The Many Faces Of Corruption
By Justin Orukwowu
Corruption is an endemic phenomenon that has threatened to diminish the prosperity promised by the natural endowment of Nigeria. Corruption has caused Nigeria so much in terms of its national image. It has made Nigerians at home and abroad subjects of ridicule. Nigerians are among the most scrutinised in international airports and are often treated with disdains any where in the world. As a result of this, foreigners are scared of Nigeria. This has affected the country’s economy negatively. The situation is worse now that the major economies are struggling in the face of financial meltdown. However, corruption is not peculiar to any continent, region and ethnic nationality. Nether is it peculiar to any religious group. It cuts across faiths, religious denominations, political systems, public and private sectors, respectively.
Corruption is found in democratic and dictatorial politics, feudal, capitalist and socialist economies. It dates back to time immemorial in origin. Lipset and Lenz (2000) aptly captured it that corruption has been ubiquitous in complex societies from ancient Egypt, Israel, Rome and Greece down to the present. While its presence or otherwise does not constitute any form of dispute, the point of worry is the magnitude and dosage with which it is perpetrated in this part of the world and Nigeria to be precise.
Unlike many other developed nations where corruption is abhorred and the long hand of the law generously unleashed on those found guilty without obstructions, in Nigeria, it is a different ball game. This is one place where much is spoken against corruption, yet thieves are crowned chiefs, criminals emerge celebrities, terrorists turn territorial overseers and kidnappers kingmakers, the list is endless.
This is a problem of colossal estimate. But it is a man made problem that can also be resolved by man.
Corruption refers to efforts geared towards securing wealth and power through illegal means for private gains at public expense and peril. It is also a misuse of public power for private benefits, the violation of established rules for personal gains and profits. The concept is also defined as behaviours which deviates from the formal duties of a public role, because of private gains-regarding personal, close family, private clique, pecuniary or status gain.
Corruption include such behaviours as bribery (use of a reward to pervert the judgment of a person in position of trust), nepotism (bestowal of patronage by reason of astrictive relationship rather than by merit), and misappropriation (illegal appropriation of public resources for private uses. Also, according to Osoba (1996) corruption is an anti-social behaviour conferring improper benefits contrary to legal and moral norms, and which undermines the authorities to improve the living conditions of the people.
The above definitions fittingly depict the situation in Nigeria. In the business circle, it is either one form of fraud, unethical behaviour or another, in the public sector it is so appalling, public funds are diverted for private aggrandisement while the entire populace is left to wallow in abject poverty and ruins. What goes on in the religious arena are better treated as sacred than exposed, the home front is also not spared as parents struggle with their children for who to outsmart the other in domestic politics. Corruption comes in diverse shapes and forms in Nigeria.
The worst hit in this regard are the elected public officers. The other time, it was Hon. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh, the first ever female to have a stint as speaker of the house of representatatives in Nigeria. She was compelled to quit office owing to a N628 million scam. Another perturbing scenario is the case of a serving senator and loving daughter of the former president and commander in-chief of the federal republic of Nigeria who is fingered in theN300 million scam in the health sector.
Some of the former Governors proved their mettles in this regard. It is on record that moneys that were meant for the development of their states were eventually diverted into private foreign accounts. The display of affluence associated with them depicts that their personal annual budget surpasses those of some developing African countries. This quantum of stealing was simplified by the absence of checks and balances, members of the states assemblies, appointed commissioners, and other principal officers in position to counsel their Governors are under the whims and caprices of these Governors, they are nothing but sycophants and errand boys to his Excellencies or Ogas as the case may be. As a result of these, intelligent, quality, and valuable pieces of advice are sacrificed daily at the alter of fear, greed and loss of self worth, making our governors to run their states in crowded but lonely government houses.
The things that go on at the local government levels remain unspeakable and frightening. The chairmen or caretakers are nothing but conduit pipes for the evaporation of funds. A quick assessment of governance at this level reveals nothing but waste. Some local government secretariats have remained in ruins and dilapidation for years; in spite of the huge allocations received by those in-charge, no physical development is recorded. It is no doubt that the vision of those who recommended the three-tier government is now in shambles because the local governments have not been useful, as they ought to. In fact urgent attention is hereby called to this situation.
