Combating Corruption in Nigeria

Combating Corruption in Nigeria

The word ‘corruption’ does not lend itself to a precise definition as Margaret Peil (1976:49) has noted “defining corruption precisely is at least as difficult as determining its effects.
Different writers and commentators on corruption have therefore given divergent, but in most cases similar complementary defining of the concept.
Perhaps, because corruption has received an extensive attention in communities and also due to the fact that it has been greatly discussed in academic circles, corruption has received varied or various definitions.
Tanzi (1998:6) in his definition said that “corruption is not a new phenomenon; it is simply the abuse of public power benefits”.

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This definition is used by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, now World Bank.
Otite (1986:12) sees corruption as the perversion of integrity or state of affairs through bribery, favoritism moral depravity.
In another vein, corruption can also be the use of public power for private profit, prestige or for the benefit of a group in such a way that constitutes a breach of law or a standard of high moral conduct, violation of public duty or departure from high moral standards in exchange (or in anticipation of) personal, pecuniary gain, power or prestige.
Corruption is a multidimensional concept that has moral, ethical, religious and legal connotations.
Corruption has been defined by Doherty and Gilman (1978:20) as the process of seeking sordid advantage with little regard for moral and legal bars.
Obasanjo (1994:24) defined corruption as the misuse of public power for private and personal benefit.
Transparency International defined corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.
It is also efforts to secure wealth or power through illegal means for private gain at the expense of the public.
Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, 7th edition, defines corruption as illegal or dishonest behaviours especially of people in authority.
Even though some of these definitions of corruption have been around for several decades, the recent development in Nigeria where discoveries of stolen public funds run into billions of dollars and Nigerian Naira, make these definitions very adequate and appropriate.
Corruption is probably the main means to accumulate quick wealth in Nigeria.
It occurs in many forms and it has contributed immensely to the poverty and misery of a large segment of the population.
Though corruption may suffer from definition pluralism and conceptual diversity, scholars are Unanimous in their opinion of this malaise that permeates the soul of any nation or society.

Some studies have taken a broader approach to the discussion of corruption by dividing it into many forms and subdivisions.
In an incisive analysis of corruption, Dike (2003) classifies corruption into some broad categories which are:
•    Political corruption (Grand)
•    Bureaucratic corruption (Petty)
•    Electoral corruption
POLITICAL CORRUPTION: Takes place at the highest levels of authority.
It occurs when the politicians and political decision makers, whose duties are to formulate, establish, and implement the laws in the name of the people, are themselves corrupt.
Political corruption is sometimes seen as similar to “corruption of greed” as it affects the manner in which decisions are made, manipulates political institutions, rules of procedure and distorts the institution of government.

BUREAUCRATIC CORRUPTION: Bureaucratic corruption on the other hand, occurs in the public administration or the implementation end of politics.
The kind of corruption has been branded “low level; and “street level”.
It is the kind of the citizenry encounter everyday at places like the hospitals, schools, local licensing offices, etc.
Bureaucratic (Petty) corruption, which is seen as similar to “corruption of need’ occurs when one obtains business from the public sector through inappropriate means and procedures.

This includes purchase of votes with money, promises of offices, special favours, coercion, intimidation, and interference with electoral processes.
Nigeria is a good example of where this happens, in short, it is commonplace.
Votes are bought; people are killed or maimed in the name of election.
Harry Marshall and Funsho Williams are classic examples of political corruption
Losers end up winners in election and votes are turned up where no votes were cast.
During the last elections, you could here of one candidate garnering sixteen thousand votes where only a thousand people registered.

i.    Bribery: The payment of money or in kind that is given or taken in the corrupt relationship. These include kickbacks, gratitude, payoffs, sweeteners, greasing palms, etc, Bayart et al (1994:11).
ii.    Fraud: It involves some kind of trickery, swindle and deceit, counterfeiting, racketeering, and smuggling, etc.
iii.    Embezzlement: This is the taking of public resources by public officials. It is when a state official steals from the public institutions in which he is empowered. In Nigeria, one of the commonest ways of achieving economic accumulation is through the embezzlement of public funds. This is perhaps due to the lack of strict regulatory system.
iv.    Extortion: This is money and other resources extracted by the use of coercion, violence or threat to use of force.
It is often seen as extraction ‘from below’.
The police and customs officers are the main culprits in our Nigeria of today.
v.    Favoritism: This is a mechanism of power abuse implying a highly biased distribution of state resources. However, this is seen as a natural human tendency to favours friends, family and anyone else trusted.
vi.    Nepotism: This is a special form of favoritism in which an office holder prefers his family members or kinfolks. Nepotism which is also common in Nigeria occurs when one is exempted from the application of certain laws or regulations or giving under preference in the allocation of scare resources
Besides the above listed forms of corruption, there are still other forms or corruption like:
i.    Occasional or opportunistic corruption: This manifests in the greed of a few people who pay bribes to gain unfair advantage over others, and those who abuse a position of trust by taking bribes.
ii.    Widespread corruption: Greed is still the motive, but many people pay bribes, and the action is considered more socially acceptable.
iii.    System corruption: Many employees take bribes or than extra income from their employment.
Employers pay less than the market rate.
Salary adjustment for public servants has failed to keep pace with inflation.
Officials take bribes to meet their payment for school fees or run their cars.
They feel justified in using their position for personal gain because they think their pay is unfair.
This leads to extortion where bribes have been paid to secure fair treatment.

