Tuesday 29 April 2008

Living wage - a dimension to fighting corruption

Education for a better life

Many parents in developing countries have great aspirations for their children and one they pay the most attention to is education.

There is a belief that putting a child through school is a gateway to having their children attain a better life than that into which they were born.

I want to belief that this assertion still finds true though I wonder if education is as life-changing as it was for the generation of my parents and consequently mine.

Paying the teacher

Watching the news this morning there was a story of a 13-year old Cambodian girl who had to leave school because she could not pay the teachers considering the country does have a free education programme.

But then, I saw the same issue in Sorious Samura’s Living With Corruption documentary where in Sierra-Leone government employed teachers depended on their pupils to provide the means for them to survive.

Paying a living wage

There is a function of government and employment in government which when missing fosters practices that are innately corrupt.

Governments in poor countries have to lead by paying there staff a living wage, one that meets the needs for housing, food, utilities, health, transport, possible eventualities with a little to put aside.

Where governments, organisations or businesses fail to meet this basic requirement, the shortfall has to be met somewhere –

  • it allows the police to set up road blocks indiscriminately that act as illegal toll gates
  • teachers instruct their pupils to bring in money and household essentials or risk failure and exclusion
  • customs officials over and above the outrageous import duties that impede the smooth flow of goods and services, create distorted markets
  • employees file their taxes returns with non-existent children to gain pecuniary advantage
  • bureaucrats are not responsive in performing their duties until persuaded by illegal means

The system feeds the system from the top to the bottom, it has become endemic; you begin to wonder how this can be dealt with conclusively.

The abuse of power

Then I remember when I was at the polytechnic, there were two courses no one could dream of passing if they had not bought at expense the tutorials produced by the lecturers.

There was nothing fresh about the tutorials, they were just an opportunity for men in power to fleece their students and get away with it.

These lecturers earned a good living wage because I also had an uncle who was a lecturer in the same polytechnic who served as an emergency resource when I was skint and he definitely had more personal responsibilities than the lecturers on the make.

That is the other dimension to this issue, greedy people in power who exercise with impunity the power to demand favours and reward patronage just because they can.

The matter of corruption is a multi-headed hydra and we need to decapitate each head as we look towards the development of poor countries – let us hope each head taken off doesn’t grow into another menacing snake head.

Sunday 20 April 2008

Nigerian scammers will always be a minority

Those rotten Nigerians

One is saddened to read that 87 Nigerians have been arrested in Spain on suspicion of defrauding at least 1,500 in a postal and internet lottery scam.

In the light of my last blog, these are the kind of people who make our inadvertent commission of being ambassadors of Nigeria a very difficult job.

They put us in inappropriate spotlight that many who do not have an alternative identity have to try harder at proving honesty, capability, eligibility and trustworthiness.

Be smart about scams

I have received many letters saying I have been put into some lottery and I have won a prize but for me to gain access to the prize I have to pay some administration fee to some agent engaged by the lottery firm.

I do not think you have to be too smart to see that there is something fishy about such a proposition, the news story indicates thousands of these letters and emails are written in ungrammatical English.

The question would then be why a “reputable” lottery organisation would engage an unprofessional outfit to manage lottery winnings that probably would reflect badly on their enterprise.

In it to win it

My view of lotteries is simple; you have to be in it to win it, and every lottery I have won has been because I consciously entered in that competition with the hope that my numbers or ticket would come up and win the grand prize or some other prize.

Where lotteries are managed on the Internet, especially in the Netherlands, you have the option to include both your address and bank account number so any winnings go directly into your bank account without the need of an agent.

In fact, the whole scheme of this scam looks quite wrong headed, whilst the administration of winnings might be a costly exercise, informing the winner directly of their winnings should not be too cumbersome.

Most people who register in competitions have the option to opt-out of having their details passed on to agents, if a lottery firm outsources this service, one would expect that the letter or email informing a person of winnings would bear all the official hallmarks of the lottery organisation at first.

No need to pay

Then, the lottery organisation would have paid the agency to handle the winnings, the agency should not then have to charge the winner any administration fees because a percentage of the winnings should have gone to covering the cost of administration – a winner should never have to pay administration costs.

Another question is how a lottery expects to break-even if it randomly chooses non-contributing participants from an email list, I do not believe there is some bottomless cash pool somewhere where someone derives joy from giving money to unknown strangers and then requires them to pay up to get paid.

The Caribbean for one

I remember one prize I won in 1992 before the Internet was popular which was for a 1-week cruise in the Caribbean, but living in the UK I had to pay a fortune to get to the Caribbean and then probably end up as a stowaway on some pirate’s vessel.

It did not take long for me to realise I was being taken for a ride and about to be scammed, I do not do stressful lottery wins, much as a Caribbean cruise for one could never have been any fun at all, the devil is always in the detail processed by a logical brain. The same scam is now rehashed for another medium.

The logic usually does not add up, eventually, the old saying catches up on the deluded or desperate that has been cajoled into a despicable enterprise – it only takes 1 out 1,000 fools answering to make a profit.

The old saying is – A fool and his money are soon parted – if you have not expressly entered a lottery you cannot seriously expect to have won anything and you should not believe you have won anything.

We are good Nigerians

Meanwhile, shame on all those Nigerians, I do hope that the full force of the law is visited upon them and we who keep on the good side of the law continue to prove that those shameful miscreants are the exception rather than the rule.

Most Nigerians abroad are engaged in meaningful activities that build economies, communities and relationships, we who take our ambassadorial jobs seriously would not relent in being the good and exemplary Nigerian.