Beside insecurity, no other issue has been in the front burner in the contemporary Nigeria than the issue of corruption. It has been multifaceted and has permeated every facet of the public administration and public service. Corruption manifests in divergent forms in all societies. The mark difference in the Nigerian context is the extent of its persuasive prebendal tilt and its implications for governance and development. The pervasiveness of corruption can best be imagined. Imagine that a mere word “Nigeria” now seems synonymous with corruption.
This grim and disturbing fact is underscored by the perpetual abysmal ranking of the country’s Corruption Index by Transparency International. In fact Nigerians have become so accustom to see their country be marooned in the lowest rung of Corruption Index. As Nigerians, we do not need corruption perception index to assess the prevalence of corruption as we see and experience it every day and every time. Since independence, unscrupulous military and political leaders as well as public servants have pilfered the country’s colossal revenues, stashing away more than a trillion dollars in local and foreign bank accounts.
Some critics estimate, that a whooping US $900 billion have been stolen between 1999 and 2012. With the recent incidence of fuel subsidy theft and other startling corrupt cases both reported and unreported, it is glaring that the figures of public funds loss might have hit 1.5 trillion Dollars between 1999 and 2012. Colossal funds that would have been channelled towards development have gone down the drain as a result of the monstrous issue of corruption. Endemic corruption in the public sector has been one of the banes of political stability in the contemporary Nigeria.
When corruption becomes common placed in the highest public offices, apprehension and tension grow in the country. Also, various high profile probes in the last two decades. Perceived corruption has been a constant cause of friction between the arms of government since the advent of the current democratic era. Also these point to corruption-political instability thesis. Nigeria is said to be one of the world’s biggest crude oil producers, but her vast resources render the country vulnerable to corruption. Most prebendal attitudes are geared towards crude oil and the attendant massive revenues. Ethnic prebendal conflicts have further propelled the preponderance of corruption among public officials in Nigeria.
It is often argued that one of the justifications for military intervention in politics in the past is often argued to be the issue of endemic corruption among the political class. The impunity at which the current crops of politicians are diverting public funds for their personal aggrandizement is alarming. Corruption hampers the dire-needed economic, infrastructural and social development of the country. Electoral corruption and corruption in legislative bodies hinders probity, accountability and distorts legislative processes and relevance. The worrisome dimension of corruption in the judiciary compromises the rule of law; while corruption in the Police Force and other security agencies has numerous negative consequences. In general terms, the rampant corruption in the country erodes the institutional capacity of government to meet the yearning demands of the people.
Further more, corruption is said to undermines the impact and legitimacy of government especially when it comes to issues such as democratic values, trust, patriotism, national integration, nation-building and tolerance to mention but a few. Corruption also creates all sort of economic distortions in the public administration by diverting public funds into policies and projects that are either inappropriate or over bloated in cost. Corruption also causes non-compliance with legal, construction, environmental, as well as other vital regulations, and as such lead to ineffectiveness and inefficiency in public administration in Nigeria.
In spite of government’s spirited efforts aimed at tackling the multi-faceted issue of corruption in Nigeria, very little has been achieved in terms of stemming the tide of this ceaseless sleaze. In fact, corruption has become institutionalized. Currently, there are widespread frustrations and chagrin with the escalating level of corruption in the country. This has resulted into cynicism and mistrust over government anti-corruption efforts. So much so that there are widespread belief that the monstrous corruption can only and better be tackled with a revolution, that would be bloody if need be, citing the Ghanaian model.
Nonetheless, in a dramatic twist, President Goodluck Jonathan seems to be treading where angels dread to tread. In the recent launch of a book: “Reforming the Unreformable,” authored by the Minister for Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the president, represented by the Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, stated that his administration is ready to up the ante of anti-corruption in the country, especially in the petroleum sector and amongst governors. This is coming on the heels of the probe of the Halliburton $480 million bribery scandal allegedly given to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2007 elections. The catalogue of previous corrupt cases leaves so much to be desired.
It should be noted that there several high profile corruption cases which past administrations failed to deal with, while many are still lingering to date, some were swept under the carpet, but continue to make mockery of the anti-corruption posture of the government. Such notable cases include: the former Inspectors General of Police, Tafa Balogun and Ehindero, Orji Uzo Kalu, former Abia State governor, Jolly Nyame, former governor of Taraba State, Joshua Chibi Dariye, former governor of Plateau State; and Saminu Turaki, former governor of Jigawa State. Others include Chief James Ibori, former Governor of Delta State, Lucky Igbenedion, former Governor of Edo State, Chimaroke Nnamani, former governor of Enugu State, and Boni Haruna, former governor of Adamawa State, so also is Abubakar Audu, former governor of Kogi; Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Timipre Silva, both former governors of Bayelsa State .
Others include Gbenga Daniel former governor of Ogun State, Dimeji Bankole, a former Speaker, House of Representatives, Iyabo Obasanjo, former Chairman, Senate Committee on Health and daughter of former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. There is also the case of Ndudi Elumelu, a member of the House of Representatives from Delta State and former chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Power. There is the case of former governor Danjuma Goje of Gombe State, Senators Evans Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Ita Giwa, Ibrahim Mantu, Rowland Owie, Hosea Ayoola Agboola, Adebayo Alao-Akala, former governor of Oyo State. Though the list is endless, it, no doubt underscores how deep-seated the issue of corruption is amongst our political class. It also explains why we cannot expect the political class to facilitate legislations that will help tackle the reoccurring issue of corruption in Nigeria.
The fight against corruption has been plagued by numerous hiccups; little wonder the EFCC has been making moves for some legislative reforms that will aid the anti-corruption struggles. Unfortunately, such moves to expunge the immunity clause, as enshrined in Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution and the Assets Forfeiture Bills has been unfruitful due to corrupt politicians who would do nothing but to frustrate anti-corruption struggles in Nigeria. This is a fundamental issue President Goodluck Jonathan must tackle if he is serious and desirous of tackling the pandemic corruption ravaging the country. Above all, the President needs the political will to tackle corruption headlong.
Johnny Eshikena Bob