Another dimension of corruption is the electoral corruption. This include the purchase of votes with money, promises of official or special favours, coercions, intimidations, and interferences with freedom of election which are aimed at securing unmerited victory over other opponents. The encyclopedia Americana (1999) describes it as sales of legislative votes, administrative or judicial decision or government appointments; disguised payment in the forms of gifts, legal fees, employment, favours to relatives, social influence, or any relationship that sacrifices the public interest and welfare with or without the implied payment of money.
Nigeria is today feeling the heat of political corruption. Prior to the 2007 general election, the Prof. Maurice Iwu led independent electoral commission gave Nigerians the assurance of complete readiness towards the election, but to the greatest chargrin of well meaning Nigerians, what was on display showed no resemblance of the quality assurance received earlier. It was rather a case of abysmal, shabby, below mediocrity and unorganised jamboree that paved way for a good number of people with questionable credentials to have a field day.
The aftermath of this poorly conducted election is what we all are witnesses to; grievances, rejection of results; tribunal and other court cases are the order of the day. All these summed up have made the process of governance very epileptic, haphazard, wasteful and inconsistent; it is very difficult to tell who the Governor of some states is. States like Abia, Rivers, Kogi, Adamawa, Bayelsa have had their Governors removed at one point or another; the country was saved from chaos through the UNIQUE court ruling in the supreme court case instituted by the duo of Muhammadu Buhari of the ANPP and Atiku Abubakar of the AD. All these bitter pills were eschewable had someone done his or her job fairly and sincerely. In view of these, how would someone who went into office fraudulently also be the one to speak against or fight corruption? This is a puzzle for all Nigerians to resolve.
Corruption is equally preponderant in the home front. All other forms of corruption have their roots from here, the typical Nigerian home is a place where lies are trivialised, infidelity condoned, tricks laughed over, and dishonesty esteemed. All these are the breeding seeds for corruption. Due to the erosions of our cultures and values, the home no longer plays its role of bringing up sincere, trustable, reliable, dedicated and honest people who can turn the nation around positively, what we have on ground are homes where father will instruct the kids to tell an in-coming guest that he has just travelled while he is right there in the bedroom, homes where parents hire mercenaries to write examinations for their children, homes where husbands feast on wife’s infidelity, homes where mothers are in partnership with their female children to generate funds via prostitution, going on and on is already making me emotional, therefore let me pause. It is said that when the individual is repaired, the family is repaired and when the family is repaired the nation at large is repaired, what we need so much today as a country is that individual repair.
Private sector corruption refers to all forms of sharp practices, tricks, frauds that occur in the private business circle. These may be categorised as follows:
Bribery: This is the payment (in money or kind) that is taken or given under questionable circumstances. These according to Bayart el al (1997), include kickbacks, gratuities, pay-off, sweetener, greasing palm etc. When a security man accepts tips as pre-condition for letting a vendor in, he has indulged in bribery; when a procurement manager insists on upfront before signing or giving out purchase order, it is bribery, the examples are legion.
Fraud involves some kind of dishonesty, swindle and deceit, counterfeiting, racketing, smuggling and forgery that are aimed at misleading the unsuspecting victim. Corporate frauds are therefore the channels through which resources of business organisations are siphoned to undeserving destinations, thus causing a reduction in business gains and sometimes outright failures (Orukwowu, 2006). Fraud takes numerous shapes, for instance, larceny, defalcation and management fraud.
Corruption has remained a viable enterprise in Nigeria, government after government, efforts have persistently been made to stamp out the menace that has become a thorn in the flesh of Nigeria; regrettably, these efforts have not yielded enough fruits hence corruption is still on the rise.
The causes of corruption are myriad. There are political and cultural undertones to it, as some evidence have linked corruption with social diversity, ethno-linguistic fractionalisations and the proportions of country’s population adhering to divers religious traditions.
According to Bryce, (1921), corruption in most African countries is caused by some of these factors: great inequality in wealth distribution, political office as the primary means of gaining access to wealth,conflict between changing moral codes, the weakness of social and governmental enforcement mechanisms and, the absence of a strong sense of national community.
Orukwowu is of Management Department, Rivers State University of Science and Technology.