Towards Greater Transparency and
Publish their Properties, Publicize
Their Taxes, Prepare their Statements, Prosecute
I won’t name names, but
ever so often, one prominent member of our Nigerian society or the
other, often a former head of state, former state governor or
minister/commissioner/head of a state agency, even a family member of a
person in high place, is accused of being corrupt,
of living beyond his or her means – or some other charge.
The current government is then asked to “go after them” or else
is accused of being chicken, of double-standards and of protecting
In these days of
strident anti-corruption stance of the Obasanjo government, these
accusations and counter-accusations go on and on, without resolution but
with increasing vigor.
There is no doubt that
there are MANY people in Nigeria society, particularly former or present
military and civil servants, with computable total incomes and other
benefits, who seem to be living well beyond their means, and who draw
suspicious looks thereby. Nevertheless, under the
well-tested maxim that you are innocent until pronounced guilty, it is
odious and quite slanderous – and libelous when written down – to accuse
people blatantly without proof.
And suspicion has never
However, in the interest
of transparency and accountability in the country, an ever-continuing
suspicion undermines trust of persons and confidence in government, and
it cannot simply be swept under carpet. Hence I
believe that government should take certain PROACTIVE measures to
restore trust and confidence between government and its citizens.
therefore proposing four measures to begin to put our hands around this
suspicion/trust/confidence triangular miasma in a systematic and
As one goes around the
country, one is sometimes impressed at the gargantuan private living
structures put up amidst other squalid buildings, even in the remotest
of villages. The latest Ikoyi scandal shows that
there are many Nigerians willing to buy houses cash-down at stupendous
amounts.. Decked with satellite dishes and the
latest information technology accoutrements, their floors are finished
with marbles, their doors are oak-heavy, and their china are from
One is impressed.
I have often wondered:
how much are these properties valued at ? Can
we not institute property taxes on these houses, and STRICTLY make those
tax incomes to be used for providing roads, water, schools, and other
essential services for those living in the vicinities of these houses,
just like it is done in other developed parts of the world ?
All we need to do is
walk around the country, town by town, local government by local
government, state by state, jotting down the addresses of these
well-developed real estate properties, publish them and ask those who
own them – individuals and companies – to step up and admit ownership,
else they will be declared as “abandoned properties” to be turned over
to the state.
By the way,
all the present National Assembly members and other public
officials were expected to declare their assets – which include real
estate – before they assumed their current positions, so we can start by
taxing their known properties.
In every town, local
government and state, there will be found at least 10, 100 or 1000
people respectively who can be considered PROMINENT, either because they
have privileged present positions or have had those in the past.
I really do not think it
cruel and unusual intrusion of privacy to ask that the taxes – over the
past five years - of 50,000 of
most prominent persons be published, is it ?
After all, many of these
persons are politicians who are REQUIRED by electoral law to show their
tax clearances: so we could actually start by
PUBLISHING the taxes of ALL of the present National Assembly members:
that is a penalty for “winning” - or winning - the
Despite the prevalence
of “Ghana-Must-Go” bags in
much of the kinds of money that we talk about are not movable in such
bags without them causing hernia: bank transfers are
involved. As a matter of urgency, movement of money
in banks for:
individual accounts, beyond N5 million;
accounts, beyond N10 million;
Accounts, beyond N15 million
Should be reported to
the Central Bank within two working days of the transaction, including
the OPENING of such accounts.
Furthermore, I believe
that INACTIVE money sitting in accounts say beyond six months in a year
should also be taxed at some agreed rates – say 10%.
If we are to get a
handle against financial crimes in
the thorough cleansing of banking operations is a BIG step in that
Enact/Strengthen Our Laws to Punish Indiscretions
I have exactly five of
these in mind:
308 which grants immunity to the President, Vice-President, all the
Governors and their Deputies: it should be ended or amended
significantly without further delay;
of Conduct Bureau requirement of declaring assets should be strengthened
to make it have integrity such that such declarations can be
independently verified and made public to those who have a right-to-know
and are vowed to use them responsibly;
Whistleblower Law, which will protect those who know of nefarious
activities and step forward to report them, should be enacted;
Freedom of Information Bill, which enables citizens to demand and be
informed about government transactions and activities as a matter of
right; should be ratified
and ICPC laws – coupled with more regular financial crime laws – which
enable the investigation, prosecution and jailing of corrupt criminals,
should be strengthened.
In the best of liberal
democracies in the world, virtually all of the above steps are found,
should be no different if we wish to get out from the current stink
which envelopes us.
I believe that we
Nigerian citizens should be STRONGLY pushing for a selection – or all -
of these measures rather than pointing at one or two people who should
be picked up under the cloud of our deepest suspicions.
If certain steps are applied across the board, then no one person
can cry “Foul!” for them being applied to him or her.
Finally, it is most
unlikely that if you have no sizable property to tax, no taxes to pay,
and no sizable bank transactions to show, a financial indiscretion can
be charged against you – or else you are a perfect invisible magician.
I rest my case for now.