And forgive us our debts -- as we forgive our debtors
The Telegraph has this little story from Nigeria -- 220 Billion Pounds Stolen by Nigeria's corrupt rulers.
Well, that does it! I'm not going to answer any more of those emails from Nigeria, which usually go something like this:
Dear sir or madam, as the case may be:
Permit me to introduce myself. I am your humble servant, a mere functionary in the government of His Excellency, Tomo Mjombo.
Our country currently finds itself in a curious situation, which we hope that you, kind sir or madam, will see fit to remedy. You see, we have ten million dollars that needs to be deposited immediately into a friendly account.
Sadly, all of our banks are currently full of deposits from the many Live Aid Concerts and the recent forgiving of our debt, plus the unusually generous contributions of former colonial powers who are discharging their collective shame and guilt by sending countless billions of dollars. You can understand our delicate predicament.
Now here is where you come in, kind sir or madam. All you have to do is to send us your complete bank account information, including all your credit card numbers and your bank account statement. We will immediately deposit the monies into your account, and as soon as we have spent some of the money that is currently clogging our own system on fine cars, villas, trips to exotic locations and other necessities, we will take back all but one million, leaving you a tidy sum for your kind efforts and help.
Your generous services to our great nation will never be forgotten by his Excellency Mjombo, who will strike a coin in your honor at the very first opportunity, bearing a flattering likeness of you in your choice of either profile or front view. Village women will compose songs in your honor, and should you ever choose to visit our beautiful country, you will be crowned as an honorary chieftain/queen (whichever is applicable) in a colorful native ceremony, complete with an album of photographs which will be provided to you at a nominal fee for the enjoyment of sharing this unforgettable experience with your friends.
Believe me when I tell you, that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity which you would be foolish to overlook.
Your faithful and humble servant,
First Secretary, Harimi Majambomo, Esq.
Well, here we go again. Might just as well pour water into a sieve and hope for a nice, cold drink at the end. In the end, you're going to mighty parched -- as parched as the poor and dispossessed of Africa.
Until African leaders are brought to heel, until African leaders become something other than large-scale grifters and thieves, as well as murderers and despots, what's the point of sending money?
The scale of the task facing Tony Blair in his drive to help Africa was laid bare yesterday when it emerged that Nigeria's past rulers stole or misused 220 billion pounds.
That is as much as all the western aid given to Africa in almost four decades. The looting of Africa's most populous country amounted to a sum equivalent to 300 years of British aid for the continent.
Former leader Gen Sani Abacha stole between 1bn and 3bn pounds.
The figures, compiled by Nigeria's anti-corruption commission, provide dramatic evidence of the problems facing next month's summit in Gleneagles of the G8 group of wealthy countries which are under pressure to approve a programme of debt relief for Africa.
Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has spoken of a new Marshall Plan for Africa. But Nigeria's rulers have already pocketed the equivalent of six Marshall Plans. After that mass theft, two thirds of the country's 130 million people - one in seven of the total African population - live in abject poverty, a third is illiterate and 40 per cent have no safe water supply.
With more people and more natural resources than any other African country, Nigeria is the key to the continent's success.
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, set up three years ago, said that 220 billion pounds was "squandered" between independence from Britain in 1960 and the return of civilian rule in 1999.
"We cannot be accurate down to the last figure but that is our projection," Osita Nwajah, a commission spokesman, said in the capital, Abuja.
The stolen fortune tallies almost exactly with the 220 billion pounds of western aid given to Africa between 1960 and 1997. That amounted to six times the American help given to post-war Europe under the Marshall Plan.
British aid for Africa totalled 720 million pounds last year. If that sum was spent annually for the next three centuries, it would cover the cost of Nigeria's looting.
Corruption on such a scale was made possible by the country's possession of 35 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. That allowed a succession of military rulers to line their pockets and deposit their gains mainly in western banks.
Gen Sani Abacha, the late military dictator, stole between 1 billion pounds and 3 billion pounds during his five-year rule.
"We are only now beginning to come to grips with some of what he did," Mr Nwajah said.
Nigeria has scoured the world for Abacha's assets but has recovered only about 500 pounds million.
Olusegun Obasanjo, the current president, founded the commission and launched a crackdown on corruption to try to end the country's reputation as Africa's most venal. The figures all apply to the period before he came to power.