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The Daily Mail on wasted Nigerian Aid – it misses the real scandal

Tom Winnifrith
Tuesday 20 November 2012

The Daily Mail has its knickers in a twist about how £230 million of taxpayers cash is being pissed away by DfiD on an education programme in Nigeria. The Mail is wrong. What needs to be asked is why we are giving cash at all to the world’s 8th largest exporter of crude oil.

But to humour the Mail it is perhaps noting the report of The Independent Commission on Aid Impact. The UK has poured £102million into education in ten of Nigeria’s 36 states during the last seven years, and is due to spend a further £126million by 2019. But the report found that a third of the eligible children – an estimated 3.7million – were still not in school, while those that were received little by way of education.

The study also found many rural schools were affected by a chronic lack of teachers, with staff frequently not turning up for work. A researcher visited one Dfid-funded school in rural Nigeria to find almost all the teachers were absent, leaving the pupils to play football outside.

It was the only activity at the school … a bell rang but none of the pupils moved towards the classrooms. When asked about the bell, the boys said that it signalled a break – the football continued uninterrupted.

Okay so we “discover” that cash is not being spent where it is meant to be and is totally wasted. No shit Sherlock. I can also reveal today that water is wet and that snow is cold. What else do you want to know?

The real scandal is that the UK is giving money to Nigeria at all.

First up you have to ask why a country producing 1 billion barrels of oil a year, with 40 years reserves and where the State takes 55% of the profits generated, needs our assistance. Nigera also has a thriving telecoms industry, a thriving financial services sector and a productive mining and farming sector. It is booming!

Secondly you have to ask about how the Nigerian Government spends its cash. Oil revenues account for c$25 billion a year and with an annual budget of $33 billion it is hard to see how Nigerian can possibly be running a deficit. Frankly if the rich folks there bothered to pay tax this country would be drowning in cash. It is pretty hard to get an exact breakdown of how the Government spends its cash but we do know that 20% goes on defence and “security services” (in the UK that number is 7%). Nigeria spends more on defence that in does combined on: health, education, transport, public works, rural development and water supply put together.

In other words the £15 million a year we are putting into Nigerian education is peanuts compared to the amount Nigeria spends on its army and security services. The vast gaps in how the Nigerian Government spends its cash are – as we all know – partially accounted for by wholesale fraud and looting by the political class.

I am, prepared to bet you 5 Albanian Lekke that the amount deposited in Swiss bank accounts by senior Nigerian politicians and soldiers dwarves the amount the UK gives in aid.

Why do politicians of all parties regard it as ethical to give away money the UK does not have to regimes which spend vast amounts on their military and which steal vast amounts from economies that are essentially productive. Even if the DfiD money was being well spent it would be wholly unjustifiable.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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