July 7, 2012

The futile war against corruption

Subsidy, NNPC


Within the Nigeria’s geographical space, corruption manifests in a variety of ways. Some of these designs of  corruption include soliciting and accepting bribe before the discharge of law duties, nepotism, appropriation and privatisation of state properties for private ends, abuse of official position, miscarriage of justice, undervaluation of government assets mean for disposal, lower taxes, sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, electoral bribery, inflation of government contracts, examination malpractices.

For most Nigerians, corruption remains an illegal act which involves inducement and or undue    influence of people either in the public or the private sphere to act contrary to lay down  regulations which ordinarily guide a particular process.

In clear terms, corruption perverts and compromises justice. The monster has a multi-dimensional concepts with moral, ethical, religious and legal connotations.

According to the World Bank, corruption thrives when economic policies are poorly designed education suffers and, civil society renaubs under-developed and accountability of public institution become a mirage.

The list of what constitutes corruption in Nigeria is endless as day in day out Nigerians continue to invent new acronymies which are readily accepted. However, such word  imply the malignant nature of corruption because the euphemisms of the words are easily understood in a sense  legitimizes the practice. Hence, words as public relations otherwise known as “PR” “egunje” “family support,” “settlement,” “SAP relief” have become acceptable in our lexicon. The Nigerian police force has creatively devised other corrupt means through dubious courtesies as “oga wetin you bring for us,” “oga your boys are here o” and so on.

The manner these words are applied in everyday language further confirms the impression that corruption has come to stay in Nigeria.

Within the conservative family setting, community leaders are quick to hail and pray for their children  who have looted the  national treasury with impunity.

The story was told of a parent who admonished his child upon leaving the village in search of a greener pastures in the city not to steal but never to come back home empty handed. This prayer is predicated on the believe that political office has remain the primary source of gaining access to wealth. Renowned African novelist, Professor Chinue Achebe captures this scenario when declared “If I cannot go there (Abuja to loot the national treasury) to get my share, my children will go and bring my own.”

In our churches and mosques, corruption has become a decimal. Corrupt government and official now occupy front seats in the churches and mosques because of their huge donations both in cash and  kind during harvest and bazaar. Religious leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the activities of those corrupt agents.

However for most Nigerians, the contraption called Nigeria has been described as fraud. According to them, the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 was not a collective decision of the people and that the name Nigeria was invented by one of the mistresses of the then Governor General, Florence Shaw. This school of thought stated that this truly kick started corruption in Nigeria.

But upon the exit of the colonial masters from Nigeria’s soil, the first breed of independent Nigerian politicians, though exhibited minimal traits of corruption but still demonstrated commitment towards the building of their fatherland. were neck deep in corruption.

The Second Republic politicians indulged in corruption with impunity. Most of them became lords of corruption. They perpetrated it with reckless abandon as the government opted to treat party men and officials  with levity. The Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s government was indeed engrossed in corruption.

But the Third Republic also recorded monumental cases of corruption in both in the high and low places. The Nigeria nation was adrift as the drum beat by corruption continued unguarded.

The military incursion into the troubled fishing water of Nigeria’s politics no doubt legalise corruption. Ironically, principal reason adduced for coup d’etat by the military was to check the over bloated corruption perpetrated by politicians. But successive military administration battled to over do the other in the corruption game.

Today, the Fourth Republic politicians seem not to have learnt from history as corruption as in the time of the military has been adopted as state policy.

Nigerians who know the nature of their leaders and imbibe the belief that nothing is possible from the state without bribery and corruption have become collaborators. So, the drumbeat of corruption goes on as the beneficiaries dance to the banks while the nation gradually stink into extinction.

Previous efforts to fight corruption

Aside extra constitutional measures as the military coups, other legal instruments have been employed by successive government to fight corruption but all to no avail.

The Nigerian statute  books  adopted from the British legal system is one of the legal instruments meant to fight corruption. Others include the Code of Conduct Bureau for public officials introduced by the 1979 Constitution, the Oaths of Office and Allegiance  sworn to by all public officials, the Failed Bank Decree and until recently the Anti-Corruption Act complemented with the inauguration of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). All these have been described as a mere window dressing by government in tackling corruption in the country.

The once dreaded EFCC has become a shadow of its proud past as each succeeding government seem to use it as a weapon against political opponents.

Efforts by various government to fight corruption have hit brick wall. Available records show that from the Foster Suttan Commission of 1957 which probed the financial dealing of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe with the African Continental Bank (ACB), the Coker Commission which investigated Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s activities in the Western region to the Scania probe of 1969 and the Belgore cement probe of 1975, the confiscation of the properties of General Gowon’s military governors and super permanent secretaries under the Public Officers Assets and Liabilities Probe of 1975. Others however, include the Festac probe of 1975, the  Lockheed probe of 1976, the NNPC N2.8 million probe of 1980, the Leyland probe in addition to the series  of tribunal raised by the different military heads of state.

The Journey so far

Despite attempts made by successive administration to check the corruption menace, not appreciable success has been recorded.

The Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s civil administration cannot be said to make any significant impact in the war against corruption. Although, his administration institutionalised the ethical revolution programme as its major plank to battle it in public places, yet, his government according to report recorded unimaginable  proportion of strong allegations of corruption especially in public establishments.