Corruption Galore And Equity

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Corruption Galore And Equity
 

By

 

Olu Onagoruwa

 

 

culled from Guardian, May 03, 2005

 

 

A Chief 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?

 

Another 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?

 

The Gowon 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.

 

Constitutionally, 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.

 

Another section, 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.

 

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