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Celebration Of Fraud In Nigeria

{Dr Anyanate Ephraim}

The crime of embezzlement is a wide-spread crime in the present-day Nigeria. It impairs the property relationship protected by the law and the reputation of state organs and personnel. The party in power and the current Yara’Adua led government in Nigeria have always persisted in fighting corruption and building clean and honest government and concentrated on using legal weapons to fight the crime of embezzlement resolutely. Meanwhile, it should be recognised that the crime is still a serious problem which hinders Nigeria's great cause of reform and opening up to the outside world. In particular, during this period of transformation, the crime of embezzlement in this country shows many new characteristics.

For instance, recent happenings in the country make me sick. It appears in Nigeria if you do not steal or embezzle public funds you are not recognized. Nobody says that people should not enjoy from what they do. However, the brazen disrespect for public funds in the country is outrageous and horrendous. I have watched and read with dismay how many Nigerian so called big men have been arraigned in court in recent times for mismanagement of public funds. Ordinarily this should be a thing of joy as it shows those who have tried to enrich themselves with public funds are being brought to book. However, it appears the whole thing now looks like a mockery and deceit of the Nigerian citizens. If not how else should one explain crowds gathering to sing the praises of those arraigned in court for fraud and embezzlement?  Every time some one is taken to court, there are people who will be dressed in uniforms in support of those individuals, clapping, singing and raining curses on the supposed enemies. There are people waiting to see their big men granted bail. The question is who pays for the uniforms? Who organizes these events when the individuals in question were supposed to be hounded in cells?

It is easy for me to stand alongside the great affirmation that we are a part of a moral universe of which we are just as real a part as our bodies are a part of the physical world. “The starry heavens above and the moral law within,” was Kant’s expressive phrase. But there is no solace, no help for standing against the overwhelming in either the physical world or the moral law.

I’ve always believed that there is no possible compromise between good and evil. You may say, “Who is to decide which is which?” That’s a debating point, and there’s something in it. Borderline cases abound, and in these, tolerance is essential. But in the main issues which have threatened and afflicted our country- Nigeria, there’s no doubt whatever between good and evil. I believe with all my heart and mind that there are certain moral imperatives, that we cannot get away from at any hour, and that they apply even to the daily round of the lives of political office holders and those put in positions of trust.

It appears that we are not concerned enough with the fact that the Nigeria is going mechanically and morally backward. It follows that for what is, in essence, inexcusable, we must make no allowances. Refusal to equate right and wrong in any walk of life will bring no great success and may involve some obloquy.

These people who have misappropriated public funds have responsibilities in their hometowns, their states and the country at large which they have left. In a democratic country, whenever we cast our votes we contribute in a very real sense towards guiding the country’s destiny. Therefore those entrusted with public funds by way of their political status who misuse them have cases to answer and should be seen to do so. We (the Nigerian public) should not stand and celebrate in jubilation those that are punishing us.

Don’t we ever get sick of hearing about fraud all the time on the news? If Nigerians don’t do something, it’s just going to happen more and more because the criminals we are praise singing know that they won’t get caught or even when they are caught and arraigned, they will go free with lorry loads of supporters singing their praises.

As one Nigerian pointed out recently, I believe Judges should ban praise singing around the courts. There may be need for restriction of trials of these criminals to the public or else the Judiciary may be seen as encouraging public stealing. As a matter of fact, we can see that this behaviour is socially inappropriate but it seems to be becoming culturally appropriate amongst supporters of criminals because of poverty. These individuals bring out their loots in trickles to the needy who should have originally benefited if there were not embezzlement. This is slavery!

In as much as I quarrel with the public for their immoral actions, one will not forget the cause of the problem-those who are entrusted with public funds but fail to keep their part of the moral bargain. So Farida may be right after all in her call for psychiatric assessment as a pre-condition for taking up public appointments, given the level of economic recklessness and embezzlement of public funds, that has become almost a national embarrassment. Judges should also order for psychiatrist assessment of these embezzlers before they appear in court.

Finally I think Nigerians should not be complaining given the amount of funds being misappropriated and knowing who and who has been embezzling them. We know those who go to courts in uniform to support thieves. We should understand that it is not a political game when people deprive us from what is to be used for our well being. It is time to rise up to our sacred duties as citizens to shun what is evil.

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