By Jide Ojo
The corruption epidemic in Nigeria is real. The challenge is very endemic and it has permeated every sector and strata of the society. The contestation now is about which sector is most corrupt, not the one untainted by the malaise. When Transparency International released its 2019 Corruption Perception Index and reported that Nigeria has slipped two steps from 144 in 2018 to 146 in 2019, our Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, as well as anti-corruption agencies, namely, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, issued strong statements to rebut TI’s report.
Unhappy with Nigeria’s rating on TI’s corruption perception index, Malami, condemned the 2019 CPI, stating that there was no evidence to back the country’s rating. On his part, the acting spokesman of the EFCC, Tony Orilade, punctured Nigeria’s poor rating on the index, questioning the bogus and ambiguous criteria that TI used to arrive at what it described as a “jaundiced and illogical rating.”
The ICPC in a statement also accused TI of not recognising President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort in the fight against corruption. According to the anti-crime agency, there is an increase in the number of cases filed in courts and jail terms against persons found to be corrupt.
What these people and institutions do not know, or choose to ignore, is that despite their yeoman’s efforts at curbing the ugly phenomenon, the crime is not abating. Instead, it is increasing.
Sadly, even among the anti-corruption agencies themselves, corruption is pervasive. The police and courts, for instance, are supposed to be anti-corruption institutions, but they have been fingered by many researches as leading in terms of bribery and corruption.
In August 2017, acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, during an interactive session with journalists in Abuja, admitted that some members of the staff of the commission were corrupt. He was quoted as saying, “Recently, we had to discharge about nine cadet officers because they have problems with their certificates from various institutions. We are also prosecuting a lot of officers. Some of them are already in court.”
Could you believe that spiritual corruption is also thriving in Nigeria? Many of our religious leaders are using their knowledge of the Holy Books to exploit and plunder their congregation. False prophesies and visions are being peddled in order to milk worshippers. Endless contributions that are unaccounted for are sought and proceeds from these solicitations are mismanaged. An outright pilfering of church fund by respected church leaders and administrators was reported by the founder of the Living Faith Church, better known as Winners Chapel, Bishop David Oyedepo, last month.
“We had no choice but to dismiss them. You can imagine top church officials engaging in doubling figures and other dubious practices. After we dismissed them, we discovered more fraud. Those who should discover the fraud were the ones involved in it. One of them refused to confess until the last minute. Can you imagine accountants perpetrating fraud in the house of God?”Oyedepo said.
Truth be told, there is enough evidence to show that corruption has assumed an epidemic dimension in Nigeria. Just last week, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation said the nation lost about $750 million to oil theft in 2019 alone. The NNPC Group Managing Director, Malam Mele Kyari, reportedly disclosed this in a statement signed by the Acting Spokesman for the corporation Mr Samson Makoji in Abuja.
Kyari said this when members of the Executive Intelligence Management Course 13 of the National Institute for Security Studies visited him at the NNPC Towers. How could the nation have lost such a large sum of money to oil theft, if there were no corrupt elements aiding and abetting these economic saboteurs? Imagine the negative impact of this leakage on our economy.
Last August, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported that the US authorities had charged 80 people, most of whom were “Nigerian nationals”, with participating in a conspiracy to steal several millions of dollars. They were accused of using business email fraud schemes and romance scams to con victims – many of them elderly. This Internet scam is what we call 419 in the local parlance.
The FBI reportedly started investigating the case in 2016 in a single bank account, but it later extended to cover multiple victims in the US and around the world. All the 80 defendants have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money and aggravated identity theft, the US Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California said in a press release.
There are many push factors that have made many Nigerians to get involved in grand or petty corruption. They include unemployment, poverty, peer pressure, non-payment of workers salary and other emoluments as and when due, loss of moral values, weak anti-corruption laws, inadequate funding of anti-corruption agencies, lack of diligent prosecution of suspects and impunity. Until these triggers are dealt with, our anti-corruption crusade will be like shelling maize at the back of a calabash or attempting to use sieve to store rainwater. Even if these factors are addressed, corruption won’t be wiped out. However, the phenomenon will be reduced to the barest minimum.
I’ve said time and again that it is the environment that promotes corruption that we need to deal with in order to win the war against this cankerworm, which has exposed our citizens to international opprobrium. Once the atmosphere for self-actualisation pervades the country with ordinary citizens being able to afford the basic things of life, namely, food, clothing and shelter without stress, majority of the citizens will shun corruption and embrace decent life.
Otherwise, if the aforementioned push factors are thriving, not even death sentence will scare people away from engaging in corrupt practices. The truth is that self-preservation is the first law of nature and as the saying goes, “water must find its level”.
Not many people are long suffering as to wait endlessly for miracle jobs or enduring persistent hunger pangs. Non-payment of workers remuneration and entitlements of retirees is a recipe for corruption. Watching politicians live in opulence, while majority of Nigerians live in misery, triggers the people’s ingenuity to make money by hook or crook and when the attorney general and minister of justice files a nolle prosequi to discontinue the prosecution of VIPs indicted for corrupt practices, based on political expediency, it gives room to a culture of impunity, which reminds many Nigerians of George Orwell’s classic novel, ‘Animal Farm’ where all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.
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