was going
on at the state level was completely unaccountable. While there
was talk of the federal oil money and the special fund that was
being keptI actually visited Rivers State, one of the richest
states in the Niger Delta and I got hold of a copy of the draft
budget for that year and it was absurd. There had been no effort
even to cover over the fact that money was being used completely
unaccountably; there were huge security discretionary budgets;
there were things like fleets of cars being bought, the swimming
pool budget for the Governor's residence had been raised by some
huge percentage; and it was very striking that there was no attempt
even to cover over this fact. Because there was no pressure, the
state authorities felt completely unaccountable and they felt
that they could just get away with this. One of the structural
problems that is related to thatI do not know how much
attention has been paid to these over the last couple of yearscertainly
a recurring theme I saw was that discretionary spending, some
of it through structures I think inherited from the colonial era,
the so-called Esta codes, the imprest funds which were basically
funds of money into which officials could dip in order to go travelling,
were still very actively used; and this was one of the things
that led to this culture of complete unaccountability. That is
something I found very striking and something that structurally
could be looked at as a practical means of perhaps changing things
just a bit.
Q12 John Battle: I was not on this
recent visit but I was in Nigeria three years ago when Hugh Bayley
was with us and I remember our visit to a village and to a clinic
was hijacked by a political candidate who wanted to film visiting
MPs from Britain in his neighbourhood. He took us to a clinic
and there was a gang of people around and I actually did not get
inside the clinic, if I remember rightly, but was stood outside
talking to a man holding a child and he told me the clinic had
never been opened because there was no staff; it looked quite
good from the outside but it stood there for two years and had
never been opened and it was his flagship. He could show people
there was a clinic but, in practice, there was not a clinic. I
just wondered, why are the budgets from the centre not tied down
through the state and then to the local government and saying,
"Look, if we've given you money for health care, why isn't
there a tracking of the allocation?" Why isn't there a demand
on the ground from the people saying, "We don't just want
a clinic that's a building we show tourists or visiting MPS. We
want a functioning clinic". As well as revealing the corruption
of people buying fleets of cars, what about the demands for public
services at the local level and demanding that accountability?
Is there no evidence of that in the system?
Dr Mustapha: I think if you were
to put yourselves in the shoes of the ordinary man in the village,
to make an effective demand you need to make common cause with
a number of people for it to carry some weight. Such people who
go to that length of building empty buildings and then using it
for show, will never tolerate that kind of political challenge.
That one may be one reason. It is just a recognition that you
do not stand a chance.
Mr Unom: The elections would have
been the mechanism for ensuring strict accountability. At every
opportunity Nigerians have tried to use elections to insert themselves
into the discourse, but they are hopelessly mismanaged; so they
are nowhere near reflecting the will of the electorate yet. Public
opinion counts; but it will not really count in Nigeria until
elections start counting. So until public opinion counts, whatever
actions the aggrieved citizens embark upon might be fruitless.
As you keep losing you become disillusioned and many people just
shrug their shoulders and reconcile themselves to fake governors.
The electoral reform that has been promised by the Government
has to be husbanded very carefully so that it delivers credible
elections that Nigerians are yearning for. You need to have that
to make an impression on the system.
Mr Peel: I would agree with that.
Perhaps I could just talk for a minute about my own experience.
I covered both the 2007 and the 2003 elections in Rivers State,
and I deliberately went back in 2007 to a lot of the places I
had been to in 2003 to compare and contrast. What was interesting
was that in 2007 there was a lot of publicity internationally
about how flawed the elections were, which was absolutely rightthey
were. In 2003 it was just as bad as far as I could see. I was
very struck by the strength of feeling that day which reflected
what Sam said. There were thugs around; I saw ballot boxes being
stuffed; there were tales of ballot boxes being taken at gunpoint;
and people were coming and grabbing me and saying, "You know,
the world must know about this. Write my name down. I want it
to be known that I object to this". I and the other reporters,
foreign, Nigerian and the NGOs, who reported on that election,
were very struck by how, despite lots of these credible reports,
internationally there was absolutely no appetite to really say,
"Look, this was wrong", and we all know the reasons
for that. I agree with Sam, when something like that happens no-one
should be surprised when people take a very pragmatic view and
say, "Let's just limit our losses. We'll just navigate the
system because we are not going to change it".
