It is common knowledge that the present administration rode on to power on the three cardinal promises made by the then presidential aspirant; fighting corruption, improving the security and rejuvenating the economy. ‘
With merely months before another round of campaigning and seeking for votes before general elections hold come February, it is only natural that the polity be heated and intensified. Having recently spent three years at the helm of affairs, much criticism has been garnered on the way the government have delivered on their key promises. While no doubt the Boko Haram have been drastically combatted, numerous security threats have manifested in many states of Zamfara, Benue, Kaduna, Taraba and Plateau.
The Herdsman-Farmer clashes, The Bandits in Zamfara, the kidnappers in Kaduna and other agitators still pose a challenge. The way the FG handled the economy amidst recession and inflation and dwindling oil prices has generated lot of outcry. Perhaps this is best left for the economists. The anti-corruption campaign has also been described as a charade, selective and witch hunting the opposition while those close to the seat of power remain free.
Whether or not the fight is selective, I am of the opinion that successes have been achieved so far. From the implementation of the TSA, purge of numerous ghost workers, The BVN policy, Repatriation of looted funds, Discovery of stolen funds and prosecution of high placed individuals, it is without a doubt that successes have been achieved. However, that does not mean more cannot be done. The assumed shielding of close associates of the president, the pursue of an anticorruption campaign devoid of favoritism and not targeted at a few individuals, the enactment of laws that would help in fighting corruption, massive awareness and sensitization, much more is left to be done.
To borrow from the words of former Finance minister Ngozi Okonja Iwella, fighting corruption is dangerous in Nigeria. Not only is it dangerous, it is also an extremely arduous and heinous task that can only be pursued relentlessly by a few zealous individuals. Ours is a country that corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of, and has cantankerously damaged and became enmeshed into our normal lives. A fight against such enemy whom many may refer to as our single greatest enemy since independence needs not be magnanimous only, but also needs all available hands, resources and help on the deck. The various actors all need chip in, to combat such a disaster, from the Executives, the judiciary, legislature, Civil societies, Civil servants, The media and the general populace at large. Unfortunately, not all hands are om deck.
To adequately fight corruption, we need need Laws are needed to not only prosecute guilty offenders but also to assist in repatriation of stolen funds. Even though the national assembly has passed the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters bill and the whistle blower bill, other equally important bills such as the mutual assistance bill or the other have been languishing in the national assembly since 2017.
Many have been quick to observe that the national assembly have not been in tandem with nor a dependent ally in the anti-corruption fight of the president largely due to the non-confirmation and rejection of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the nation’s top anticorruption czar along other reasons. One of those who held such views include PACAC, the advisory body to the president on corruption and the Attorney general of the federation It is somehow ironic that those who are fugitives and offenders of the law as is evident in the upper legislative house are relied upon to pass such anticorruption bills. For the fight against corruption to be successful, the leadership of both houses as well as the entire body be equally in support of the campaign and be a valuable ally.
The judiciary is another important ally, being the one who uphold the laws. Despite the fact that a little headway has been made with regards to the fight, as evident in the sentence of two former governors to 14 years’ imprisonment each for corruption and money laundering, much is needed to be done. The directive of the Chief justice to all courts to operate special cases against corruption pending the time it becomes a law in the national assembly is also a welcome development. Many cases have been stalled in courts for years, some as much as 11 years and are being continuously delayed on flimsy excuses. Such should not be tolerated; corruption cases should be trialed within a stipulated time. Investigations should also be carried out to ascertain why fewer convictions have been garnered in courts. The welfare and salary packages of the judges also need to be reviewed, and any judge found wanting of abuse of abuse should be promptly dismissed and be prosecuted as appropriately. The DSS raid on the home of some judges late 2016 was a bad way to go about it.
While the limelight is shone more on government officials and appointees, another critical area is being neglected; the civil service. The corruption, scams, inflation of contracts, ghost workers, demands of kickbacks and ‘the 10% rule’ going on in the nation’s and state civil service is perhaps greater than the sins committed by elected officials. The classical case of Maina, the retired director who was adjudged to have looted billions of pension funds is a case to look further into. The government’s handing of the situation is also below par.
While much has been done to purge the civil service of ghost workers by implementing the IPPS thereby saving the nation billions, much can still be done to fish out the culprits. A thorough review, reform and audit of the various MDAs and parastatals of the government under a fearless Head of service bent on ridding the service of corrupt practices need to be done, with all those found guilty of wrongdoing be made to face the consequences. All being said, perhaps only a purge of the civil service akin to that of the General Murtala led regime may prove effective in remedying the mess.
While much has been done to “fight” corruption, less has been done to “cure” it. The numerous reforms and measures have so far been targeted at fighting corrupt individuals while the system has very much remains the same. Even if we succeed in convicting those accused, without adequately understanding the genesis and the roots of the problem, others would spring forth. Corruption has become one of our national habits and can be found in all facets of our life, from the top echelons of government, our civil service, government appointees to our institutions, private organizations down to the market woman waiting to dupe an unsuspecting customer. It is safe to say corruption is institutionalized.
Though people engage in corrupt practice for variety of reasons, abject poverty, unemployment and avarice can be alluded to be the most common causes. Some however get involved in shady practices simply to get their slash of the national cake. It is simply our own way of living; our trait. As such curing it would involve the use of all the diagnostic tools at our disposal and would not be easy.
The government should focus on poverty alleviation and provision of employment to our teeming population. Those at the helm of affairs should also distance their selves from corrupt practices and individuals. Also, corrupt persons should be made to suffer the consequences of their actions, which also means strengthening our institutions to ensure efficient justice delivery. Perhaps we can take a cue from China and establish death sentence on theft of government funds above say, a billion naira. This could serve as deterrent to others toying with the idea.
Most importantly, sensitization workshops, colloquiums and massive awareness campaigns should be made a priority, especially among the youths. The change begins with me, which was launched amidst much fanfare and jamboree should be revived to employ the use of artists, filmmakers, entertainers and athletes to help propagate the negative effects of corruption on our nation and why it should be shunned. The ministry of education, specifically the NERC should help in incorporating studies of corruption in syllabus of our primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.
The media and civil societies and organizations also have important roles in curbing this menace. Most importantly, we must all join hands in not only condemning but also shunning and avoiding acts of what perhaps is the greatest calamity to have befallen us as a nation. As President Muhammadu Buhari aptly said; “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us”.