Very recently, Transparency
International (TI) came out again with its TI Corruption Perceptions Index.
Were it not for strife-torn Haitimercifully coming in between us and Bangladesh,
remained the second most corrupt nation again to Bangladesh. [The apocryphal story that Bangladeshbeing bribed by Nigeriafor the bragging rights of being first shall remain that –
So we have
Haitito thank for your Nigeria’s marginal improvement in the perception of corruption
However, this time around,
Nigeria’s official reaction to the TI news was charged, with high
pique. Even though President Obasanjo was once a founding and board member of
TI (winning much of his international acclaim from his association with that
body); even though our Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was once a
Vice-President of the World Bank (which traditionally gave the Index a wink and
a nod in prodding nations towards greater transparency and accountability),
Nigeria, through Okonjo-Iweala vehemently protested (“slammed ” was the Nigerian
press word) the unimproved rating, and trotted out an “expert’s” report to
discredit the well-respected index.
We are indeed a wonderful
nation trying to deny the undeniable. Here is our nation in which “4-1-9” still
rampages. Only last month, I got a “4-1-9” letter through my Howard University
fax from one “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala” – I have scanned the letter as an attachment
to this essay, to fulfill all righteousness.
The letter was not even
addressed specifically to me, being the only Nigerian in my department’s staff,
it was silently put in my mail box by either the Secretary or Chair of the
department. I did not bother to ask who. They probably think that I do indeed
make millions from my trips back and forth to
Nigeria, so are not
fazed by such high sums of monies in faxes sent to me.! I wish :-) .
While many perpetrators of
4-1-9 have been arrested – and despite the commendable job being done by the
young man Nuhu Ribadu at Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) - no
one of the perpetrators of this heinous financial crime that I have read of has
been jailed in Nigeria for that awful crime.
This is a country in which
despite years of trying to get ID cards, the money has been “chopped”
endlessly. When not too long ago one set of big fishes was caught in December
2003, with former Internal Minister Chief SM Afolabi (and senior friend of the
President) at the head of the shoal, we all breathed a sigh of relief, saying
“Let us see what will come of this.” But since Afolabi died six months ago in
May 2004, nothing more has been heard of the case – or have you?
Here is a nation in which a
WHOLE SHIP - not a canoe oh, a whole ship of length of about 150 meters (about
450 feet), width of about 25 meters (about 75 feet) mid-section height of
about 12 meters (about 36 feet); with gross tonnage of 12,646 tonnes and
deadweight (DWT) tonnage of 16,370 tonnes - vanished right under the noses of
the entire navy. [A fully loaded ship would have a total weight of gross + DWT,
DWT being roughly the maximum weight of content that it could transport, e.g.
Lloyds Register Description of
the “MT African Pride”
Three NAVY ADMIRALS are on
trial right now, and we are being regaled in open court by service men under
their control about how they were “taken care of” with N250,000 to N1 million,
and how postings were moved around in strange manners to ensure that when the
ship left port surreptitiously, “o di gbere ni yen !”, ( roughly translated
“That’s it folks!”) as the Yoruba would say!.
Yet the ordinary people do not
see the effect, while we are being urged daily by the federal government to wait
patiently for the fruits of some phantom liberalization and IMF/World-Bank-induced
“reforms”. Yet we are regaled with the excesses of our Section 308-protected
executive governors, an example being governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State,
who has been rightly returned as governor of that state (after an
unconstitutional suspension for six months), but who will probably be wrongly
retained despite the outrageous and un-denied charges of corruption against him:
The Case Against Dariye
(Two Letters from President Obasanjo and from the
Attorney General Olujinmi)
We wait to see how this
particular case will pan out.
What about disclosures of
Halliburton bribing officials in Nigeria? They are all over the news from Franceto the UKto the US, but in the Nigeriawhere the briberies were transacted, the news is discussed in
hushed tones, and no pictures of the primary bribe-takers have been circulated.
This is a nation where both the
President and Vice-President, while in office oh, establish
private universities of their own – BellsUniversityfor the President and ABTI /AmericanUniversity. Nothing corrupt per se about that, but propriety demands
that they should have waited until AFTER their term was over, while doing ALL
that they could to improve the lot of the existing public universities under
their watch. While scratching our heads as to how they get all the money, we
only mercifully found out recently, courtesy the president himself, that the
his chicken farm at Ota earns N30 million per month ($250,000) – profit unknown,
profit taxes paid to the coffers of government unknown, the president’s salary
from the farm unknown, which he should not be drawing anyway as President.