Q13 John Battle: Is DFID's strategy
right, in the sense that if DFID commits itself to working with
those states where it believes there is support for governance
changeso working with the guys that are trying to make
change and make it more accountable, transparent and make sure
the resources reach the peopleif DFID works with those
states and not with the worst ones, is that the wrong strategy,
because the worst ones might never be prompted to change?
Mr Unom: It is what DFID has been
struggling with in Nigeria, I suppose. There are trade-offs whichever
way you lean. One might argue that working with the winners is
safer and presents a greater chance of success; but the counterpoint
to that would be that the main prize is to get the bad states
to become reasonably sensible states. Picking winners might be
helpful in the short-term but would leave the larger question
of governance unresolved. Whichever way you swing there will be
a trade-off. My viewand I do not know what the other witnesses
might think about thatis to have a two-pronged strategy
that looks at both; so you deliberately know that here you are
up against it and your strategy is simply to get people to get
to a point where they begin to commit to something sensible. While
in the other instance you can straightaway deploy your technical
assistance so you have a strategy that on the one hand encourages
the poor performers to step up and, on the other hand, works with
the better performers to deliver.
Dr Mustapha: I think I agree there
is a temptation to try to use resources best by concentrating
on those who use it in the most effective way. In the Nigerian
context that would immediately lead to certain ethnic or religious
groups; so that you would then stand the danger of being accused
of partisanship, which complicates rather than improves the effectiveness
of what you are trying to do. On the electoral reform, that is
key to getting anything done in that country. Across the board,
the elites do not believe in elections; and until they are forced
to take elections seriously I do not think we will ever get any
accountability from them. It is quite an important issue.
Mr Unom: Just to illustrate, the
tensions in the Niger Delta one might venture to say would be
reduced considerably if you had credible elections there because
there have been additional, substantial resources over the last
10 years, and there have been policies and interventions other
than the statutory allocations to the states in the region; but
the difference has not been significant. It is clear that if you
had more accountable or responsive governance in the region itself,
part of the problems we are dealing with now would be addressed.
That is how critical it is to have good elections.
Mr Peel: I think it is very important
to look beyond resources, and to look at measures which actually
can be quite cheap but effective. The example I come back to is
that of the law enforcement cooperation between Britain and Nigeria
which led to tangible results. That is unprecedented. You had
a situation where investigators from this country and Nigeriaand
I saw it from both sidesgrew to trust each other and actually
to like each other in many instances. That has never happened
before. That led to real investigations; it led to charges in
this country; it led to criminal proceedings in Nigeria as well.
That was something that had a tangible effect and obviously fitted
in with the broader policy goals that we are discussing today.
Q14 Hugh Bayley: Does this all mean
that corruption in Nigeria is being tackled? What progress
has been made, say, in the last five years?
Dr Mustapha: I think there was
an effort to tackle corruption by Obasanjo. I think whatever one
may say about Obsanjo he took a lot of personal risks and has
done much more for the country than most people of his generation
have done. Unfortunately also, the system was abused, i.e. political
enemies of the President were also targeted in ways that were
inexplicable. There was the case of somebody called Ted Oshin
in Ogun State who was never a government official, had never done
anything with the Government and was being hounded for corruption
and the basis was not clear at all either. The only thing that
was obvious was that he was running for the Senate seat that Obasanjo's
daughter was also running for! That was an unfortunate example.
That notwithstanding, Obsanjo did a lot of good work for that
country and those who are hounding him now intend to do much worse,
so it is not a criticism of him as being irrelevant as such. What
Absanjo didwhich I think was quite importanthe went
for the big guns. He went for the governors at the state level.
This also featured in Obasanjo's strategy of getting them under
control. What it did was to make sure that everybody below then
knew that they had no cover. What has happened since 2007 is that
all those people have been let free. Before 2007 corruption at
the federal level was hardly looked into, only at the state level;
now they have concentrated at the bureaucratic level within the
federal system, not even at the ministerial level. All the governors
are going about doing their own things unchallenged; all the ministers
are doing the same. It is the bureaucrats at the federal level
who are taking the heat; which means they have to find the resources
to confront maybe 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 major corruption cases,
rather than taking one person and using him to set an example
further down the pyramid.