The causes of corruption are myriad, and they have political and cultural variables (Dike: 2003:4).
Some evidence points to a link between corruption and social diversity, ethno-linguistic fractionalization, and the proportions of a country’s population’s adherence to different religious traditions
Lispet and Lenz (200:12) in their study noted that corruption is widespread in most countries that are not democratic.
Thus, the political system and culture of the society could make the citizens more prone to corrupt activities.

a.    Great inequality and distribution of wealth
b.    The use of political offices as a means of gaining wealth
c.    The absence of foresight and political will in the leaders
d.    The weakness or total non-functionality of social and governmental enforcement agencies or mechanisms.
Most causes of corruption will not really deviate from those aforementioned. There could only be a variance.
However, obsession with materialism, shortcut to affluence is among the reasons for its persistence in Nigeria.    Other factors are poor reward system and greed which is inherent in almost everyone.
In the case of Nigeria, the reward system is perhaps one of the worst in the world.
In Nigeria, there is great inequality in the distribution of wealth.
Resources can only be acquired by the rich while the poor wallow in object poverty __ the gap between the rich and the poor gets wider every moment.
In Nigeria, accountability is weak.
Political competition and civil liberties are often restricted.
Laws of ethics in government are poor developed.
If they exist at all, the legal institutions charged with their enforcement are ill-prepared for this complex job.
The watch dog institutions that provide information on which detection and enforcement are based such as accountants, auditors and the press are weak or very malleable.
Also low pay for civil servants also exacerbates the problem of corruption, and the threat of one losing his government job due to it serves as a weak deterrent because officials pay is low.
According to Tanzi (1998:572) many observers have speculated       that wages paid to civil servants is important in determining the degree of corruption.
Ribadu (2006) is of the view that the poverty of morals is the root cause of corruption
He disagrees with the claim that poverty is the root cause of corruption.
According to him, people indicted of corruption were not poor, but rich people occupying influential positions of authority in the society.
Most causes of corruption treated above are those that induce people to engage in corrupt practices, but people also engage in corrupt practice as givers.
For example, business men and women offer bribes (often times without being prompted) to civil servants in order to facilitate transaction process they engage in.
When some people perceive that the processing of their transaction is slow or frustrating, they offer bribes to officials to speed up the processing of their transactions.
Some offer gratification to admission officers in educational institutions.
Corruption is like a cankerworm that eats easily and deeply into the social and moral fabric of any nation or society.
Incidentally, corrupt practices sometimes take place in such unscrupulous and insidious manner they may go unnoticed for a very long time.
They must have taken deep roots.

