By Innocent Anaba
CORRUPTION is described by Wikipedia as a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organisation entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit, while political corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Its forms include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement.
The problem of corruption in Nigeria dates back to the first republic, which was the major reason the military gave when they struck in the first coup of January 15, 1966. Some writers have, however, argued that though corruption is as old as human existence, the type we have in Nigeria today was introduced by the British, who corrupted our culture and tradition, and in many cases rooted them out and replaced them with theirs, which are alien to us. They argue that the British laid the foundation of corruption in most African countries, with Nigeria as one of the major victims.
In the address of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu to herald the first coup, one of the reasons for the military intervention was: “Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent… those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds.”
Afterwards, corruption became the chief reason given by successive military regimes for interrupting civilian government in the country. Interestingly, accusations and counter accusations of corruption was a daily issue during the civilian administration, as it is the case today.
After the hand over of power to civilians in 1979, it was the major reason General Muhammadu Buhari gave for the December 31, 1983 take-over of power from the civilian administration. He sent a lot of politicians to prison over different corruption allegations. Interestingly, the same allegation was given by General Ibrahim Babangida for the August 25, 1985, coup, though he listed nepotism, which is also a form of corruption.
In the history of Nigeria’s political development, corruption has featured chiefly as a major issue, but it was not until the President Olusegun Obasanjo government of 1999 to 2007 that the country made concrete efforts to create institutions for anti-graft war. This saw the creation of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Commission, ICPC, which was signed into law on September 29, 2000 and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, created in 2003, but became operational with its Establishment Act of 2004.
Earlier, we had seen the establishment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal to deal with complaints of corruption by public servants over breaches of its provisions. This came into force on January 1, 1991. These were all government interventions to check corruption, which had become endemic and is still a problem to the country’s development till date.
Similarly, many other laws were put in place to ensure transparency in the business environment, namely, the Procurement Act, the Physical Responsibility Act, and Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, which represents the Nigerian arm of the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. All these laws were put in place to deal with the problem of corruption and transparency in government business, among others.
Corruption perceptions index
Despite all the laws and initiatives to check the incidence of corruption, the country has continued to sink deeper into corruption according to an international organisation, Transparency International. For example, the organisation in its 2017 corruption perceptions index, released in 2018, noted that majority of countries surveyed were making little or no progress in ending corruption, while further analysis showed that journalists and activists in corrupt countries were risking their lives every day in an effort to speak out.
Of the 180 countries surveyed for 2017, Nigeria ranked 148. The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people, uses a scale of to indicate which countries are highly corrupt and those that are clean. This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50, with an average score of 43. Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new.
Though the Transparency International corruption report measures perceptions, it has over time proved to reflect the actual corruption index of the various countries assessed. The interesting point is that Nigeria has not fared well in its battle to curb corruption.
A cursory look at Amnesty International’s ranking of Nigeria in the last 10 years has presented a mixed grill. For instance, in 2008, Nigeria ranked 121; it slided to 130 in 2009, while in 2010, it ranked 134. In 2011, Nigeria ranked 143 and in 2012, the ranking improved to 139. Between 2013 and 2015, the ranking remained at 136, while it slided again to 148 in 2017, which is latest ranking.
A sad reality about Nigeria’s fight against corruption is the selective nature it has always assumed. Often, anti-graft bodies have been deployed against perceived political enemies and used as attack dogs by heads of the government in power or their appointors to wage war on those that were considered to be out of favour with the government.
Though political will is a major problem in the effort to rid the country of corruption, some institutions have not helped matters. It is on record that in Nigeria, there are scores of high profile corruption cases pending in our courts with some of them lingering there for more than five years. This does not inspire confidence for a society that is determined to rid itself of the scourge of corruption.
Corruption, illicit flow of funds have negative impact on peace, prospects of developing countries – Buhari
Also, cases abound where entities which purchased public assets have not performed well because they lack the technical and financial competence to manage such outfits efficiently. This is particularly observed in situations where processes that lead to the handover of such assets to those that emerged as eventual bid winners were not transparent. The product of these handovers have been provision of abysmal services from such entities.
Until the Nigerian government sincerely pursues transparency, frees its anti-corruption campaign of political considerations, and allows technically proficient and competent companies emerge in bid processes, the country will continue to grapple with cases of failed companies. The end results of these corrupt considerations will continue to manifest in government businesses not being run transparently and the country sinking deeper into despair.
The most effective remedy to the challenge of corruption is to ensure that the institutions work independently and without the over bearing interference of the government in power.
Against all odds, I survived scleroderma —Elizabeth Onuoha-Ozumba
By Sola Ogundipe
It all began subtly one day in mid-2010 when I began feeling numbness on the fingers of my right hand. I dismissed it as possible symptoms of stress I was encountering as a result of studying for my professional exams. But rather than get better, the numbness, inflammation, discolouration and pain worsened and spread along my arm. I was having difficulty using the hand normally and even prescribed medication did not help.
I was worried about this strange development and as it gradually worsened, I was compelled to seek medical help. The first hospital I went to was the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos, where a blood test and x-ray revealed nothing. I was referred to a private medical laboratory at Oshodi. There, I gathered that my blood samples were to be flown abroad for analysis.
