On Nigeria And Buhari’s Anti-Graft War, By Usama Dandare
No question that in Nigeria unlike other similarly corrupt-ridden countries, the costs of corruption is much more higher: this is because in Nigeria, corruption doesn’t only exists as an act but widely accepted as a norm and a way of life. Studies have shown that corruption is the basis for poor pay to civil servants and workers, weak healthcare delivery, lack of standard education, unemployment of young people, unavailability of infrastructure.
Transparency International reports that statistical analysis of data from 42 countries show that where more bribes are paid, there is a lower literacy rate among 15 to 24-year-olds. A rise in reported bribery is also associated with higher maternal deaths regardless of a country’s wealth or how much it invests in health. Data for 51 countries shows that people’s access to safe drinking water falls as bribery increases.
The effects of bribery in the education, water and healthcare sectors represent the implicit costs of corruption. Corruption ‘taxes’ basic services beyond the reach of the poor. Corruption results in the deviation of funds intended for development. It undermines government’s ability to provide basic services. It also undermines the rule of law, feeding inequality and injustice. Nigeria is perhaps the leading route where stolen public funds are being transported out of Africa.
In the last six years alone under the stewardship of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria witnessed a blazing period of monumental corruption and a blatant rape on its treasury than ever in the history of man.There is no department, no ministry that can be said to be free of corruption under Jonathan, there was nowhere that fraud does not take place on a daily basis.
Several multi-billion dollar scandals in the oil industry highlighted the scale of corruption during the Jonathan presidency: these included the failure of the national oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to remit $18.5 billion in oil revenues to the national treasury between January 2012 and July 2013; diversion by NNPC of at least $3.4 billion of the aforementioned funds to a non-existent kerosene subsidy scheme; and the loss of 84.8 million barrels of oil in 2013 at a cost of $6.7 billion through “bunkering” or organized theft by Niger Delta terrorists in collaboration with senior politicians and security officers (see Sanusi 2015; Wallis 2015).
Three broader and more insidious trends illustrate the catastrophic scale of corruption in contemporary Nigeria. These are: (i) the increasing legalization of fraud and criminality through formal schemes and laws that pay outrageous allowances, security votes, and pensions to legislators, governors, or former governors; (ii) the entrenchment of a culture of official secrecy and lack of transparency regarding the financial operations of government; and (iii) the subordination, manipulation and corruption of the institutions that have been established to combat the country’s pervasive corruption.
These corrupt practices and more have been aided by persistent denial to make government financial status public: a clear example is the continuous refusal by the National Assembly to make its budgetary transactions public, despite pressure from civic groups and the general public, to an extent of appealing a federal high court order challenging them to disclose details of the huge constituency allowances they quarterly received, in a clear repudiation of the Freedom of Information Act. A similar scenario surrounds the financial operations of our state and local governments.
Further ex-raying the monumental national threats posed by corruption is the pitiful state of the nation’s anti-graft institutions, the judicial system, and law enforcement agencies: the judiciary in particular is relatively weak, overburdened, compromised, amputated, and unfocused, thus transforming judicial officers into foot soldiers of impunity and obstacles to effective anti-corruption reform. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), despite executing several high-profile anti-corruption cases, is more or less toothless and burdened by incompetence and lack of independence, making the commission functions as a tool of presidential intimidation, victimization and retaliation. The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on the other hand is relatively more politically insulated and statutorily empowered than the EFCC, it has often “been consistently hobbled by lethargic and deeply conservative leadership” (Human Rights Watch 2011, 48). While the Code of Conduct Bureau (CBC) and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) have been rendered ineffectual by the failure of the National Assembly to enact a constitutionally required law to prescribe retributions for failure to make assets declarations available for public inspection.
With the spate of an unimaginable increase in corruption over the years, which I think has been genetically insiminated in the chromosomal composition making up the anatomy of the Nigerian system. One should expect a tough challenge in combating the menace of corruption, as in the case of today. Buhari’s anti-graft war is perhaps facing huge challenges as it gathers more impetus by the day: the fracture of the alliance between the Presidency and the National Assembly leadership didn’t only highlighted the weaknesses of the APC as a party but also posed a monumental obstacle to the renewed fight against corruption. The fight against corruption cannot be meaningfully and strongly pursued with a weak alliance to this extent, because corruption is a strong adversary having several desperate adherents.
Despite these challenges, President Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts are yielding positive results; Nigeria is now gradually regaining it’s lost values both at home and abroad. The private jets that used to crowd our airports have been grounded and their wings clipped as the thieving elites have no sources of siphoning public funds to maintain air fleets. Exotic vehicles, luxury villas and several other luxury items are now gathering dust unsold as those capable of purchasing them are no longer in the position to divert taxpayers hard earned wealth into personal belongings. President Muhammadu Buhari has also squeezed the flow of public funds in an effort to strengthen the nation’s economy, he has put many public projects on hold to review the contracts, and ordered MDAs to consolidate their bank accounts (TSA) for closer monitoring of financial transactions and has overhauled the management of the state oil company, while also moving to retrieve stolen money. And with recent plethora of arrests and prosecution of high profile figures over corrupt pracrices, one needs no rocket science to believe President Buhari means business.