The word corruption in the Nigerian contest gained national attention in the mid 50s, when political carpet crossing and financial malpractices by public office holders became a common phenomenon (Familoni, 2005:39)
One may be tempted to conclude that high degree of corruption began to be noticed in the economy with the advent of colonial rule.
The middle of the 16th century witnessed the emergence of several British and other European firms and trading interests, but these were a basis for slave trade.
The colonialists engaged in the slave trade with vigour and employed forceful ways of dealing with the opposition.
That is, there would be slaves were exchanged for small amount of money, and material goods like umbrellas, walking alcoholic drinks, hats, and a host of others (Osuntokun et al: 2003:38).
Based on this they noticed the Chief with such items, who in turn, give away their subjects to the “visitors” without reflecting on what was in stock for their people in foreign lands.
Having received these gifts, the Chiefs and others slave dealers became used to the newly introduced bad system
Hence the legacy of bribery and corruption which seemed established by the British colonialism had been in existence in Nigeria since then, thereby making it deep rooted or more like an endemic malaise (Abia 2006: 245)
Notably, British rule in Nigeria faced a lot of opposition, and its efforts to maintain its grip on the boundary did not go down well with the nationalists whose primary struggle was for the attainment of Nigeria’s political independence.
The battle for self rule was important in their minds. (Nse Akpan et al: 2003:57)
They and some people were hell-bent on damaging the effects of the colonists until the country became independent on October 1, 1960.
Ironically, the acts of sabotage by Nigerians continued thereafter against their fellow Nigerians in power.
Thus, corruption seems to have been deeply noted in all the spheres of life of Nigerians.
It has gotten to the extent that Nigeria has been noted as one of the most corrupt nations in the world by transparency international (TI).
Undoubtedly, corruption is part of the problems in Nigeria.
Rules in Nigeria have always paid lip service to the war against corruption.
The military ruler General Yakubu Gowon pledged a way against corruption in his New Year message broadcast on the national radio network on January 1972.
Nothing positive happened after that.
We will recall that in 1974, under Gowon’s regime, Joseph Takar then minister of communication was forced to resign over allegations of corruption made by Godwin Daboh.
The Takar/Daboh episode was a drama of the Gowon era.
Rather than being prosecuted, both Takar and Daboh went on to become national celebrities.
General Murtala Romat Muhammed, Gowon’s successor tried to wage a war against corruption, general absence of drive and gross indiscipline in the country.
Rather than allow him prove his mettle, he was brutally assassinated in an early morning military mutiny on February 13th 1976 (Ikelegbe 2004:154)
He was succeeded by his deputy,
General Olusegun Obasanjo, who paid virtually no attention to the war against corruption which he supposedly inherited.
As a matter of fact, corruption became once more a natural problem by the time he handed over the reins of government to a civilian regime under President Shehu Shagari of the National party of Nigeria (NPN) in October 1979.
The massive political corruption of the Shagari regime took the country into an unprecedented era of debt bondage and economic depression in which Nigeria still wallows (Osuntokun eta:2003:126)
The political corruption of that era led to an inglorious exit on the last day of 1983, in short, the new year was ushered in with as coup d’ etat.
Then, came the Buhari regime with his deputy as General Tunde Idiagbon (Ikelegbe 2004:101).
The promise to wipe out corruption soon turned out to be an empty one which is not surprising since any observer of the Nigerian political scene in view of the poor records of past military regimes in Nigeria would not have failed to notice.
The brutal regime of Buhari was predictably overthrown by another patently ambitious military officer by the name of Gen Ibrahim Babangida, who installed himself as the first military president of Nigeria.
The nine-year regime of Babangida was the heydays of the Bretton woods inspired structural adjustment programme (SAP) which thoroughly sapped the energy of Nigerians and made the average Nigerian poor (Abia:2006:249)
The middle class, which is the traditional agent of modernization and change in any developing country and economy was completely emasculated and destroyed by the SAP because of its lack of consideration of the polity.
To escape poverty, civil and public servants resorted to unbridled corruption.
The Babangida regime was also notorious for its political corruption.
He annulled the June 12 1993 presidential election, reputed to be the cleanest and fairest election in the political history of Nigeria. (Osuntokun and Aworayo: 2003:24)
To cap it all, president Babangida, rather than respect the people’s will as expressed in the clear mandate given M.K.O. Abiola to rule the country and ‘probably’ clean up the mess of Babangida’s era, stepped aside and installed an interim government under Chief Ernest Shonekan.
Shonekan’s government was swept aside in a palace coup three months later by an ambitious Abacha (Akinjide et al: 2003:182)
Abacha became head of state and made all kinds of promises which he would never keep.
He was merely temporizing to give himself enough time to prefect his plan to impose an absolute rule and life presidency on the country.
He like Babangida believed every Nigerian could be bought and had a price.
In fact he succeed in buying and hoodwinking virtually all political leaders and parties of his day (News watch February: 1998:6)
He wanted to outdo all his predecessors by acquiring all the wealth he could lay is hands on. In short, he became the darling of the kleptomaniacs who surrounded him and who believed that their nests had to be feathered.
This feathering of their nests was to consolidate their hold on political and economic power indefinitely. (Obed Awowede 1998:14).
It was a situation that could aptly be described as power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Ola and Offiong, 1999).
He had General Obasajo thrown into jail after he had framed him for knowledge of a Phantom coup (Osuntokun nad Aworayo 2003: 244
On the eve of perfecting his sinister plans for imposition of absolute dictatorship and rule on the country for life as an elected president; Abacha suddenly and unexpectedly died.
The demise of the erstwhile dictator came as a relief to almost all Nigerians who had become (virtually personae non grata for being citizens of a nation in which virtually all human rights had been abused and suppress by Abacha (Akinjide and Aworayo 2003)
One would have thought that with the death of Abacha, that the era of unbridled and blatant corruption in public life would also come to an end. This was not to be as the succeeding military regime of Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar who was in power for less than a year ran up the largest budget ever in the country’s fiscal history. (Abia 2006:254).
The regime was also in a hurry to privatize vital sectors and industries, particularly the refineries and utilities.
Their attempts to do so was stoutly resisted by well meaning Nigerians and the people’s democratic movement __ later the PDP.
It was clear to Nigerians that it was an attempt to turn the privatization exercise into an avenue for annexing the nation’s wealth into the pockets of a few greedy Nigerians.
The P.D.P. Government of President Obasanjo came to power at a time when the nation was already tired of praetorian rule.
The continuous rule by the military (1984-1999) had bastardized and so brutalized the nation’s phsyche and left an ogre called corruption in the wake.
By this time, Nigeria had attained the not-so enviable position of number two on transparency international corruption index list.
Presidential Obasanjo was the first to really show “teeth” when he spearheaded the formation of the anti-corruption bodies or agencies__ the independent corrupt practices and other related offences commission and the economic and financial crimes commission which is the focus of this research work. (Osuntokun etal 2003:274)