When the test result was released, I went back to the Federal Medical Centre, where the doctor broke the news that I had an autoimmune medical condition. I had never heard of this disease, it was my first time so I probed. The doctor told me something happened inside my body and was making my immune system to fight against my body.
I was referred to the Dermatology Clinic of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH where I was put through another set of diagnostic tests. A sample of my blood was taken and it was after the result was released that Scleroderma was confirmed.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin and can also affect the internal organs and once it does that, it’s deadly. It is an invisible disability, you can’t see it, but whoever suffers it knows the limitations. There are a number of auto immune disorders, but for scleroderma, people don’t get to know about it on time. By the time they realise it, its almost too late, and so much damage would have been done to the skin and to the face and all over.
So to be able to manage it well, you need to be diagnosed early, but many affected people don’t notice it early. With all this in mind, I decided to write my story and stories of other people suffering from this disorder so that other people can learn from it and know that we am not bewitched. It is also to encourage the authorities to do something about it because really, health ministries, the state and federal governments have done nothing to create awareness about this condition.
We would love a situation whereby on every June 29, that is World Scleroderma Day, there would be more focus on scleroderma. Luckily at PathCare Laboratory, tests for scleroderma can be done here in Nigeria. The test or screening cannot be done in government hospitals yet. I recall an instance, when I got to the LUTH for some of my tests, I was told they couldn’t be done there because the facilities were unavailable. I was sent to a laboratory outside the hospital and there I was told that my blood sample needed to be flown abroad for analysis.
Scleroderma may not be like dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, but it’s deadly even if not contagious. All we need is help in creating awareness. There should be posters in all the government hospitals about scleroderma just like there are posters of malaria and other illnesses. Such posters should educate people about the signs to watch for and should help promote early diagnosis.
Scleroderma has no cure as for now but with good management which comes with early diagnosis. The main drugs are the immune-suppressants which are quite expensive and very scarce. They have side effects and are not tailored to cure scleroderma but are being utilised experimentally.
What they do is to suppress the immune system so as to stop it attacking the body. But suppressing the immune system has its own downsides. The body may not have the ability to fight other diseases and you become a walking infection magnet within and outside your home. Sometimes, I go out there and come back to discover that I have the flu. There are times I may be in a public bus and someone beside me is coughing or sneezing, and I am always looking for the nearest window to put my head out because I know what that might do to me.
I am forced to be very health conscious. There are so many things people take for granted, that I do not dare take for granted. I cannot just eat anything or anyhow because the condition has affected my digestive system. With this condition, support and care from family and friends are very necessary. It is not something you can go through on your own.
For some people who suffer this outside the country they can’t work because the sickness has affected their fingers. Some get so hypersensitive to cold environment and their fingers get so disfigured that they can’t use them.
A friend in Abuja lost her job because she had a flare up that made her unable to go to work. By the time she was able to come out, her appointment had been terminated. This is somebody living on immune suppressant which is very expensive, now how is that person going to cope with no job? This is why the government should be aware. This condition should not be neglected.
I remember some years back when people avoided me, I used to work but I had to stop because I spent three days out my working days in LUTH getting one diagnosis or the other but my boss understood. A friend in the United Kingdom, who came for the book launch, narrated how people were staring at her. She had wanted to buy something but no one was willing to collect money from her out of fear of contracting her disease.
But in truth the reverse is the case; with her immune system suppressed, she is the one at risk. However, people don’t know these things and this is why I had to write about it so that people out there can be assured that they are not in danger of contracting anything from us.
My book is titled: Living with Scleroderma: A Survivor’s Story Of Hope Against All Odds. It has paperback and hard cover versions. The cage and butterflies on the cover are meaningful. The butterfly symbolises that life is beautiful and that those people living with scleroderma are beautiful people but unfortunately they find themselves locked up in this cage which is the scleroderma, an auto immune deficiency. We are attempting to break free of that cage, fly out and be free.
When I finished writing my book and wanted to publish it, I told a friend about it and she advised me to write to the Lagos State Government, that they would be passionate about it, because this is the first of its kind in Nigeria and Africa that someone living with this illness is coming out and writing about it. At first, I was sceptical but I decided to try, so I wrote a letter to the Lagos State Governor through the Ministry of Health. I was quite surprised that they actually received my letter and acknowledged. Few weeks later, someone called from the Ministry and I was told to report to the office.
I went there with an open mind, but nothing was in the offing. After my encounter with the Lagos State government, I still was able to go ahead and publish the book, with the help of a publisher who believed in me and in what I was trying to achieve through my story. Anyway I sent two copies of the book to the Lagos State Ministry of Health. I am hoping that the State and Federal Government would put the book to good use and bring about the required assistance.
We have a WhatsApp group for people living with the condition to come together and become sources of help and encouragement to one another. At times while living with this condition and reading stuff about it online I partially become my own doctor. Sometimes before I go for my hospital appointment I do some research and I know how I have been feeling for a while and when I get to the hospital and the doctors tell me something I can as well suggest other things worth trying.
This condition has humbled me, made me aware that in this life, no matter the condition you find yourself you should give it your best shot. I have been on so many medications all these years, sometimes I wake up at night staring at the ceiling and asking myself whats going to happen in the next couple of years down the line.