Monday, 28 January 2008




Mu’azu Mohammed Yusif
Department of Political science,
Bayero University, Kano

Presented at a seminar Organized by the code of conduct Bureau, held in Jigawa 3 Star Hotel, Dutse, on 14th November, 2000

I have noted that the central theme of this Workshop/seminar is “combating corruption and moral Decadence in the Local Government Administration”. Since the country is now operating under a democratic constitution, with huge financial resources accruing to the Local Government Administrations, and so high expectation from the people, and yet no visible development can be seen in the Local Government Areas, at least in Jigawa state, it is most appropriate to discuss this issue.

The little contribution I am going to make in this seminar is on the subject of, corruption and its effects and how it can be controlled in Nigeria.

In recent years, with the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme, Mathew Parris has observed that “corruption has become an African epidemic. It is impossible to overstate the poisoning of human relations and the paralyzing of initiative that the corruption on the African scale bring”.

A recent report by the International Human Rights Organization came out with Nigeria taking the first position on the list of the most corrupt nations in the world. Indeed, in Nigeria, corruption is so rampant that it is worthless to talk of any person who is not corrupt. May be it is better to say who is more or less corrupt.

This reality of corruption in Nigeria posits a great challenge to any government or agency of government, which is determined to control and wipe out this evil to National progress.

This contribution is aimed at drawing the attention of the participant at this seminar on consequences of corruption and how to control it.

But, before going into all these we need to clarify what is corruption and the types of corruption. This is very essential because, in order to fight corruption we must understand what it is and what are its manifestations.

The word corruption has varied meanings defending on the political culture and civilization of the people. In many Nigerian communities a man or community of men can give or sent a gift to an officer, in appreciation of his good performance. This is called gaisuwa in Hausa. But in western culture, that is corruption. Likewise if you bend a rule or a procedure to favour somebody, although in western civilization may be defended as a discretionary power of the officer, which may be covered by the constitution, but in another legal procedure, that will be called a corrupt practice. In many cultures, including the Nigeria’s, corruption is reduced to taking money to give something of a public nature. It is far beyond that.

However, it is generally accepted that it involves inducement intended to pressure an official from carrying out his functions in accordance with the set rules and the procedures. It includes act of arrogation of benefits for oneself or ones friends and relatives to the detriment of the right or entitlement of others regarding the same or similar benefit. Thus, to be corrupt is to be opened to bribery and dishonesty, and to be immoral.

In view of the conception of corruption above, the legal definition of corruption in the Nigerian legal statutes and codes are deficient in that they are vague, unclear and virtually exclusive of only public and judicial officers, leaving out individual, private and corporate bodies from access to the law (even in the present democratic dispensation the anti-corruption law is yet to be massively circulated). More damaging to these statutes is that they do not correspond to the common mans and social concept of corruption. The common mans conception of corruption covers all instances of bribery, kickbacks, favouritism, nepotism and the use of value influence in running of public affairs.

Manifestations of Corruption in Nigeria
Nigeria is a corrupt society. Corruption has pervaded every sphere of human activity such that in every endeavour – economic, social, political, etc. corruption is the determining factor in the relationship between the people involved.

The past and present history of Nigeria has recorded many cases and exhibits of many types of corruption. Since the code of conduct Bureau is here and is the organizer of this seminar, I need not mention specifically these cases. Instead I will attempt to highlight types of corruption, which the Bureau may wish to give attention, if the problem is to be uprooted from Nigeria’s society.

Dogon-yaro posited two types/courses of corruption in the business world. Each corresponds to the group or organisation involved. The first is in trading and distribution of goods. This involves and perpetuates corruption by protecting, hoarding and also speculation of commodities. The second involves general contractors who operate through large financial conspiracy with power holders, dictating policies for states and federal government. That is corruption in business relationship, which is now very common even in international business.

Femi Adekunle, on the other hand, identifies other forms of corruption. At one level it is the misuse of public office or public responsibility for private (personal or sectional) gains. At another level it involves the use of public or private funds in order to acquire and return political power or to get government policies passed and accepted. The second is called commercial/economic corruption. These are acts by those transacting business with various level of Government – Federal, State and Local Government, by offering kickback or commissions to government officials for public work contract. The third is called administrative professional corruption which involves the casual but deliberate and largely criminal action by top administrative and professional personnel who abuse their position and their professional statuses for private material and social, political gains. They operate via falsification of accounts, embezzlement of corporate or government funds through mileage and other claims, fraudulent tax returns, and cover-up of professional misdeeds.

