Recently I visited Accra and had a talk with an executive of the Swedish Ghana Medical Centre established in 2013. The Centre uses state‐of‐the‐art radiation cancer treatment equipment and techniques that is absolutely not available anywhere in Nigeria.
I was curious: Why Ghana? Why not Nigeria? The story goes that the Swedes originally preferred Nigeria: big country, big market and large number of cancer patients. But demand for bribes by Nigerian officials frustrated the initiative to establish the Centre. So Accra gained, Nigeria lost. Nigerians fly in droves (medical tourism) to Accra to get treatment at the Accra Centre
But this is not an isolated case. There are many such cases. Indeed during the President Obasanjo administration, strong efforts were made to attract foreign investors to the communication and real sectors.
But bribery and corruption frustrated many of the foreign investors and put paid to industries that ought generate massive revenues, create jobs and world class services. Promise of a great national future was sacrificed on the alter of bribery by greedy, corrupt men.
To this end, see below, excerpts of the opinions by three foreign investors on their experience of frustration with the bribery that destroyed dreams. Read and be sad:
• RICHARD BRANSON, Virgin Group
“We put together a very good airline, the first airline in West Africa that was IOSA/IATA, operational safety audit accredited but unfortunately it got tied down to the politics of the country.
“We led the airlines for 11 years, we fought a daily battle against government agents who wanted to make a fortune from us, politicians who saw the government’s 49% as a meal to seek for all kinds of favours.
“Watchdogs (regulatory bodies) that
didn’t know what to do & were
persistently asking for bribes at any
point. Nigerians are generally nice but
the politicians are very insane. That may be ironic because the people make up the politicians but those politicians are selfish.”
• STRIVE MASIYIWA, Econet Wireless
“1 assembled a consortium of 22 mostly institutional investors: leading banks with Lagos and Delta States in 2011. The license was $285m. We were No. one with about 57% market share.
“Then I was told that our company must pay $9m in bribes to senior politicians (in state government) who facilitated the raising of the money for the license. I refused to authorise the illegal payments. Meeting after meeting was held to try to get me to agree, but I would not. The money would not be paid as long as Econet was the operator and I had signing authority.
“The shareholders met and voted Econet Wireless Nigeria out of management. They cancelled our management contract. I had to withdraw all my staff and their families: 200 people in all. We left Nigeria. Most of our people had to be retrenched. The loss of the contract almost drove us to bankruptcy as a group.”
• CALVIN BURGESS, Dominion Rice and Integrated Farms.
“In August of 2011, I was contacted by the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and begged to come to Nigeria. We were offered 30,000 hectares of land under the Upper Benue River Authority, paved road, low interest government loans, streamlined import procedures, and help directly from the President.
“What was supposed to happen in six months is still in the process over 3 1/2 years later. It has been a calamity of failed promises. The promised financing from Taraba State and Government of Nigeria was all talk but no money. The President gave a waiver for all duty on Agricultural equipment for all, not just us. But Treasury and Customs quickly hid the waiver and hid it in their “Secret Files”.
“We fought for a year to get the promised exemptions and only after tape recording the direct demands for bribes from high officials in the Treasury did we even find out about the “Secret File”. The Treasury attempted direct extortion from our manager and he recorded it and gave the copy to the highest law enforcement agency in the land but the culprits scoff at us with impunity. But nobody has been prosecuted to date.
“In every facet of Nigerian society money does all of the talking, corruption reigns supreme, and nothing moves without dirty money to grease the way. As our equipment arrived at the ports, bribes were demanded. New rules were put into place as we attempted to bring in 120 shipments of supposedly exempt tractors, rice mills, and the like. The agents ignored the President’s directive.
“The Minister of Agriculture tried to intervene many times but to little or no avail. In the end we paid massive amounts of duty not budgeted for, but NOT ONE BRIBE! Delays added up so much demurrage that finally it was necessary to quit the fight.
“We have totally experienced Nigeria. I have been extorted, arrested, detained, lied to, and about anything else one can imagine. We have held to our convictions, not paid bribes, obeyed the law, and kept our dignity, with our frustration levels continuing to rise on every occasion. Nonetheless, we have plodded on through years of delays, because we will not compromise our standards. It has cost us dearly in both interest and in valuable time. We have battled to import around 120 loads of equipment.
“Virtually everything is finally there for the making of a fantastic farm but it is years late in getting there. Every shipment was a struggle and a shakedown.
“Nigeria is in a crisis. In reality it is much easier for an investor to leave Nigeria than to come and invest in such a stressful climate. The people of Nigeria need massive support and huge investments. These precious people lack desperately for every need of life. What will you do for them when their children are hungry, and there is nobody to turn to?”
First we need to rise as a people, stamp or feet and take our land back.
The above is “Not a good report card for the country” for our great Nation, really only the truly corrupt can survive the toxin business climate in my beloved Nation.
God bless Nigeria 🇳🇬
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