Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nigeria: In the comity of most corrupt nations


Chioma Pius

EVERY country has the responsibility to develop its society in a way that will benefit all its citizens.

How well any nation is able to meet or discharge this responsibility or obligation is determined by a number of factors of which corruption stands out more prominently.

The World Bank defines corruption as the abuse of public office for private gain.

Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, which has been with all kinds of society throughout history as a global crime.

It is considered as an aspect of indiscipline and the greatest obstacle to development anywhere it rears its ugly head.

In Nigeria, the phenomenon of corruption is not only obvious, it is also well too known to a point where every citizen believes that every Nigerian is corrupt.

The former Chief of General Staff, Gen Oladipo Diya, was once quoted as saying that all Nigerians were corrupt.

It is also a generally held belief or notion that corruption in Nigeria has become the normal way of life and can never be eradicated.

Nigeria continues to be a poor country despite its enormous natural resources, untapped agricultural potential, and abundant intellectual know-how because there is a strong linkage between poverty and corruption.

Poverty helps entrench corruption while corruption exacerbates poverty. With the high amount of human and material resources abound in the country, it is believed that Nigeria ought to be counted among the first 20 industrialised nations on earth.

Judging from the track records of most of the nation’s former and present leaders, according to observers, one could conclude that most of them did not come into government to serve the country but to be served by the people as they covertly or overtly pursue their self-aggrandising agenda of acquiring wealth, albeit, illegally.

The phenomenon of corruption, as it presented itself in the Nigerian polity, is becoming overwhelming to the extent that the pervasive mentality for the worship of money and materials has become the order of the day.

For nearly two decades now, Nigeria has been named among the 10 most corrupt nations in the world by internationally recognised anti-corruption organisations.

Apart from the fact that this impact negatively on the image of the country and the integrity of her citizens abroad, this negative tag has also slowed down Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) in Nigeria.

Nigeria is presently ranked 121 out of 178 countries ranked in Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (TICPI).

Transparency International also lists Nigeria as one of the oil-producing countries with questionable deals with regards to oil revenues disappearing into pockets of government officials, western oil executives, and middlemen.

The oil wealth, according to research, is estimated at billions of dollars, which is squandered, while the majority of citizens live in abject poverty.

Oil and gas theft by oil officials is currently at over 100,000 barrels per day in Nigeria.

Statistical data also show that the current per capita earning is less than half of what it used to be in the glorious days of the 1980s when Nigeria had $590 income per capita.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) projections put Nigeria’s net oil export revenues at $27 billion in 2004, a 29 per cent increase compared to $20.9 in 2003, and $16.5 billion in 2002.

It is apparent what a barrel of Nigeria’s light-sweet crude cost today. This pattern of corruption is also rampant at all other revenue-making sectors of Nigeria’s economy.

There is no doubt about the strong desire of every incoming administration in Nigeria to fight corruption but what is lacking is the political will.

Over the years, government, especially at the federal level, has created bodies to fight corruption. Such bodies include: the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which was set up to tackle financial and related crimes, especially the advance fee fraud known generally as “419”.

Other anti-corruption organs are the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) mandated to fight corruption in public office and the Due Process Office which oversees and demands that standard processes be followed in the execution of government activities and projects, thereby plugging avenues for bribery and corruption.

Despite the deep conviction about the negative effects of corruption on Nigeria, cases of graft have continued to be on the increase.

A Lagos-based legal practitioner, Olasupo Ojo, said: “Nigerians from the top of our leadership to the bottom of the ladder should make a concerted effort to fight corruption at all levels of our communities. These include the executive, legislative, judicial, and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The country should at the least make it our goal to reduce corruption to a mere nuisance within our society.

“There should be total transparency and accountability all through the whole scheme of operation in the anti-corruption campaign. No groups or individuals should be classified or perceived as exempted or immune from the adverse consequences for being a perpetrator of corruption. There should be effective reforms at all segments of the judicial branch, which is a major ingredient in the anti-corruption efforts.

“Countries like China put their citizen to death if convicted of corruption. Their aim is to demonstrate the seriousness of such a crime. Something has to be done to tame this uncontrollable wave of corruption that has engulfed our country.”

Another lawyer, Ade Oyebanji, called on the legislators to enact laws that would make the trial of people charge to court for corruption cases faster.

He said: “The legislative branch should enact laws that make rights to speedy trial mandatory with specific time frames in corruption cases and the Federal Government will automatically assume a prosecutorial or plaintiff role in the matter. Any corruption case, whether at the federal, state, or local government level should be treated as a crime against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“There may be need in our judicial system to establish special courts to deal with possible backlog of such cases. The appellate phase may be allowed to follow the normal course of the due process of law. The rights to speedy trials clause will in a number of ways preclude the unscrupulous docket schedulers (such as court clerks) from macro-managing judicial hearings through unnecessary postponements or court hearing delays.

“More prisons should be built throughout the federation to accommodate the likely influx of convicted offenders. This is because there is a severe need to put our house in order. The laws should effectively make the perpetrators of corruption schemes pay through their nose in time and material possession. These measures, to some extent, will at least distract future followers of these acts from joining the bandwagon.”

In his own view, John Okeke, a student of the Lagos State University (LASU), noted that: “Nigerian government only say or make the talk but no enforcement and those that want to live right are not encouraged by government.

“Corruption is the prerequisite of winning elective positions in Nigeria, so what do you expect? I just want us to compel our government to do the right thing at the right time. Come to think of it, Nigeria is a great country and we cannot afford to let it down for any selfish reason, whether tribalism, ethnicity or otherwise.”

In his contribution, a politician, Adewale Banjo, said that: “I think the causes of corruption in Nigeria is that we people are not politically active. If almost everybody in Nigeria contributes to the political developments in Nigeria directly or indirectly, things will change. The government will sit up toward her responsibilities.

“Corruption is a cankerworm that has stunted the growth of Nigeria in all ramifications. Corruption in all facets of our economic life will be minimised if everybody will take a decision to effect a change. There is no sincerity in our political, economic, religious lives.

“If we must wipe out this monster in our midst in Nigeria, let it start from the top especially our political leaders. Many probes on frauds, looting have not yielded anything reasonable as politicians sit on people’s wealth comfortably without remorse.

“Our judiciary has not helped matters as they adjourn criminal cases involving our leaders with impunity and at the end of the day kill the case, all in the name of spurious legal interpretations. What they care for is the money to collect and not the service to the nation. This is pathetic as the judiciary is the hope of the nation.”

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