No wonder my Ekiti government
has embarked on state-wide poultry farming – but would that not be competing
with Ota Farms !
So we are now left to find out
how much the Vice-President also makes per month from his many businesses – and
also obtain the assets declaration of all those other public officials.
This is a nation where, in its
synoptic overview of the report of the Human Rights Violation Investigation
Commission (HRVIC, a.k.a Oputa Panel) submitted in May 2002, we read about
corruption in Nigeria’s public life as follows:
Nigerians agree that
corruption in public life, which was pronounced under military rule, has reached
alarmingly pandemic proportions, and should now be a matter of very serious and
pressing public policy concern. From the evidence, which the Commission
received, it is clear that the quest for political power personal enrichment was
largely the driving force for military interventions in politics. The military
tended to treat the state as a conquered territory and proceeded to treat the
proceeds of state as spoils of war to be shared among the members of the
military, the conquering forces of occupation.
This new “alarming pandemic
proportions” therefore makes it look as if the military never went away.
It all makes one want to
“holler,” in Black American vernacular !
Compatriots, one thing that we
must commend the present administration for – and why it had hoped that TI would
be more charitable in its most recent rating - is that there has been greater
news about official corruption in the country. But the sheer impunity of some
of them indicates that their perpetrators do not respect the ability of this
administration to contain them, and seem to know something that we do not know
that encourages their brazenness. [ I still have the image of that missing
ship in my consciousness !].
THE VARIOUS TYPES & HUMAN
SECTORS OF CORRUPTION
So what is the problem here ?
How and why does corruption persist in
Nigeria, and what
simple things can be done to combat it?
To discuss this vexing problem,
I have broken the Nigerian population into various human sectors.
(1)Impunity of Elected High Officials (EHOs)
From the President down to the
Governors down to Local Government Chairmen, impunity reigns in our land because
there is no official recourse to their lack of transparency and accountability.
In this regard, the Freedom of Information Bill which is going through the
National Assembly now must be quickly passed.
(i)Obtain the declared assets of officials, from the President all the way down,
force those who have not declared to do so, and remove from office forthwith
those who do not. What is the purpose of declaring assets “secretly” at the
Code of Conduct Bureau if the public – or those who have the right to know – do
not have access to them ?
(ii)Regular (quarterly, bi-annually and certainly annual) independent audits of
monies expended by our executives on behalf of the people. Looking at the
monies received by the federal, state and local governments is just
mind-boggling, and yet one would be hard-pressed to find any official and
independently verifiable audit report of the states. A requirement of putting
these financial reports on state websites – just as the Federal government is
commendably putting the revenue allocations themselves on there – should be
Finally, the systematic
“loot-ocracy” will never stop while Section 308 of our 1999 Constitution, which
grants blanket immunity to our 74 “Untouchables” exists – that is immunity from
civil and criminal prosecution of the President, Vice-President, the 36 State
Governors and the 36 Deputy-Governors.
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Constitution, but subject to
subsection (2) of this section –
civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against a person
to whom this section applies during his period of office;
person to whom this section applies shall not be arrested or imprisoned during
that period either in pursuance of the process of any court or otherwise; and
process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of a person to whom
this section applies, shall be applied for or issued:
Provided that in ascertaining whether any period of limitation has expired for
the purposes of any proceedings against a person to whom this section applies,
no account shall be taken of his period of office.
provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to civil
proceedings against a person to whom this section applies in his official
capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a
This section applies to a person holding the office of President or
Vice-President, Governor or Deputy Governor; and the reference in this section
to "period of office" is a reference to the period during which the person
holding such office is required to perform the functions of the office.
Mind you, this section is
identical in every respect and wording to Section 267 of the 1979
Constitution handed over by the Obasanjo military regime, and so it is not just
an Abacha contrivance as widely believed.
ICPC and EFCC and Due Process
notwithstanding, until and unless Section 308 is expunged from our Constitution,
the President has no moral right to question the impropriety of the state
governors, neither do the state governors have any right over the council
chairmen. This mutual blackmail was not lost to the assemblymen of
PlateauStatewhen it refused to investigate Governor Dariye at the
Plateau Speaker Lalong Writes
to the Attorney General Olujinmi on Governor Dariye
The National Assembly has the
power and obligation to commence the abrogation of this awful Section, unless
of course it want to continue to arrogate to itself “equal powers” to corruption
with the Executive. That would be in consonance only with MCP - the “Mutual
The dilemma is that one does
not simply see how this Section 308 will be changed or abrogated quickly without
an extra-constitutional measure – namely a Sovereign National Conference –
because of the onerous requirements for normal constitutional change built into
this particular 1999 Constitution. [In the following quotation, Section 8 refers
to state creation provisions, and Chapter IV refers to Fundamental Rights
National Assembly may, subject to the provision of this section, alter any of
the provisions of this Constitution.
Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this Constitution, not being
an Act to which section 8 of this Constitution applies, shall not be passed in
either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the
votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and
approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of
all the States.
Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of altering the provisions of this
section, section 8 or Chapter IV of this Constitution shall not be passed by
either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is approved by the
votes of not less than four-fifths majority of all the members of each House,
and also approved by resolution of the House of Assembly of not less than
two-third of all States.
the purposes of section 8 of this Constitution and of subsections (2) and (3) of
this section, the number of members of each House of the National Assembly
shall, notwithstanding any vacancy, be deemed to be the number of members
specified in sections 48 and 49 of this Constitution.
This is because one can expect
the present state governors to use all their powers to thwart the ability of
two-thirds of the state assemblies to approve such an amendment as required in
the Constitution. We might be stuck with this odious provision otherwise.
(2)Bribery and Un-elected Public Officials (UPOs)
Ministers demand bribes from
contractors before award, and give bribes to National Assemblymen to boost their
budgets. Permanent secretaries – ditto – all the way down to the messenger who
can “miss” your file if you don’t grease his or her palm. Customs officers
demand bribes to pass imports through that would otherwise draw taxes, or
outrightly seize such items and convert them to their use; airport officials
demand “tips”, admirals and lay-soldiers aid in bunkering our oil etc. The list
But prime among these UPOs are
the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and corrupt Judges. Emphasis must be laid on
these two categories, for if the law enforcement and judicial system of a
country is as corrupt as ours, there can be no hope for justice unless they are
In fact, to the ordinary
citizen, the oppressive corruption of the country is epitomized in the NPF that
harasses them constantly as they ply their routes, who take bribes from hapless
citizens in broad daylight, as they demand “Wetin you dey carry?” before letting
you pass, after obliging them with N100 or more.
In fact, in a survey of
public officials, households and enterprises commissioned by
Ministry of Finance and reported in Newswatch magazine in
December 2003, the six most corrupt government agencies out of thirty named were
identified as the Police, the National Electric Power Authority, the political
parties, executive arm, the National Assembly members and the courts. The
survey reported that 73.4 per cent of those polled among households rated the
integrity of the police as the lowest, while 67.9 per cent of government
officials rated the police as very dishonest. Only 8 per cent of households,
13.7 per cent of enterprises and 11.3 per cent of public officials rated the
police as being a little bit honest.
As to corrupt Judges, they seem
to abound in Nigeria, and the National Judicial Council (NJC) has punished a
number of them. Nevertheless, we still read daily of
head-shaking-and-scratching judgements. When for example, the evidences of the
previous conviction of a sitting governor James Ibori as provided by the
Inspector-General of Police and the convicting judge himself are deemed
unconvincing by another judge, does that not make you ask, ‘What the..?”
For a nation reputed to be one
of the most religious in the world, may we be reminded, at least the Christians
among us, that the Bible in verse after verse has nothing but contempt and
damnation for those who receive bribes to rule in favor of the guilty instead of
the innocent, who deny justice for filthy lucre, or those who extort.
In fact, the Encyclopedia of
Biblical and Christian Ethics defines bribery as "the bestowing of money or
favor upon a person who is in a position of trust (for example a judge or
government official) in order to pervert his judgment or corrupt his conduct."
On the other hand, extortion withholds justice and services that are rightly due
a person or that should be provided freely. Both the giver and the receiver of
the bribe are guilty.
In order as they appear in the
Bible, Deuteronomy 17:1 instructs judges: "Do not pervert justice or show
partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and
twists the words of the righteous." In Job 15:34, we read that :
"For the company of the godless will be barren, and fire will consume the
tents of those who love bribes". Psalm 62:10 counsels, "Do not
trust in extortion or take pride in stolen goods; though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them." Proverbs 27: says that, "A wicked
man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice."
Ecclesiastes 7:7 notes that, "Extortion turns a wise man into a fool,
and a bribe corrupts the heart." Isaiah says, "Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves;
they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the
fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them." Finally in
the New Testament, we read this solemn command: "I charge you, in the
sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions
without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism" (1 Timothy
I urge/trust that our Muslim
compatriots to/will find and quote similar verses from the Koran.
Obasanjo was once reported as angry about accusation of bribery in African
countries, saying that the West wrongly equated examples of gifts, tips, or
donations as bribery.
