By Adeayo Adebiyi
Corruption in Nigeria is a topic that needs no definition nor introduction, it is a regular on the national dailies and not a single day goes by that our radios do not remind us of just how corrupt every aspect of our society is.
It would be rather academic to discuss how badly corruption has contaminated every aspect of our society, and it is only more depressing to go over statistical analysis that shows how corruption has impoverished over half the population of a country so blessed that if not for corruption ought to be living in abundance. In an attempt to understand and eliminate corruption, diverse factors have been fingered to be causes of corruption, most often ‘poverty’ and ‘greed’ always topping the list. However, while greed might be considered a strong factor for corruption, when critically considered poverty on the other hand is more likely a result of corruption rather than an instigating factor.
Understanding the plague of corruption in Nigeria in contra distinction to other advanced countries who have successfully reduced corruption to its barest minimum, a lot of factors can be put forward for the lack of tangible result in Nigeria’s anti corruption crusade. These factors include poverty, greed, illiteracy, poor governance and lack of commitment in the war against corruption by both the government and the citizens. All these factors are one which have been noted by successive governments in their fight against corruption, however, despite this knowledge corruption persists.
The unproductive struggle in the fight against corruption needs to serve as a call for the re-evaluation of the approach adopted in fighting corruption. If the fight against corruption is to yield any result, the factors that have continually undermined the struggle need to be adequately addressed. Currently Nigeria is suffering from a political and structural deficiency that makes the fight against corruption almost unattainable. These factors very rarely come up on the list of causes of corruption, however they are the bedrock under which corruption has flourished and persisted. These factors include;
POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF THE COUNTRY: The federal system of government practiced in Nigeria is in fact a disgrace to the concept of true federalism, the current structure obtainable in Nigeria is very cumbersome and makes transparency very difficult. Nigeria operates a government far too large when compared to other advanced countries that practice the same style of government. The United States of America for example operates a government of 15 departments in contrast to Nigeria’s 30. The reduplication of ministries at all levels of government makes transparency difficult, this deficiency also makes it easier for public officers to loot and divert public fund under the guise of numerous departments and parastatals, and it becomes increasingly difficult for anti graft agencies to discover and effectively block this loopholes. If the fight against corruption will be achieved then it is necessary that the current system be restructured in order to avoid reduplication and the huge recurrent budget it takes to run such a cumbersome system of government.
Likewise, having a smaller government with the right level of autonomy will lead to efficiency, transparency and accountability. Furthermore, the anti graft agencies will be able to effectively carry out its duties and easily discover the loopholes used in corrupt practices.
CONSTITUTIONAL LAPSE: Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution provides immunity against both civil and criminal prosecution for a sitting President and his Vice, and also for the Governor of a state as well as his deputy. The provisions of this section is in itself an enabling clause for what was described as “official corruption” by Femi Falana (SAN). The existence of section 308 in the Nigerian constitution is a backward step and a show of lack of commitment to the anti corruption struggle by the government. This is so because very little can be done to stop corruption under a Constitution that shield corrupt sitting executives from the wrath of the law for as long as 8 years, during which time evidences would have been destroyed and the case swept under the carpet. As a matter of fact no country with a strong resolve to fighting corruption will retain such repugnant section that undermines transparency, accountability and the rule of Law. If the Nigerian government is to show that it is indeed committed to fighting the menace of corruption it is of utmost necessity that section 308 be tossed out of the constitution in order to put an end to the continuous mockery of transparency, accountability and the notion of equality before the Law that the constitution represents.
Absence of capital punishment: Both the EFCC and the ICPC acts all provide for various prison terms for persons found guilty of corruption however this has done very little in tackling the menace of corruption. This punishment are largely insignificant compared to the crime and it as done very little in curbing corruption. An example of such insignificant punishment is that of Sam Omateseye, the ex NIMASA boss jailed for five years for a contract scam of 1.5 billion naira. If corruption is to be defeated the punishment for the offense should be such that would dissuade public officers from engaging in the act and adopting the death penalty will be a strong way in ridding the public offices of corruption. This strategy had been adopted and is still operated in some countries who have in some point in their history battled the menace of corruption. The death penalty was used by China and Indonesia in eliminating corruption and it has so far worked in reducing corruption to the barest minimum in both countries. With the level of corruption that currently plagues Nigeria, it is necessary that extreme measures be adopted in the fight against corruption. Imposing the death penalty will not only reduce corruption it will also show the commitment to the war against corruption that no government have so far displayed.
Conclusively in the words of President Muhammadu Buhari “if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us’ and If Nigeria must kill the menace of corruption that currently plagues the nation, more serious and notable steps must be taken to address the factors that have continually defeated the anti corruption battle. This is necessary because fighting an anti corruption war without addressing these factors is like administering CPR to a dead patient.
Adeayo Adebiyi writes from the faculty of Law Obafemi Awolowo University