The head of one of the anti-corruption agencies the Nigerian government set up to tackle the canker of pervasive corruption in the land, Madam Farida Waziri, was so astounded by the enormity of the problem confronting her that she advocated that those aspiring to public office should first take a mental sanity test to determine the state of their mental aptitude. The poor woman was just too flabbergasted by the insane propensity of Nigerian officials to loot the commonwealth.
Nigerian public officials (they are certainly not civil and definitely not servant) are unquestionably among the most pampered civil servants on earth. A World Bank report says that fully 80% of Nigeria's income is used to run the machinery of government (a clear case of a government expanding to meet the needs of an expanding government)! That, however, hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of these officials for looting the treasury at will. Nigerians are no longer inflamed by reports of corruption in high and low places; it has become a way of life. A culture of corruption has descended and it has deepened into levels that simply leave citizens reeling with incredulity.
According to the United Nations, Nigeria is the 13th poorest nation on earth. In terms of all the indices known to developmental statisticians, the nation performs abysmally low. The cost of living is, literally and figuratively, killing the people. Nigerians rely on generators to supply their electricity needs. Many of them go through life without knowing what pipe-borne water tastes like. The road networks are poor and rail lines are antediluvian. In the 1970s, the national airline, Nigeria Airways, had a fleet of thirty-plus aircrafts; today it's moribund. Nigeria's hospitals are more like slaughterhouses than modern health care centers. The country's educational infrastructure is in very dire condition -- rich Nigerians send their wards to schools in neighboring Ghana, while the seriously rich ones dispatch them to schools in the Western world.
What Nigerians know is that their country continues to pump two million or so barrels of oil every day. Even at the relatively low price of US$50 a barrel, the income from oil alone is no chicken change. What Nigerians also know is that their leaders annually perform the rituals of announcing budgets where truly fantastic figures are allocated to road building, schools, hospitals, etc, etc. What Nigerians also see are their leaders jetting off to Switzerland, the Bahamas, Britain, Lichtenstein, and others "safe havens" where treasury looters, especially from poor countries, are assured of, what else, safe havens for their stolen plunder.
So in Nigeria we have a country of some one hundred and forty million people ruled by unconscionable, otiose elites that cannot distinguish between their private accounts and the national treasury. What is worrisome is that the elites continue to live like there's not going to be a day of reckoning!
Amidst the general impoverishment in the land, the corrupt but well-connected elites continue to live lifestyles that would make Arabian monarchs die of envy. The latest craze is the acquisition by the super-rich of private jets. A little historical detour is necessary to put things in good perspective.
Nigeria was among the mishmash of nations fashioned out by drunken European cartographers at their infamous Berlin Conference in 1884. Nowhere else in the world save Africa do you have fine geometric patterns representing countries. European empire-builders threw together 250 or so African tribal and national groups and decided to call them Nigerians (Nigeria was derived from Niger Area -- Niger being the biggest of the two rivers that dissected the country).
Great (?) Britain got Nigeria and colonized it for close to a century. At independence in 1960, Nigeria, like most ex-colonies, inherited a largely agricultural-based economy. Cocoa, rubber, groundnut, and palm kernel were the major income earners. The early 1970s saw Nigeria transformed into a major crude oil exporting nation and things fell apart for the country. As the oil boomed, Nigeria neglected agriculture and started making EASY money from crude oil; so much so that today, the country relies on oil for over 90% of its income. As it happened in several other places, and oil economy saw Nigeria join the league of highly corrupt nations.