Well, for those who have a
moral dilemma as to whether a bribe might be regarded as any of those three
alternatives, I find no more persuasive instruction than the following:
A bribe can be distinguished
from all three alternatives. A gift is given in the context of a relationship to
express a feeling. Where no relationship is present, a gift appears out of
place. A bribe, however, is not an expression of relationship; it is an attempt
to exploit a person for selfish gain. A gift may be given secretly—perhaps out
of modesty—but secrecy is unnecessary. A bribe is concealed in the palm or given
in a plain envelope. Without secrecy it brings disgrace and possible legal
consequences. … The size of the bribe is equivalent to the task performed. A
gift may hope for reciprocation. A bribe requires it.
A bribe can also be
distinguished from a tip as well. A tip is known and consented to by the
employer. A bribe is hidden from the employer. This fits with the experience of
Richard Langston: "Tips are given openly and encouraged in the Philippines, while transactional bribes are usually given subtly." A
tip is for the proper performance of a job. A bribe causes a person to betray a
job. A tip is given as a small bonus to reward past service and influence future
service. A bribe is given in such a size that it creates an overriding
obligation to perform a task. A tip is given to low level employees. A bribe is
given to those with discretionary powers. A tip is optional. A bribe is
Bribes can also be
distinguished from donations. A donation is given openly and usually
acknowledged with a receipt. If the donation is large, public recognition may be
appropriate. A bribe, once again, is secret. A donation may seek to influence,
but a bribe creates an obligation.
Yes, the ICPC and EFCC have
been established – one for public official corruption and the other for private
economic corruption, but how many convictions have been obtained? No celebrated
one that I know of, and in fact we hear constant complaints from Justice Akanbi
of the ICPC and Nuhu Ribadu of the EFCC of funds shortage to carry out their
Until and unless ICPC/EFCC
obtain the jailing of 100 top UPOs, and until the NPF demands for bribes
ANYWHERE in our country is the rare exception rather than the norm, corruption
will continue to be seen as a cankerworm in our country.
(3)Usury and our Private Sector Officials (PSOs)
Banks and bankers are the
prime, and almost only suspects here: laundering money for crooks and oil
bunkerers; round-tripping foreign exchange; converting other people’s proposals
for their own gain; using female employees’ sexual favors to garner and maintain
fat accounts; giving low interest creditors and charging debtors high interest
usuriously – these are all the strikes against them.
The Failed Bank Decree was once
used effectively – some would say vindictively – during the Abacha regime to
frighten the banks into some form of shape. Prof. Charles Soludo, a
non-banker and economist, now at the helm of affairs at the Central Bank seems
to know about these problems as expressed in a major speech of July 6, 2004:
Consolidating the Nigerian
Banking Industry to Meet the Development Challenges of the 21st Century
One hopes that a new regime
against the corrupt excesses of our banks will be established. Public trust in
these banks is sorely needed to increase national savings and increase credit
(4)Confidence-Trickery/Cheating by our Teeming
Ordinary Citizens (TOCs)
The student who cheats in
examinations by bringing in answers to “disclosed” questions or getting somebody
else to sit the exam – notice WAEC and NECO canceling tens of thousands of
examination results for fraud; the university lecturer who demands sex for
grades, or money for handouts; the pastor who converts church money to private
funds, etc. – these are all blights in our system that must be stemmed head-on
by making examples of those who are caught. For example, students caught
cheating should not just have their results canceled, but should be jailed and
taught a lesson.
Perhaps the most vicious
“corruption” by some of our TOCs now is the 4-1-9variety
of confidence trickery, invented and patented in Nigeria. It is the equivalent of AIDs of international commerce
that afflicts our nation and has sapped international confidence in our
Until and unless 4-1-9 is
tackled head on by targeted “sting operations” and jailing the criminals –
rather than constantly blaming the (yes sometimes greedy) victims, our country
will be continue to be viewed as one of the most corrupt, and there will be
nothing that we can do about it.
One cannot legislate against
greed, which is the main cause of corruption, but one can work to both prevent
it and punish it.
Seriously working at asset
declaration, requirement for regular audits, eliminating Section 308, securing
high-officers convictions, eliminating NPF corruption, whipping our banks into
shape, and checking 4-1-9 are just several steps that will boost our
anti-corruption stance tremendously. Our government, EHOs, UPOs, PSOs and TCOs
should take note.
Poverty and fear of return to
poverty in old age, two other causes of temptation to corruption in our
country, must also be worked on in.
The above are my opinions, and
I am sticking with them.