The fourth form of corruption is the organised corruption. Mostly common in countries of Western Europe and America, it is a relatively large-scale and complex criminal activity carried on by groups of Mafia, mostly elites and their control agents who are loosely as tightly organized for the enrichment of those participating or for financing of projects of the group, for political or business purposes. The members of these groups are influential, connected to information sources and control.

Their methods of operations include either violent attack or quite manipulation of government treasury, big business centres or big private individuals. The fifth one is a mere petty corruption of lower ranked workers like messengers, clerk, security men etc. who receive some returns for services offered, especially in government establishments.

Corruption and the Development Agenda
As I argued at the beginning of this paper corruption in Nigeria is a normal affair. Borrowing from LeVine, there is in particular ‘a culture of political corruption’ in which corruption is the normal stuff of politics. Indeed, in Nigeria, hardly an uncorrupt person will be anything in the scheme of things in running the government. If you were not corrupt, you would be marginalized if not got rid of. And if you are corrupt, you must be prepared to follow anything without personal initiative or ideas of an alternative policy.

Especially, of recent, political corruption has become an increasingly, important issue, such that other types of corruption is allowed to thrive unchecked or is even encouraged. The noise against corruption by the World Bank and other International agencies and government of Western Europe and America is only referring to political corruption. The others are condoned by the same agencies and governments.

Thus, political corruption will be our major attention in relation to Development Agenda. First, what is development? There are many definitions of development. Petit Robert dictionary contains the following entry as meaning of development. These are growth blossoming, progress, extension, expansion. These words imply that forward advancement of anything is development. Whether economic, political, or social. Then the report of the south commission, under the chairmanship of the former Tanzanian President late Julius Nyerere, while summing up the aspirations and policies of developing countries, defined development as “a process which enables human beings to realize their potential, build self-confidence, and lead lives of dignity and fulfilment. It is a process, which frees people from the fear of want and exploitation. It is a movement away from political, economic and social oppression”. Furthermore, the Human Development Report of 1991, published by the United Nations Development Programme, stated; “the basic objective of human development is to enlarge the range of people’s choice to make development more democratic and participatory. These choices should include access to income and employment opportunities, education and health, and a clean physical environment. Each individual should also have the opportunity to participate fully in community decisions and to enjoy human, economic and political freedoms”.

That is development. For the purpose of this paper, it can be seen in the following two ways:-
1. Economic upliftment of the people and the society in general
2. Political involvement of the people to determine and shape a responsive political system

Now, how does political corruption affect both economic and political development of Nigeria? In western model of economic development corruption, of whatever type is functional for economic development. It is said that in developing countries corruption lubricate development. It is only recently when the interest of western theory and of western world has changed because of their devotion to promote neo-liberal agenda that all the western financial agencies and governments are hypocritically talking against corruption.

Set against corruption on high scale, the IMF and the World Bank have even promoted the fight against political corruption as a condition for fund facilities to implement Structural Adjustment Programme. But the reality is based on the assumption that political corruption is caused by interventionist state and in order to wipe out corruption a neo-liberal state should be put in place. That is a state which will withdraw all services e.g. education, health, withdrawal of all sorts of subsidies, commercialization and privatization of public enterprises, etc.

The Nigeria’s state has already become the so-called neo-liberal state pursuing the neo-liberal agenda. But, does that eliminate corruption from Nigeria’s society.

The reality is that under the present economic development agenda, corruption and political corruption in particular has increased and become wide spread more than any moment in the past history of Nigeria.

Undoubtedly, corruption has a negative impact on all indicators of economic development. Corruption, especially political corruption breeds lack of productivity, lack of initiative and creativity to put sound policies, which could generate further development. Thus, the rate of economic growth, domestic and foreign investment, employment and fair income distribution all suffered and retarded as a result of corruption. In fact, the problems of corruption have increasingly pushed Nigeria’s society and economy to the bricks of disaster, as the current lack of progress and the political crisis between the legislature and the executive shows. This political crisis is a great revelation of people in the leadership of Nigeria, overwhelmed by corruption of office can go to any extent including the generation of tribal, regional, and religious support to protect their loot.

