Nigerian corruption and UK hypocrisy

On Thursday morning I walked up the hill to the hospital in Winchester for an X-ray. Just like that.

In the waiting room there were grumbles about the inadequate and expensive parking facilities. “What’s the point of having a hospital if you can’t get to it?” one woman said.

I was done in less than half an hour and walked back home to resume work on updating our Nigeria Guide. The Guide has to try to explain why the Millennium Goals programme has failed to improve standards of health. Life expectancy remains just over 45 years.

Hospitals in Nigeria are few and far between; when families do manage to bring in a patient, they may face heart-rending decisions to hand over their life savings to underpaid medical staff to secure treatment.

That’s a symptom of a health crisis not the explanation. I suspect that the lady in the Winchester waiting room might have suggested that corruption and the squandering of oil resources might have something to do with it.

The Guide certainly homes in on these failings of the Nigerian state. But something makes me uneasy in trotting out the familiar accusations.

Many people would argue that our National Health Service has not materially benefited from the UK oil wealth of the 1980s and 1990s. And despite suffering political interference, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission in Nigeria has secured dozens of high level convictions for corruption. Just two weeks ago the UK managed its first conviction after 9 years of hollow commitment.

I’ve been working on the Iran Guide as well, another banana skin lying in wait for the casual condemnation.


this article was first published by OneWorld UK