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*Nigeria: What is $620,000 worth?
Masterweb Reports - Wednesday, May 20, 2012: Recent media have been inundated with the gory details of how a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Hon. Farouk Lawan of Shanano/Bagwai federal constituency of Kano state allegedly demanded for and received a bribe of $620,000 from Femi Otedola, CEO of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd. Mr Otedola subsequently claimed that this was a sting operation orchestrated by the Nigerian Secret Service to trap the lawmaker in the act by the use of a video recording and marked bills. In a counter argument, Hon. Lawan insists that he on the other hand, played along in order to incriminate Mr Otedola. Actually, according to reports, the sum agreed on was $3 million, with $620,000 being paid as a part-payment, and for the balance to be paid after Zenon was taken off the list of indicted companies in the fuel subsidy report. The essence of this article is not to apportion blame or take sides, but rather to look more closely at the amount of money involved in this scandal.
It is by no means the biggest corruption scandal in the country’s history in monetary terms but it will surely rank up there as one of the most audacious. This is due to the fact that Hon. Lawan, who had been charged with the responsibility of investigating the corruption in the petroleum industry, had seemingly discharged his responsibilities without fear or favour, putting up a face of saint-like innocence and brick-like defiance. If it is proved that he is guilty, it would indeed be a sad day for us as a country. However, even if it is not, and it does turn out that the SSS provided the money for this “sting operation” (money which is now missing), how much can $620,000 buy if it were put to productive use? We hear of different amounts of money linked to corruption in Nigeria so often that we have become deadened or immune to the shock of a new scandal. So I decided to get out a notepad and do a little calculation of just how much $620,000 is worth. ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: US Dollar Notes
To start with, based on the older World Bank definition of poverty being the inability to live on equal to or above $1 per day, $620,000 will be able to raise about 21,000 people out of poverty for a month and about 1,700 people out of poverty for a year. It would be sufficient to pay the school fees of about 6,700 children in a year at the primary and secondary levels as well as buy about 20,000 school books at N5,000 a piece. It can provide 23,000 pieces of clothing for children and would be able to pay for the sinking of about 832 boreholes.
What is $620,000 worth? It can purchase about 1,000,000 packs of anti-malaria drugs. It can provide anti-retroviral treatment for 4,103 people living with AIDS for one year. It can buy about 8,326 small generators for small and medium scale enterprises. It can also get 2,566 bicycles and 1,998 Innoson motorcycles for transportation of people in the rural areas or for them to start businesses. In addition, it could provide about 1.03 million litres of petrol! ( Continues below….. )
Photo Above: Nigerian Naira Notes
Having said the foregoing, it should be noted that $620,000 is only 20% of $3 million. I leave it to your imagination to figure out what this same calculation would have come to, if $3 million was used instead in this analysis. To put things into context, some other recent scandals we have had in the national assembly include $203 million (N32.8 billion) that was allegedly embezzled in the pension scam, $230 million (N37 billion) illegal loan allegedly taken by Bankole and Nafada, and $273,000 (N44 million) bribe allegedly requested by Hon. Hembe. So in conclusion, having seen all this, my question is simple: what are they doing with all this money?
By Chisom Ubabukoh
MSc Development Economics and Policy
University of Manchester
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