Alex O. Atawa-Akpodiete
What exactly is corruption and who is corrupt? Yes the dictionary defines corruption as “rottenness, putrid matter, impurity, bribery.” Additionally, section 2 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) Act (2000) states that “Corruption includes bribery, fraud and other related offences.” However, how does the average Nigerian define corruption?
I had a discussion a few days ago with a cousin concerning someone who we suspected looted funds from where he was working. My relative stated that the man has not done anything wrong because the man in question has a large heart and has helped so many people with “his” money. He went further to ask me whether God does not allow people to profit from their position and whose rights did the man violate. The mythical Robin Hood was famous for stealing from the rich to help the poor. So, I guess my cousin’s hero was justified for stealing from the government to help people. It is classical situational ethics or “the end justifies the means” analysis. Dishonesty, stealing, fraud, corruption, or whatever name we call it, is wrong; no matter what good you use the ill-gotten money to do.
I have always opined that eradication of corruption is a basic human rights for all Nigerians. Although corruption is rampant in today’s Nigeria, corruption is not new to our society. It has been a problem in Nigeria, even before independence with Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo accused of corruption. In 1943 Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Saduana of Sokoto was accused by his own cousin Alhaji Abubakar Saddique of misappropriating tax revenue as District head of Gussau. The allegations were found to be true. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the subject of corruption allegations in 1962. A panel of inquiry was set up, at the instance of the NCNC chief whip of the Eastern House of Assembly Mr. E. O. Eyo, into improper investment of two million pounds of government funds when Zik was the Premier. The allegations were affirmed. The Southwest was not exempt because in 1962, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was accused of diverting Western Region government funds to his political party while opposition leader. Mr. Justice George Coker panel apparently sustained the allegations.
I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Muhammadu Jibril when he stated that, “in order to avoid the total collapse of the Nigerian state which corruption is accelerating, all patriots must come together and fight it, for if we fail to do so the inevitable anarchy that will follow will consume us all.” I echoed it in the Preface to my book called “Financial Crimes Law & Fraud Management.
EFCC Chairman Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) states in its Handbook for Anti-Corruption Revolution (ANCHOR) Partnership that “Corruption has been identified by experts and stakeholders as the greatest impediment to good governance and development in Nigeria.” Furthermore, we know that Corruption has underdeveloped Nigeria. It deters private (foreign and domestic) investment and thus, growth and poverty reduction. See UNDP Summary Human Development Report Nigeria 2008-2009.
If President Muhammadu Buhari wants to develop Nigeria, he must fight corruption because economic growth and poverty reduction cannot be achieved in an environment of corruption. He must keep to his campaign promises and prosecute all looters of our national treasury. Also corruption deters foreign investment. If there is to be any fruit from the visit to America and meeting with investors, we must tackle corruption. To eliminate corruption, leaders must lead by example. So, in the upcoming ministerial appointments, the President should endeavour as much as possible, to appoint only those that have not been tainted with corruption.
NEPAD Nigeria (2007:5) stated that “corruption is a huge challenge in the public administration in Nigeria. It is at the core of the crisis of governance, the establishment of a stable democratic order, rule of law, development and the welfare of citizens.” The Former Minister of Education, Late Professor Babatunde Fafunwa puts it best as follows: “Name any problem we have in this country and I will tell you that corruption is the root cause. If there is a plane crash, car crash, bad road, poor health facilities, bad economy, insecurity, bad education, corruption is at the root of all these challenges and we must kill corruption before it kills us.”
Also, the National Vision 20 2020 realizes that “Eradication of Corruption” must be part of its strategic framework. See Nigerian Vision 20:2020, Economic Transformation Blueprint, p. 14, Figure 1.1, September 2009. In other words, we must put in place structures to eliminate corruption.
Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), deals with Code of Conduct for Public Officers. Section 1 states that “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.” While Section 6 states that “(1) A public officer shall not ask for or accept property or benefits of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties. (2) for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph, the receipt by a public officer of any gifts or benefits from commercial firms, business enterprises or persons who have contracts with the government shall be presumed to have been received in contravention of the said sub-paragraph unless the contrary is proved.” Another relevant section is Section 8, which warns that “No persons shall offer a public officer any property, gift or benefit of any kind as an inducement or bribe for the granting of any favour or the discharge in his favour of the public officer’s duties.”
Comparatively, US Title 18 § 201(b) deals with bribery of public officials and clearly punishes anyone who “directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or entity, with intent— to influence any official act. “ Also, articles 15 & 18 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and Article 8 of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) both shed light on the global understanding on corruption. It includes unfair advantage, trading in influence and illicit enrichment.
Hon .Justice Emmanuel O. Ayoola, CON, JSC (Rtd), Former Chairman, ICPC states that “unless corruption is brought to its knees, the Nigerian nation may manage some sort of existence but it will be as a sick and grossly retarded nation.”
Nigeria must be healed of the disease called corruption. It is an albatross that will drown the nation, if not eradicated. As another slogan goes, let us kill corruption before it kills Nigeria.
Rev. (Prof.) Atawa-Akpodiete, a public Affairs Analyst, lives in Okpanam. Contact him on 08138391661 or Profatawa@gmail.com.