By Henry Boyo
THE publication of the report of the National Bureau of Statistics’ survey titled, “Corruption in Nigeria; Bribery: Public Experience and Response,” triggered extensive public conversation regarding, the consolidated nationwide value of over N400bn bribes, reportedly paid between April 2015 – May 2016. The 2017 report, estimated that a total of 82.3 million bribes at an average of almost one bribe of N5300 each was paid annually by every adult Nigerian.
The NBS findings explained “ why Nigerians, considered corruption to be the third most important problem facing the country, after high cost of living and unemployment,”. The survey also found “that the payment of bribes to public officials was the most familiar and widespread form of corruption, directly experienced by the population, and is also the one that most affects the lives of ordinary citizens”
The NBS study, revealed that, bribes were mainly paid to either speed up procedure, receive preferential treatment or to avoid the cancellation of commercial use of public utilities; the study also revealed that the frequency of bribery was worse among police officers (46%) and prosecutors (33.6%) while prevalence of bribery with Judges and Magistrates was 31.5%; other notoriously deviant public agencies for bribes, are immigration (30.7%) Car Registration and Driving License Agency (28.5%) and Customs (26.5%).
The high incidence of bribery in these public institutions may indeed, not come as a surprise, since it is almost inevitable for Nigerians to escape the overt or covert demand for bribe, any time, the legitimate services for which these Agencies were created were required. Although N400bn bribes, according to NBS, was the equivalent of $4.6bn in purchasing power parity terms, nonetheless, N400bn may presently be much more modest at just over $1.3bn, at today’s exchange rate!
Undoubtedly, $1.3bn is still a princely sum and as the report suggested, was equivalent to 39% of the combined Federal and 36 states education budgets in 2016. Nonetheless, even if bribery was minimal, it must still be unequivocally condemned as socially and economically distortional, self serving, anti- social and oppressive.
However, there are those who may see the NBS beam on the relatively paltry proceeds, from bribery, as a distraction of public attention from the clearly more insidious oppressors, who annually siphon billions of dollars of our commonwealth, into their private custody; it is arguable that rather than focus on the mini- mouse of bribery in Nigeria’s house of corruption, Nigerians would be better served with an in-depth study and exposition of the suspiciously huge scale, design and definitive outline of frequently errant persons, corporations and public sub-sectors that have become Kingpins with their ‘me only’ mindset, when they steal billions of dollars of public money, annually, under contrived “pseudo legitimate” umbrage.
Incidentally, in an interview published on 24th August 2017 in Guardian Newspaper, Diekola Oyewo, the President of the Nigerian Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, noted as follows: “ the magnitude of corruption, that we are seeing today, tells you that nothing less than 50% of national budget must have gone to private pockets”; according to Oyewo, “my understanding is that, if a budget is made, and allocations are made, and these allocations are not appropriately used, they call it misappropriation”
If the preceding perception is a fair assessment, then it means that out of the N7.44tn 2017 budget, well over N3tn (that is $9bn, at present exchange rate and probably double, if NBS purchasing parity valuation is adopted) will be stolen; this magnitude of theft, becomes overwhelming, when similar booty from the 36 states and several Federal and State ministries, Departments and Agencies are also captured. Obviously, the consolidated annual N400bn or N5300 average cash from 82.3 million bribes certainly pales significantly, in comparison, to the tens of billions of dollars stolen from our Commonwealth, by a small sub- set of Nigerian ‘locust’ annually.
Incidentally, an investigation by Saturday Punch of June 25th 2016, apparently, revealed that the “Federal Government and 10 other states lost N538bn to thousands of ghost workers” between 2011 – 2016; of this amount, Federal Government paid N220bn to 103, 000 ghost workers between 2013-2015; the balance N318bn was paid by 10 other states.
Furthermore, at a presentation, in Ibadan, of a book titled “ The challenge of Growth and Development: an In-Depth Analysis by Experts” Vice president, Yemi Osinbanjo sadly noted that “ when you look at the sheer amount of money that has been embezzled, you will find that far too much has been lost;” “it was discovered that the total amount of money lost to corruption, in particular, to the provision of security equipment in the military, is closer to US $15bn”; that amount, according to the V.P, “was presently more than half Nigeria’s foreign reserves.”
The V.P’s obvious concern on this brazen impunity was reiterated on 7th June 2017 at the 5th Annual Christopher Kolade lecture, when Osinbanjo lamented that “in our investigations into defense spending, we discovered $15bn unaccounted for, with no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover it”. Regrettably, the V.P failed to identify these reactionary Villains. Furthermore, at a news conference in Abuja on 8th December 2015, Information Minister, Lai Mohammadu, had also revealed that N1.34 tn ($6.8) was lost to corruption between 2006 – 2013.
In yet another report, titled, “Nigeria loses N610bn yearly to Agencies’ Biometric Duplication” in punch newspaper of 23rd August 2017, Jacobs Edo, an expert and author of a book on “Digital Transformation” advised as follows: “I may not be able to tell you, what the country is losing as a result of poor digitalization, but I can tell you that our findings show that about $2bn is lost annually as a result of the biometric duplication that we see everywhere in Nigeria.” For example, according to Edo, “some of the agencies of government have their servers in the United States, and they send money outside Nigeria in order to support the service “.
The Digital Guru, therefore advised that “one single Agency could set the biometrics of every citizen in Nigeria and distribute the data to other Agencies that needed it”. You may have guessed the silent undertone, that so long as anyone, personal or corporate, directly benefits from these huge financial leakages, Nigerians will continue to endure the oppressive burden of sourcing $6bn annually to pay for this reckless triplication in servers.
The above report from senior government officials, on corruption may actually be the tip of an iceberg, and Nigerians, therefore cannot rest assured that the actual purpose of government is to improve the social welfare and provide job security with reasonable remuneration for all Nigerians.