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Some hidden costs of corruption in Nigeria

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By Ndidi Uwechue

CORRUPTION can be defined as any unethical means of acquiring undeserved gain or advantage. It includes stealing, fraud, and cheating. Although corruption is found in every country, some countries are infamous for it because of the levels and extent of its practice exhibited therein. Nigeria is one such country and is commonly ranked high on any corruption hierarchy. The terrible state of underdevelopment in Nigeria yet with an unaccountable debt profile with officials, mostly civil servants and politicians, getting richer through unexplained wealth are strong evidence of wrongdoing, crime and corruption. 

President Muhammadu Buhari

The more obvious costs of corruption include the depletion of national wealth, lack of public infrastructure, high levels of crime and insecurity, unnecessary deaths from preventable or treatable medical conditions, impunity, injustice, mediocrity, brain drain, hopelessness, and aimlessness, etc. I now mention some other less obvious or hitherto unknown but high costs of corruption.

In Western nations, once retired from the workforce and having reached the national pensionable age, the retiree gets a pension and so becomes a pensioner. Winter can be a difficult time in old age especially if the pensioner is suffering from medical conditions like arthritis, rheumatism, stiff muscles, etc. Although some parts of Nigeria may be too hot for a foreign pensioner, several places would be quite suitable such as Jos, Warri, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Obudu, etc. Foreign pensioners who could decide to relocate to Nigeria would bring their pensions with them. That is the foreign exchange money that would benefit our economy!

That is money coming from outside, into Nigeria. That is “easy money” is it not? The foreign pensioner would need to either buy or rent a home in Nigeria. So money for us. The pensioner would eat food and buy clothes. So money for us. The pensioner would need medical care. So money for us. The pensioner’s children and grandchildren would come and visit as tourists. So money for us. Furthermore, the pensioner would be happy to volunteer as a lecturer in a polytechnic, college, institute or university, plus volunteer to teach school children. That would be awesome intellectual knowledge and skills poured into young Nigerians, and available for the Nigerian public!

Imagine it, a foreign pensioner who worked as a master craftsman now teaching his great skills of carpentry to polytechnic students – for free! Or, a foreign pensioner who was a dental surgeon now passing on his knowledge to dentistry students and dentists – for free! Or even a foreign pensioner who was a great pastry chef now passing on his delicious superior cake-making skills to Nigerians – for free! Nigeria could market itself as a “Retirement Country” for foreign pensioners, not just elderly black people from Europe, the Americas, and the Caribbean, but elderly white folk would also be made comfortable here.

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Sadly, corruption prevents foreign pensioners from living among us. The insecurity, the chaotic and filthy environment, the lack of electricity, lack of public transport, lack of credible medical care, dangerous roads without pavements or traffic lights for the elderly and infirm to cross, the greedy national attitudes towards people, etc, mean that Nigeria is losing out on the all-around very positive presence that foreign pensioners would have been to us.

The word “stunted” brings up images of something that is less than normal, lower in quality and stands for undersized, for loss. Nigeria’s grand corruption produces all kinds of stuntedness. I am here alerting us to the presence of national stunted growth. Stunted growth is caused by lack of nutritious food especially before and during pregnancy so a baby is born already stunted in body and brain development since it did not get the vitamins, minerals, proteins etc that are required. By age two if a child is stunted he/she will have reduced thinking and learning abilities that will remain throughout life. Factors that lead to stunted growth are poor nutrition, poor sanitation, especially open defecation, as these expose people to diseases and worm infection, plus malaria infections.

This is a serious consequence of corruption so I repeat it. Open defecation, poor nutrition, and malaria which cause us to be stunted in growth and stunted in intelligence are due to lack of proper sanitation, proper waste management, and proper health care services. These are fallouts of corruption. We need to appreciate just how destructive grand corruption is! Corruption has made us the poverty capital of the world which means we should expect greater lack, greater stuntedness, thus even more citizens with lowered intelligence and lower thinking ability.

We are threatened with the risk of extinction through being completely unprepared for the near catastrophic effects of global warming. Predictions for West Africa have increased temperatures including hot nights, severe water shortage which will also affect agriculture (crops and animals), manufacturing, and the behaviour of wild animals, drought, wildfires, disease, and flooding, especially of low lying areas. Compounding this is that Nigerians are having babies at an alarming rate which means a very high population but no infrastructure and amenities to cater for it.

With high heat and without enough water, populations of humans, animals or plants begin to die out. That means extinction. The international community began to sound the alarm on global warming over 30 years ago. However, corruption sabotages the success of the fight to alleviate global warming because the funds needed to modernise, get into renewable energy, provide food and water security, etc are being diverted and stolen.

We are missing out on many good things, and are facing threats to our survival, all because of corruption. The solution is known. We need to stamp out corruption. We can no longer hope that someone else will be the “saviour.” Each of us has to act to save our country from the corrupt and their corruption. We do so through citizen participation, social action, and programmes of social uplift.

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