Corruption is a universal problem, but it is more pronounced, more pervasive and hence more deleterious to the progress and development in developing countries such as Nigeria.
Corruption has become the bane of the Nigerian society.
Nigeria for the past couple of years has continued to score very low on the table of the global survey of corruption perception index (CPI) of the Berlin based corruption watchdog, transparency international (TI).
Nigeria was placed on the second position in 2003, and took first slot in 2002.
It was noted as the third most corrupt country in the world in the 2004 edition of world survey.
Nigeria came behind the poverty stricken Haiti and Bangladesh that tied at the bottom of the scale (the Punch, October 21 and, 2004).
Corruption is the biggest challenge facing today’s Nigeria, and thus deserving the biggest attention.
This national malaise has serious overt effects, and impacts in the nation at large.
It destroys the socio-economic life of the society, makes economic planning difficult if not impossible, it creates political instability, and undermines the integrity of the states and concentrates wealth in the hands of a few corrupt individuals (Osuntokun et al 2003:256)
Corruption perverts the rule of law, wastes skills as time is often wasted in setting up endless committees to monitor and fight corruption in public projects.
It also leads to aids forgone in the sense that donors do not want to give aid to corrupt nations.
For instance the international monetary fund (IMT) withdrew several development supports from some nations that are notoriously corrupt.
Corruption is politically destabilizing as it leads to social revolution and military interventions or take over.
Hiding under the excuse of corruption to topple a legitimate government in Nigeria will not lease to be a credible reason for the involvement of the military Nigerian politics in the future.
Corruption also destroys governmental structures. The NEWS, July 11 1999 issue “The face of a liar” broke. The news of ‘forgery’ and “perjury” committed by the former speaker of the House of Representative, Alhaji Ibrahim Saliu Bahari.
Through corrupt means, Salisu Bahari amassed wealth when he made millions working for NEPA and he bribed his way to the fourth highest office in the land.
It is a national shame that a crook was in charge of the house of representative, the body saddled with lawmaking in the nation.
Corruption also destroys the legitimacy of the government.
Shehu Shagari’s government was written off as inept due to the magnitude of corruption witnessed under his government __ the government under Shagari an lacked policy direction (Dike: 2003).
Corruption is one of the reasons for Nigeria’s brain drain (talented professionals leaving the country in search of better employment).
The man who developed what was once the fastest computer in the world, Philip Emeagwali is a case instance, Gloria Alozie, Obikwelu who run for Spain and Portugal respectively once ran for Nigeria before they defected are also classic examples of where corruption was gotten Nigeria.
Most of the loot taken from Nigeria by these corrupt government officials have be traced to (Swiss banks and other foreign financial institutions Ola and Offiong 1999:241).
These monies could have been invested in Nigeria, but the same is developing already developed economic in Europe and America (Sklar, 1965:386).
In summary, it has been noted that the lust for power and corruption is not strictly a Nigerian problem but a global one.
Corruption is a global phenomenon and manifests in both ‘petty’ and ‘grand’ forms.

•    It is anti-government because it creates distrust of bureaucrats and other public functionaries and hence constituted social obstacles to the execution of projects.

•    It weakens a government by making policy makers timid in taking bold steps to curb excesses of citizens or to reform the system.

•    It acts as a discouragement to incentives such as the payment of taxes or the practice of compulsory savings schemes found necessary for social development in a situation where citizens become cynical and where immoral and self seeking bureaucrat and political rulers display their ill-gotten wealth. Corruption is undoubtedly a principal affliction which causes public resentment and may lead to social upheaval in any country.

For Nigeria, her case is intriguing because of the high level of tolerance exhibited by the generality of the people to this despicable conduct.
Whether on the account of distortion of values, conspiracy or silence or outright cumbrance with perpetrators of the vice, majority of Nigerian, it would seem tend to treat corruption as an incurable cancer, which the country has to live with.

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