THERE are enough reasons to fight corruption. The enormity of the dangers corruption imposes on our entire well-being justifies legal measures to keep it in check. Anti-corruption messages were a major plank of Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari’s change campaign. Since his election, there have been hints about limiting the new government’s fight against corruption.
Maj-Gen Buhari consistently states that he would probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. He has also said he would have no time for corruption that pre-dated his presidency. This has been interpreted to mean that those in office could loot Nigeria until 28
May 2015, and would not be punished, except if it involves NNPC. This approach creates significant distortion, and grave complications for the anti-corruption battles. Would it mean a cessation of cases in court? Would it not make the fight against corruption selective? Would
it suggest that past governments are excluded from anti-corruption measures?
Such approach to corruption would kill us while corruption would thrive. Corruption has devastating consequences. It distorts economic activities, diverts public investments to private holdings. Public policies are based on generating bribes and other illegal earnings for
the controlling authorities.
Whether as bribery, trading in influence or influence peddling, patronage, nepotism, cronyism, electoral fraud, embezzlement, kickbacks, unholy alliance, or involvement in organised crime,
corruption captures a system by creating inefficiencies that hamper growth of a society.
A common effect of corruption is non-compliance with rules and regulations because corrupt public officials benefit from protecting violators, who in many cases are either associates or their
organisations. In construction, plans are ignored, inferior materials are approved and when buildings collapse, further corrupt avenues cover up the mess. Corruption is therefore more widespread than theft of public funds and subsequent export of most of the resources abroad,
safe from domestic laws. The volume of theft has not abetted and as the economy grinds along, the impact of the thefts is felt more.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst estimated that much of the $187bn capital flight from 30 sub-Saharan countries, from 1970 to 1996, was proceeds of corruption. Nigerian leaders, according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, stole more than
$400 billion between 1960 and 1999. Has the looting stopped?
What about education with its skewed admission processes, teachers who teach nothing, students who pay for grades, and accreditation of schools for courses they do not have facilities to teach?
Corruption is deep and has many sides, which damage our society. If we limit the fight against corruption to NNPC, or draw a line – for whatever reasons – that excludes corrupt people and institutions, we would have lost the anti-corruption fight before it starts.