It is the same scenario of similar or different dimensions of political conflict we can find in states and local government area. As one keen observer has noted, wherever there is relative peace and understanding between the various officials is where the loot of political corruption spreads to every body in the team.

Mechanisms of Controlling Corruption
Every government in Nigeria recognized corruption as a major obstacle to easy development. Sometimes government is changed by the Armed forces because of corruption. And there are many approaches to stem the tides of, indiscipline, corruption and moral decay in Nigeria. The approaches to address corruption ranges from the establishment of code of conduct bureau (the organizers of this seminar) by Decree, as an enforcement, investigative and detective body to trace corrupt practices and cause punishment by the law. Others include the public complaint commission, the various Judicial Administrative Tribunals of inquiry into scandals by public officers. The ethical revolution committee initiated by President Shehu Shagari in 1983 as well as the War Against Indiscipline by General Buhari and Idiagbon in 1985 fall into the same agenda of fighting corruption in Nigeria.

The above efforts by various governments to tackle the problem of corruption has indicated the extent to which corruption has gone deep in the lives of Nigerians. In his famous Jaji declaration in 1977 General Obasanjo bemoaned the indiscipline, corruption, moral decay and lack of patriotism, which characterized various facet of Nigeria’s life. You would recall that Obasanjo, in the Jaji Declaration exalted all Nigerians to be more discipline, more humane and more considerate towards the welfare of their fellow citizens, and to eschew materialism, flamboyant display of wealth, and unnecessary acquisitive tendencies.

President Obasanjo made that statement in 1977 when he was the Military Head of State. Now, he is heading Democratic Government. So, what did he initiate in the present democratic set up to deal with the problem of corruption? The approaches mentioned above may have some shortcomings. Therefore, could not eradicate the problem. For example, except perhaps the code of conduct bureau and the public complaints commission, none of the other approaches is found in law book.

It is particularly significant that now, there is anti-corruption law and anti-corruption commission. But we are yet to see how the anti-corruption law can be implemented. I am not even sure whether the law has taken into recognition a total conception of corruption and what can be regarded as corruption. In order to identify what may be called corruption I propose the Chilean example. In 1994, the Chilean Commission on Public Ethics was formed and in July, the same year the commission presented to President Eduardo Frei-Tagle its report (see Appendix I here attached titled “Public Ethics; Probity, Transparency, and Accountability at the service of the citizen”.

The report covers so many rampant cases, which may be called corruption practices in the society. There are forty recommendations, which are summarized in the Appendix attached to this paper. I believe that something of such nature will create proper grounds of understanding corruption and fighting it, including enshrining in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria those that must be justifiable.

That is an essay on corruption and development agenda in Nigeria. It is worth to restate at the concluding part of this essay that although there are many forms of corruption, but political corruption in particular started with siphoning away huge amount of money from the country’s treasury by public officials, at all levels of government to various foreign accounts as a result of their selfish interest. This is partly done through contracts awards and inflating the cost of the contracts with the consent of both contractors and public officials of various offices. Little or no regards were given on the viability of such projects and little or no effort is being made to monitor and supervise its completion. In some cases of some government, even in the present dispensation of democratic governance, the corruption is very crude. Some state governors and local government chairmen have become so crude in corruption that government funds are deposited in personal Saving Accounts which accrue interests not to the government but to the person.

Also some governors and local government chairmen are the sole contractors of all projects and purchases by their governments. Some go and do it directly while some put their friends and brothers as middlemen to do the purchases.

All these happen either because of personal aggrandizement, sectional purposes, absence of clear programme and legal framework to deal ruthlessly with the problem or it may be because of poor pay to some categories of public servants.

Indeed, it is because of the corrupt practices of Nigeria’s public service functionaries that, neither the landscape of Nigeria not the standard of living of its citizens has significantly improve since independence, despite the huge monetary resources which the government has been able to accumulate over the years. Also, at level of political development, Nigeria remains perpetually incapable of resolving its political crisis, including the present crisis between the legislature and the executive.

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