Causes and Consequences of Corruption: The Nigerian Experience (1) by Kayode Oladele
The international community has finally come to terms with the reality of the “cancer of corruption” and its ubiquitous nature; hence, we are all in agreement that being a persistent feature of human existence worldwide, its solution lies in the collective action of key global institutions with organised international joint efforts against corruption. These efforts have produced a lot of anti-corruption measures including bi-lateral and multilateral agreements, enactment of national anti-corruption laws such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004; the designing of international frameworks and strategies for the prevention of corruption and the making of the all-important United Nations Convention Against Corruption which has now become the reference point for anti-corruption fight all over the world.
Nonetheless, the need to study corruption and anti-corruption has continued to generate passionate commentaries and academic interest. While it is obvious that this interest has made the subject matter better understood to an extent, the hundreds of information being incorporated into its study, research data and the diversity of some of the findings have sometimes established some level of complications too. Apart from the fact that some have attempted to mischaracterise corruption as a tool for development under such labels as “grease the wheels” arguments or the “efficiency grease”, the question still persists, for instance, on how corruption should be situated, whether within the context of the “moralist,” “developmentalist,” or “functionalist” definitions. More directly, should the definition be public-office centred, market-centred or public-interest centred?
Meanwhile, the definition of corruption becomes more complicated when viewed in terms of such classifications as supportive corruption, transactional corruption, extortive corruption, defensive corruption, investive corruption, personal and institutional corruption, traditional and modern corruption, local, national or international corruption, or representational corruption, grand and petty corruption. Or simply put, should corruption be viewed as corruption and nothing more? Many questions continue to arise in our experience and engagement of corruption and corrupt practices.
To this extent and with a focus on the activities of the EFCC in Nigeria, this presentation engages two questions: What are the causes and consequences of corruption in Nigeria and how has the EFCC responded to the scourge? To engage these questions, we will revolve around the causes of corruption in Nigeria, its consequences, the role of the EFCC and a recommendation that focuses on the need for a Special Anti-corruption Court.
The causes of corruption are multiple and have been discussed by scholars under numerous headings but I will briefly discuss some of the major causes that we have identified as some of the common causes of corruption in a political economy.
First, we have identified weak institutions as a major cause of corruption. Corruption has a high propensity to thrive when legal and political institutions are weak and government policies generate economic rents. In most climes, there are so many incentives in the public sector, particularly administrative and legal institutions that leave public officials with wide unrestricted authority and powers to create avenues for unjust enrichment or use the discretionary powers at their disposal to manipulate the system. According to a World Bank Report; “The normal motivation of public sector employees to work productively may be undermined by many factors, including low and declining civil service salaries and promotion unconnected to performance. Dysfunctional government budgets, inadequate supplies and equipment, delays in the release of budget funds (including pay), and a loss of organisational purpose also may demoralise staff. The motivation to remain honest may be further weakened if senior officials and political leaders use public office for private gain or if those who resist corruption lack protection. Or the public service may have long been dominated by patron-client relationships, in which the sharing of bribes and favours has become entrenched. In some countries, pay levels may always have been low, with the informal understanding that staff will find their own ways to supplement inadequate pay. Sometimes these conditions are exacerbated by closed political systems dominated by narrow vested interests and by international sources of corruption associated with major projects or equipment purchases”.
Closely related to the issue of weak institutions is the role of formal rules and the criminal justice system. There is hardly any country where corruption is legalised; to the contrary, there are several formal rules and laws prohibiting corruption and corrupt practices with appropriate sanctions and punishments. In addition to organic laws, several public institutions such as the Police, Customs and Immigration, Road Safety Corps, Fire Marshals, the Armed Forces , internal revenue agents, and other institutions including the judiciary have comprehensive Codes of Conduct to regulate their behaviours which also prohibit the receiving or accepting of bribes, gifts, gratifications, etc. However, in a political economy that is laced with corruption, such formal rules are usually supplanted by informal rules or customs that allow corruption to flourish. For instance, the law may criminalise the giving and taking of bribes but in practice, one can hardly get anything done without gratification or in Nigerian parlance, “settling” someone. In Nigeria, until the establishment of the EFCC, the laws were hardly enforced and the informal rules prevailed. The EFCC was thus established to strengthen the institutions and to shift emphasis back to the recognition and enforcement of formal rules. In addition to the formation of the EFCC, the Federal Government, recognising the need to have a strong formal rules, had also enacted various other laws such as The Money Laundering Act, the Advance Free Fraud Related Offences Act and the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act and several other appropriate legal frameworks to control corruption and strengthen the legal and economic institutions including the criminal justice administration. The Act also made the EFCC the designated Financial Intelligence Unit in Nigeria, which is charged with the responsibility of co-coordinating the various institutions involved in the fight against money laundering and enforcement of all laws dealing with economic and financial crimes in Nigeria. Essentially however, the incentive to engage in corruption and corrupt practice is stronger where the probability of being discovered or prosecuted is remote or non-existent.
Another cause of corruption is public perception. Corruption is supported when some/few societal culture promotes corruption. Why should a convicted corrupt individual be offered a chieftaincy title by traditional rulers in his community? Why do governors, some of whom have been fingered in corruption, be given awards or be elected into the Senate by the electorate? There are also other instances where religious institutions have ordained corrupt public officials and sometimes organised thanksgiving services for corrupt ex-convicts who were just being released from prisons.
The nature of the economy is also a crucial factor. It has been argued that rent-seeking or rent-based systems tend to promote corruption. If this view holds, then, because the Nigerian economy is based on rents from crude oil and gas, it follows that there would be a number of “leakages” that would allow for the easy flow of cash and favours, sometimes in illegal ways. Until recently in Nigeria, public officers would deliberately delay the implementation of national budgets with the hope that at the end of the financial year, unspent funds would become a largesse to be shared by the senior civil servants. This is why it is often said by experts that for corruption in the public sector to flourish, public officials must possess “the authority to design or administer regulations and policies in a discretionary manner”. However, with the passage of new government policies which have made it mandatory for any unspent budget heads at the end of the financial year to be returned to the federation account and the passage of the Freedom of Information Act which is aimed at promoting transparency and accountability in government finance among others, this practice has also become a thing of the past in Nigeria.
Other identified causes of corruption in Nigeria include poverty, poor remuneration or incentive system.
To be continued.
•Excerpts of a lecture presented by Oladele, Chief of Staff, Office of the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in Abuja recently
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