Corruption Galore And Equity
from Guardian, May 03, 2005
Magistrate, the late Mrs. Okunuga once declared: "It seems that people nowadays
find it a source of joy to commercialise crime of all sorts in order to achieve
fame in society". This was over 30 years ago, one is reminded of this statement
in the light of EFCC's arrest and taking to court the Inspector General of
Police Mr. Tafa Balogun. It is very much heart-rending that the Head of the
Police force in Nigeria was caught for corruption. He has allegedly stolen over
N13 billion of public money.
What I want to
emphasise is that corruption has become endemic in Nigeria and what are the
causes or are we so criminogenic that we cannot as a society eliminate the virus
completely or at least reduce it to a minimum? Some years ago an English judge
was asked: "What was the causes of crime?" He said: "It was greed, lust and
cruelty. And cruelty is getting more common nowadays". What explanation can we
put forward for the rampant and vicious corruption as to lead to us being
described as the second most corrupt country in the world except cruelty?
explanation of crime was given by Professor Durhkeim the chief propounder of the
theory of normlessness (anomie). He believes that crime is a social artifact, a
phenomenon deeply grounded in the structure of the society and not merely due to
the deeply grounded idiosyncrasies of individual citizens in the structure of
society consequently, personality factors or character though important are of
less importance. In my view normlessness has prevailed in Nigeria.
The military for
all their reign have spread national disregard for the laws of the land,
national ethos are absent, consequently there is no stand of any type. They have
made society to be normless; this is why national looting of public money
persists and the laws of the land breached. There is no moral leadership of any
type. In the words of Professor Mays, "No standard is available, the attitude
seems to be let us unite with our illegal practices and divide the spoils with
agreed shares with all racketeers and nobody gets hurt". What then is left for
us to do?
administration was so perturbed by corruption that he promised to enact an
anti-corruption decree. This was never done. An inquiry revealed that most of
his governors were corrupt. In a public declaration General Gowon exclaimed
about corruption in Nigeria and that "they used their positions to terrify,
cheat, falsify and embezzle. In all honesty, our country has never had it so
bad". Mr. Sunday Adewusi, the former Inspector General of Police, in a lecture
delivered in early 1974 declared most pungently, "some public officers have a
natural propensity to be dishonest in the performance of their duties. Quite
disheartening to note that some have this odious slogan "nothing goes for
nothing". There is no doubt that many of our compatriot citizens have a huge
revulsion against the vice, but there are some few who are deeply and
veritoriously committed to corruption and its brother bribery."
A former Governor
of Kano State, Audu Bako has asserted that there is nothing wrong with bribery
because they were pleasant tips. For a Governor this was a high-faluting pride.
There was a public outcry of unparalleled dimension. This governor has given his
imprimatur to the crime of corruption. Under our criminal code, corruption is a
crime and is punishable with a sentence of imprisonment ranging from between six
months and 14 years depending on the nature of corruption, but few offences have
been prosecuted under the law.
Under the codes it
is an offence for any person to corruptly ask, receive or obtain or agree or
attempt to receive or obtain any property or benefit of any kind for himself or
any other person on account of anything already done or omitted to be done by
him in the discharge of his office. The EFCC and ICPC laws are additional to
these laws. But in spite of these, the public servants are beyond belief.
Members of parliament, ministers, and sundry workers live in a world of their
own. They are all dregs. Then Tafa Balogun and other ministers' cases are a
profound testimony that we have ascended the zenith of corruption in our land.
Judges are also involved. A hearing or other process of court may reach your
opponent's hand while you do not get nor own. One can easily count the honest
persons in the whole country's public service.
Our principle of
the law of equity is totally ignored. Public property belongs to the citizen. It
can only be disposed if the President who is the representative of the people so
orders. Public servants can only purchase if the president orders such purchase
for any reason of national interest.
Under our law, all
public servants are trustees of the citizen's properties. They are under an
obligation to exercise the duty of care in the handling of public property. They
cannot purchase these properties; they are under a duty of accountability. If
they purchase then there is a presumption of undue influence around their
conduct. If these properties are offered to them, they have the duty to reject
such offer except the President who is a representative of the people approves
of it. In the allocation of property case, those who purchased exceeded their
authority. A bigger question is: how did they get the billions with which they
purchased the properties? There is a need for government to probe them to the
depth. They have breached the rule of equity.
their behaviour is reprehensible to the hilt. Section 13 of our constitution
declares as follows "it shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of
government and of all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive
or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this
chapter of the constitution.
Section 17(c) declares "government actions shall be humane". There is a duty to
comply with these provisions of our constitution if progress is to be made.
Section 13 speaks of the duty and responsibility of governments, organs and
persons to comply with this provision of the constitution. Public servants are
in flagrant breach of this constitution and according to section 17 of the
constitution their conducts are not human. It is properly legitimate for
government to ask them to return the properties, which was acquired in breach of
the law of equity and the provisions of the constitution. We shall not advance
if corruption is so widespread in our society.