HOW TO CURB CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA
BY: KALI GWEGWE
Published April 20th, 2010
Apart from the game of football, one other thing that unites Nigerian citizens is the war against corruption. It has been generally accepted that corruption is evil and responsible for the nation’s gross underdevelopment. With the high amount of human and material resources abound in the country, it is believed that Nigeria was supposed to be counted among the first twenty industrialised nations on earth. Despite the deep conviction about the negative effects of corruption on Nigeria, cases of graft have continued to be on the sharp rise. The situation is so bad that corruption has almost turned out to be a national culture. For nearly two decades now, Nigeria has been named among the ten most corrupt nations in the world by internationally recognised anti-corruption organisations. Apart impacting negatively on the country’s image and integrity of her citizens abroad, this negative tag has also slowed down Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) in Nigeria.
There is no doubt about the strong desire of every incoming administration in Nigeria to fight corruption. Somehow, this desire has failed to curb the rise in cases of corruption due to several factors. Chief among them is the crass ignorance of the root causes of corruption in the country. Correct diagnosis is very fundamental in finding cure for an illness. The inability of successive administrations to cure Nigeria of corruption can therefore be rightly attributed to the shallow and narrow nature of the nation’s anti-graft protocols. Presently, the war against corruption is mainly anchored on the principles of investigation, arrest, and prosecution of suspected offenders. This can be likened to mowing a lawn. Sooner or later, the grass will grow again. To effectively fight corruption, its roots must have to be uprooted. The rise in cases of corruption is linked to a number of fundamental factors. They include wrong social orientation, poor
leadership culture, unemployment, poverty, tribalism, and the lack of political will.
A nation is like an engine-less boat in the ocean. It would need a team dedicated and experienced crew to sail it to shore. Poor leadership culture has contributed to the collapse of key public infrastructure and utilities in the country. Nigeria has now become a popular reference point during academic discourse on failed states. The nation’s power, transport, health, educational, industrial, and agricultural sectors are all in shambles. This has led to a spontaneous weakening of the nation’s oil-based socio-economic framework. Owing to these factors, unemployment, poverty, and crime have been on a sharp rise since about 1979.
The nation’s weak socio-economic framework has either reduced or eliminated a number of platforms that would have helped to expand the economy. This has voluntarily frozen several opportunities to create jobs and legitimate wealth. Nigerians are therefore forced to embrace sharp practices to make ends meet. Unlike in the pre-colonial era when all forms of corruption were seriously frowned at, people now openly celebrate known corrupt citizens. While very many do so because of poverty, others do it in order to secure political power. Poverty has virtually turned Nigerians into praise singers. Nigerians have found out that praise singing is one sure way through which they could benefit from the dividends of democracy. It is important to point out that the rise in poverty level in Nigeria has negatively impacted on the nation’s political culture. The few money-bags now find it very convenient to manipulate the electoral system and dictate who wins what
election. It is the electorates that hold the key to credible elections. As long as poverty is still widespread in Nigeria, the much talked about electoral reforms will make no much difference.
Tribalism is another source through which the culture of corruption is sustained in Nigeria. Owing to the deep tribal-coated nature of Nigerian politics, citizens are tempted to turn blind eyes when their tribesmen and women are involved in corrupt practices. This is where the issue of political will comes to play. For Nigeria to win the war against graft, the presidency must show strong political will by ensuring that the issue of “sacred cows” are eliminated in the fight against corruption. This is the only way the masses would develop confidence and support the anti-graft agencies. Let what is good for a thief be good for the rogue also.
One other lake that waters the roots of corruption in Nigeria is the nation’s wrong social orientation. Men are created naturally to be honoured and respected. Unfortunately, the contemporary Nigerian society no longer honour citizens based on their industry, intellect, or integrity. Men are now recognised based on their movable and immovable assets. That is the reason why a Nigerian would own a fleet of fifteen choice cars and build or buy castles in all major cities of the world. Up till now, no Nigerian citizen has been conferred with national honour for not dipping hands into government purse while in office. How can Nigeria win the battle against corruption when citizens that refuse to steal public funds are ridiculed and labelled either as dullards or fools? The Nigerian society is never polite, patient, or sympathetic with honest people. Except some practical actions are taken to encourage sound moral values in society, the war against
corruption will suffer severe blows.
But above all, the nation’s anti-graft legislations should be designed to make corruption unattractive. Nigeria would therefore need legislations that would compel citizens to live within their verifiable means. Let it be unlawful for any one (citizen and foreigner) to spend or invest up to N3m and above without disclosing the sources of the money. Furthermore, the nation’s anti-corruption legislations should also be strict about tax crimes. It is a known fact that a lot of Nigerians do not pay taxes and thereby robbing government of huge revenues. The war against corruption in Nigeria would experience a big boost if citizens are compelled by legislations to live within their means. Government must however do well to improve on the delivery of public infrastructure and utilities.
The proposed anti-graft legislation should require every person (citizen or foreigner) in Nigeria that wants to spend or invest up to N3m and above to swear to an affidavit in a competent law court, stating sources of the money. Certified true copy of the sworn affidavit and tax clearance certificate should then be filed with an appropriate anti-graft agency for record purposes. Immediately following this, the anti-graft agency will issue a Confirmation Certificate with a unique number. This should be the only condition upon which any person (citizen or foreigner) can spend or invest up to N3m and above in Nigeria. It should also be an offence for any individual or business organisation to sell or lease properties, machineries, or materials worth N3m and above without causing the buyer/leaseholder to disclose the anti-corruption agency’s Confirmation Certificate Number, which shall be written out clearly in the payment receipt voucher.
This arrangement will make the job of the anti-corruption agencies easier and faster too. While all of these may not completely eradicate corruption in Nigeria, it will definitely help make the culture of graft unattractive. Nigeria will be better for it.
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