Why Corruption Will Not End In Nigeria
Corruption is said to be the fourth arm of government in Nigeria and the biggest and most lucrative. Since 1999, every government had promised to fight corruption but it’s all motion and no movement.
President Muhammadu Buhari came into office on the mantra of change and people see him as the man to fight corruption but recent events have shown the president is a lone ranger in the fight against corruption.
The anti-corruption war is virtually dead in states, as they have shown they are not interested in the fight. Governors are virtually emperors in their states and opposition is virtually non – existent. How come most of the states have not signed up to the open government treaty signed by the federal government? As at last count only Kaduna, Niger, Kano and Anambra have signed to the open government – a treaty meant to encourage transparency and openness in government.
I don’t even think most states have functional EFCC offices. When was the last time the state governments vigorously pursued corruption cases in their domain? The anti- corruption war is seen as a federal government’s own.
At the federal government level, most of the corruption takes place at the civil service. How can you successfully fight corruption with the civil service, as it is presently constituted? I remember when the president came into office and praised the civil servants to high heavens contending that they are the ones who do the job and the ministers are just noisemakers. The president was given a baptism of fire as the civil servants padded the 2016 budget and inserted all kind of funny contracts and items in it.
How can you fight corruption when the minimum wage is 18,000? With that amount, a civil servant is expected to pay house rent , feed his family, pay his children’s school fees and take care of his extended family. He is bound to dip his hands into the cookie jar. Civil servants own most of the highbrow houses in Abuja and some of them have children in private universities. Where did they get money to buy the houses and maintain their flamboyant lifestyles?
How did other countries fight corruption? Lee Kuan Yew who was the Prime Minister of Singapore for 40 straight years, eradicated corruption from the country.
In the mid-50s, the British left Singapore (British colony back then) and Singaporeans were left with weak legislative framework, almost uneducated population, low wages, opaque economy, endemic corruption and quite vague prospects. Lee Kuan Yew, together with his party, “People’s Action” won the election, and became the symbol of the fight against corruption, the slogan of which was: “You want to fight corruption? Then, be ready to send to jail your friends and relatives.”
His anti-corruption campaign consisted of four elements, the first of which was the establishment of a strong independent service for the fight against corruption, denying officials’ immunity. All officials and their families were deprived of immunity. Agents of the BCI had the right to check bank accounts, property, not only belonging to the officials, but also their children, wives, relatives and even friends. If the clerk and his family were living beyond their means, the Bureau was beginning investigation automatically without any prior commands from above. BCI investigators were focused on the major bribe-takers in the higher echelons of power. The minor ones were fought by the simplification of the legislative acts, removing any ambiguity in the laws, including the abolition of permits and licensing in less important areas of public life. At the same time, the court had been given the right to confiscate automatically any income derived from corrupt actions. In 1989, the maximum amount of the fine for corruption increased from 10 to 100 thousand Singapore dollars. It should be noted that BCI has several times investigated Lee Kuan Yew himself and his family, but the latter came out clean.
During its activities, BCI arrested several federal ministers, heads of trade unions, community leaders and top managers of state companies.
No compromise. Here is one of the examples Singapore authorities urged justice on its high-ranking officials.
Wee Toon Boon was the Minister of Environment in 1975, when he made a trip to Indonesia with his family. The trip was paid by the contractor who was building houses and whose interests he represented to public servants. He also received a house worth 500 thousand Singapore dollars, and two loans in the name of his father, totaling 300,000 Singapore dollars, which were issued under the guarantee of this exact contractor. Given this all, Wee Toon was charged, convicted and sentenced to four years and six months in prison.
“Live within your means. The second element of the anti-corruption program in Singapore was the introduction of a “presumption of guilt agent” of the government, any governmental department or a public state organisation. In 1960, a law was passed that allowed to consider the fact that the accused were living beyond their means, or had under their disposal property object, which they could not acquire, on their income, as an evidence for a bribe.
Any reward received by an official from someone seeking contact with the government, was to be considered a bribe, until proven otherwise. This, in a sense, effectively shifted the burden of proving one’s innocence to the governmental official who has to convince the court that a fee has not been received within the framework of the corruption scheme. In case the official was proven to be guilty, his property was subject to forfeiture, the official paid a huge fine, and went to jail on a fairly decent time.
“High Salary as a guarantee of integrity. After enactment of the first two elements, the third element was to increase the salaries of officials. Lee Kuan Yew claimed that civil servants should be paid the highest wages because they deserve it, representing a decent and honest government. If they are underpaid, they may be tempted to engage in corrupt practices. Increase of salaries has led to the fact that public sector attracted the best specialists. When the country began a rapid economic recovery, wages began to rise in proportion to the official income of the private sector. Civil servants and judges were receiving salaries equivalent to the ones of the top managers of leading corporations.
But Lee Kuan Yew went even further, he proposed the revision of salaries of ministers, judges and senior civil servants to be automatically tied to the amount of income taxes paid by the private sector. The fourth element was Mass Media Factor – the formation of independent, objective media, covering all found cases of corruption. The officer caught in excessive costs, bribes, immediately becomes the “hero” of the front page.
These were the four regulatory steps that turned a poor state with no natural resources into one of leading economies in the world in less than 40 years.
Let’s take Norway for example which ranks among the least corrupt countries in the world, and business is conducted with a high level of transparency. Corruption does not represent a constraint to trade or investment, and administrative corruption and petty bribery are almost non-existent. The Norwegian Penal Code criminalises active and passive bribery, trading in influence, fraud, extortion, breach of trust and money laundering. It applies to anyone who is registered in Norway and carries a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, even if the act is committed abroad. A company can be held criminally liable for corruption offenses committed by individuals acting on its behalf. Facilitation payments are prohibited, and gifts and hospitality can be considered illegal depending on their value, the intent and benefit obtained. These practices, however, very rarely occur. Law enforcement activities and the legal framework for combating corruption are strong, and anti-corruption laws are enforced. There are no reports of official impunity. Norway’s economic crime-fighting unit, Økokrim, has proven itself effective in investigating and prosecuting corruption in Norway and, to some extent, abroad.
Nigeria can borrow a leaf from Singapore and Norway to eradicate corruption in the country. Corruption has become endemic in Nigeria and it will take super human efforts to curtail it. It has to start from the home . These days parent bribe schools for their children to pass WAEC and JAMB, bribe teachers for their children to get admission to choice schools. When you go to the fuel station to buy fuel in Jerrycans for generators, you pay an extra N200 to the fuel attendant . You beat the traffic and bribe the Police officers to let you off the hook. You don’t pay tax and bribe the tax officials and they don’t disturb you for some time and when they are broke, they come for you and you offer them more bribe. In most churches people who give the biggest offerings and donations are given front rows and some churches don’t even question the person’s source of income. You know this brother is a civil servant and has no other business, yet he makes generous donations but his source of wealth is not questioned because most churches love a cheerful giver.
Bail is free but I can tell you for free, no police station in Nigeria gives bail free. When you make use of the rest rooms at the airports, the cleaner asks you, “anything for the boys?”
The thinking that we will change our ways just because Buhari is in power is a myth. As long as people don’t pay for their crimes; as long as judges free suspects based on technicalities and adjourn cases for years, as long as we commit crimes and get away with it; as long as we don’t name and shame treasury looters; as long as we honour looters with traditional titles; as long as religious organisations receive offerings and tithes with no questions asked; as long as we still practice “this na our own and after all na our oil money” and as long as there are still sacred cows in the fight against corruption, then the anti – corruption war will continue to be an all motion and no movement affair.
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