Q15 Hugh Bayley: There is a great
danger in generalising. I have only been to Nigeria twice, once
as John has said four or five years ago, where it struck me that
there was endemic corruption with senior officials quite brazenly
touting for percentages, down to the man in the airport who suggested
a backhander would make sure my luggage got on the plane. On that
occasion we met people, probably the governors although I cannot
remember, in government in Rivers State, in Enugu State and Benue
State, and on our more recent visit we met people in government
in Lagos State and in Kano State and met some federal ministers.
I felt this time there were people who at least talked the talk
whom you felt you could work with. Do you think we were led to
see a few beacons of excellence; or do you think the quality of
governance overall in Nigeria has changed in the last five years?
Dr Mustapha: You went to Nigeria
just this yearthe anti-corruption war has slipped since
2007, that is the import of what I am saying, and Michael said
that much also, regardless of what people say.
Q16 Hugh Bayley: There was some progress,
particularly at high level, and there has been some backsliding?
Dr Mustapha: Yes, a different
target has now been chosen for attack.
Mr Unom: It is pretty complicated
for the President because the impression is given personally that
he is clean and wants to remain clean. It is not clear whether
it is a question of him just having bad friends who are then hampering
the work, or whether he thinks it is a risky strategy in the first
term of his administration to go after the big guns but that is
where we are.
Q17 Hugh Bayley: My question is this:
DFID has a large bilateral programme in Nigeria but is completely
unlike the programme in Ghana or Tanzania. It is not providing
welfare assistance; it is not addressing basic human needs. It
is basically addressing the quality of governance. Is that a realistic
strategy? Can well-meaning foreigners working with the administration
change the quality of tax collection, the transparency of records
presented to the public and to the legislatures; or is that a
risky strategy for DFID? Would DFID be better to pull out and
say, "This is an impossible place to work"?
Dr Mustapha: That would not be
my advice! I think it is a difficult and complex situation but
it is a job that needs to be done, both in the interests of Nigerians
and, let it be said, in the interests of the British public as
well. Should the country unravel the whole of West Africa is gone
and the consequences will ripple right across the globe. It is
an engagement that is necessary and not always easy but I think
needs to be done.
Q18 Hugh Bayley: Why does the UK
then see a need for a bilateral programme, but not many other
countries? The Americans and Canadians have a bilateral programme
but the Dutch do not really, the Germans do not and the French
do not. Why do these wider security issues matter to Britain but
not matter to Germany, the Netherlands or Sweden?
Mr Unom: I thought the other Europeans
were represented in the EU; certainly that is the impression that
the EU gives in Nigeria, that other Europeans are represented
in the EU.
Q19 Chairman: The EU was so under-staffed
on our visit they were not able to provide anybody to meet us!
Mr Unom: Maybe it is a strategy
because they implement mostly through government, or through government
projects. This is a slightly different strategy to DFID's. All
the others are engaged, even if they are not directly providing
assistance; but the EU, US Government, DFID and the major international
players, the Canadians, are punching their weight; but it is clear
that all are interested for the reason that Dr Mustapha has given.
Despite the frustrations, there have been indications of progress
scattered around. Corruption, for instance, remains front-page
news in Nigeria. It is simply part of the public discourse in
Nigeria. You cannot escape it. That is an important development
in itself. For eight years under Babangida nobody mentioned corruption
but now there is a public debate going on regarding the fight
against corruption. There have been indications that now the public
is really tuned in. It is difficult to go back on the agenda,
but there will be periods when the enthusiasm might wane on the
part of the Government; but the agenda cannot be swept under the
carpet; it just cannot go away any more. There is a chance that
if Nigerians themselves keep plodding away something might happen.
The joke in Nigeria is that the fight against corruption might
be more critical over here in the UK than back in Nigeria, since
the work of the Anti Money Laundering Unit here has had important
repercussions in Nigeria, as Michael said earlier. That international
contribution to that fight is very critical, and was never large.
In fact it is because things are changing over here in the UK
that Nigerians have hope; it is because there is a chance of arresting
the Governors over here that Nigerians are interested.
1 UN Development Programme. Back
Institutionalising ethnic representation: How effective is
affirmative action in Nigeria?, Journal of International Development
21(2009), pp 561-576 and Nigeria since 1999: A revolving door
syndrome or the consolidation of democracy?, Chapter 5 from
Turning Points in African Democracy, Edited by Abdul Raufu Mustapha,
June 2009. Back
The former President. Back