Corruption Is A Crime Against Humanity.
By Philemon Adjekuko
Killing and maiming whether under the guise of war or genocide is only a small portion of the human story in Africa. The world is beginning to wake up to the fact that in addition to war, the African continent is held down by the enormous weight of corruption. The pictures of the effects of corruption may not be as dramatic as those of war, yet the stories of human suffering occasioned by corruption are nonetheless compelling.
But then, global awakening to the effect of corruption in Africa is only a fall out from the war on terrorism. Western countries may be tightening their financial laws to prevent the laundering of money that might get into the hands of those President George Bush calls the "bad guys". However, these laws do not adequately address the looting of the treasuries of African countries as the perpetrators are usually covered by immunity while in office and are often forgotten about or ignored after leaving office.
What is desirable now is that world leaders should put economic atrocities or crimes on the same pedestal as war crimes or crimes of genocide. Article 25 of the international bill of human rights says that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." This right is being abused in Africa on a scale that is alarming.
Some analysts estimate that Africa has lost over US$140 billion (I wonder whether the estimate includes Nigeria) through corruption in the decades after independence. This money was spirited away into the vaults of western banks by some corrupt leaders, their close friends and family members. Presently, an estimated $1.5trillion is laundered through the international banking system annually.
Michel Camdessus, the former managing director of the International Money Fund, estimated that the magnitude of money laundering is between 2 and 5 percent of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or at least $600b. In some emerging market countries, these illicit proceeds may dwarf government budgets, resulting in a loss of control of economic policy by governments. Indeed, in some cases, the sheer magnitude of the accumulated asset base of laundered proceeds can be used to corner markets or even small economies.
Money laundering has a corrosive effect on a country's economy, government, and social well-being. Money laundering also erodes the integrity of a nation's financial institutions and undermines national economies and currencies. Money laundering transfers economic power from the market, government, and citizens to criminals. In short, it turns the old adage that crime doesn't pay on its head. The almost complete collapse of life in most of Nigeria and the rest of Africa is traceable to the debilitating effects of corruption rather than the traditional economic challenges. Millions of people in the continent have had their lives decimated as a result of corruption.
Western countries have over the years turned a blind eye to the terrible effects of corruption in Africa. However, with the upsurge of terrorism which is financed mostly by illegal transfer of funds around the world, world leaders have been forced to take a more critical look at money laundering.
Consequently, it is now more expensive than ever to launder money. According to one source, the costs of laundering have risen from about 6 to 8 percent per transaction at the beginning of the 1980s, to as much as 20 percent by the mid 1990s and by 2000-01 costs rose even further. Unfortunately, these higher costs do not indicate whether the actual amount of laundering has changed, or whether more ÔÇśrent' is being demanded by bankers or others for taking greater risks.
Will there ever be a dramatic drop in money laundering by public officials as a result of the close scrutiny of international money transfers? The answer is still uncertain. Anti-laundering laws in Western countries with respect to looted funds are still clumsy. A lot of reporting is demanded from the countries whose funds are looted. The downside of this is that any country that does not have a functional anti-corruption agency strongly backed by its government will not be able to assist prosecution of looters in foreign courts. Most African countries still do not have the will to combat looting. Hence international efforts to combat corruption among politicians and public officials do not yet appear to have lowered levels around the world. There is no end in sight to the misuse of power by those in public office says Transparency International.
It is unlikely that leaders in the African continent will take the initiative in demanding for a new and high profile status for economic crimes against humanity. The onus falls directly on pressure groups within and outside the continent to achieve this goal. With the battle for debt cancellation almost over, those who made it happen should not disband just yet. They should deploy the same pressure on world leaders to recognize that economic crimes against the people of any nation by their leaders constitute crime against humanity. More money is looted from Africa than the continent ever owed in both legitimate and dubious debts.
Therefore African leaders who are engaged in looting should be tried in the same manners as those who engage in genocide or war crimes. Pressure groups must design methods to tell stories of corruption as they truly affects million of people in Africa and anywhere else. Besides, looted funds should be frozen and quickly remitted to their countries of origin. That will send a clear message to looters that there would be no more unnecessary legal cover for their crimes against humanity. That will help Africans more than