On the contrary, the ongoing crackdown on corruption seems to have focused more on treating the symptoms than treating the cause. In other words, President Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade is only focusing on bringing to book those involved in corrupt practices while ignoring to systematically diagonise and treat the main genesis why Nigerians get involved in corruption. Albeit the nature and causes of corruption in this part of the world are much more complicated to single out but there are some glaring factors on ground, this is because the way and manner in which Nigerians patronise corruption in their daily lives have already solved the puzzle of identifying which type of corruption is perhaps rooting the Nigerian system today. What we have in this country today is more or less a “corruption of need”, resulting from a dysfunctional political and economic system as peculiar to underdeveloped or developing countries like Nigeria; It is a corruption of survival that emerges from our daily trade-off between a patriotic desire to obey seemingly good laws, and a deeper, natural, instinct for self-preservation from the unjustifiable adverse effects of the system.
The corruption of need is the corruption of our daily lives: “from negotiating a bribe with the (poorly paid) policeman to avoid lateness for work, to reconnecting your electricity line illegally (because “NEPA” wants to frustrate you)” as a friend put it. This is the corruption that destroys us, it always exist when the price of honesty far outweighs the retributions for corruption. And it is this corruption of need that any serious Nigerian leader like Buhari ought to tackle first and I believed he will because he has all it takes to do that. But it is tasking, because the corruption of need stems directly from the nature and design of the political and economic system in which it flourishes. In an economy like ours where the government owns and controls all land, minerals, and other resources of production, the corruption of need must emerge. Also, in a political system like ours where all policymaking power is concentrated in the central government leaving local authorities with little or no relevance, the corruption of need must emerges. And in a political system where the economy relies on the government’s budget and the government’s budget does not have to rely on the economy, then the corruption of need will necessarily emerge. In an economic system where almost 70% of the revenue from economic resources goes into maintaining the government, then the corruption of need will necessarily emerge.
The Buhari anti-corruption war will only succeed if the fundamental issues that breed corruption are properly addressed, the average Nigerian has developed a very strong alleles for corruption over time and it is only by surgically removing that chromosomal unit that the war on corruption will achieve success. Nigerians have over the years developed what i considered a “mania for corruption” which justifies or birthed excuses for corrupt practices.
To succeed, there’s an urgent need for a total overhaul of the federal and state civil/public service being them the bedrock for productivity and the most important institutions in nation building. The civil/public service is the most corruption prune institutions where almost all the corrupt practices are being perpetrated; the civil service most importantly have been a focal point for long whenever the name “corruption” is mention. Staff salaries and welfare need to be upgraded to meet contemporary challenges, by so doing, corruption and bribery will become somewhat unattractive and will reduce to its minimal level. You cannot be paying ₦49,585.20 monthly to a senior federal civil servant and expect him to pay his children’s school fees, medical bills, pay rent in Abuja, feed his family and transport himself to office daily without looking for additionally sources of income which definitely must come through illegal means at work, since it’s unconstitutional for civil servants to go into business while in service. This may sounds strange but it’s actually real, an officer on grade level 08/2 working in any federal ministry goes home every month with just ₦49,585.20 (less than $200 or thereabouts).
A five-tier collaboration should also be build to overcome the endemic corruption hunting our existence as a nation: Involving political parties; the media including online media which have carried out strong anti-corruption campaigns in recent times; educational institutions at all levels; traditional and religious institutions and most importantly, the general public. Political parties has a very important role to play, they must change party rules and policies that encourage stealing, misappropriation, arrogance display of wealth, illegal acquisition of assets, unexplained wealth, and politicking with anti-corruption policies and agencies.
The Buhari administration must urgently implement critical reforms to strengthen and professionalize our demoralised and dysfunctional anti-graft institutions: which would involve promoting legislation and reforms that guarantee a total independence to anti-graft agencies free from interference by outside influence, and separate the appointment of anti-graft officials from partisan politics. Such reforms should also target the judiciary. Ultimately, a sustainable and viable anti-corruption strategy will requires the dissolution or reformation of the political and economic structures of our dysfunctional system. Nigerians should on their own part support the government’s anti-graft policies and get involve in the war against corruption. It was never easy for those leader that fought a hard won battle against corruption in developed nations, it is not easy for those fighting it today and will never be easy for those aspiring to fight it in the near future. To confront corruption, it takes imagination, innovation and persuasive charisma, It requires a working knowledge of how to structure a productive economy, and also required broader changes in the architecture of economic management and constitutional governance. Gladly, President Muhammadu Buhari is doing it, let’s all join hands and eradicate the number lethal killer of our national development.
Usama Dandare, a social commentator writes from Sokoto. You can reach him on mail via [email protected] or on twitter @osadaby