By Obaka Abel Inabo
You remember the wailing of a certain spokesman of a major political party on how President Muhammed Buhari was de-marketing Nigeria? You will also remember how you almost bought into his argument, not knowing that he and his fellow kleptomanias were actually de-marketing the country through their unbridled and insatiable parasitism in government’s till. This piece is a topical parody of the comrade spokeman’s holier-than-thou sermon. I, however, re-coined the topic to show how Buhari’s fight against corruption is fast making the corruption business quite unattractive, hence the de-marketing of corruption! Yes, corruption as practised in Nigeria is a business, a big business for that matter as would be herewith proved shortly.
Before I take a diagnostic survey of the corruption in Nigeria, a theoretical perspective of corruption will suffice. Dr. Adesina-Uthman, Ganiyat A, a renowned Economist and Head of Dept. of Economics, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) has provided a thematic explanation on the subject. Summarising relevant literature on corruption, Dr. Adesina-Uthman notes that corruption is not limited to the public sector and that corruption may sometimes involve complicity by parties from both the public and private sectors. She, therefore, believes that this is the case in Nigeria.
Elucidating this, she describes administrative bribery known as “speed money” a.k.a (corporate corruption), which is the conspiracy between a party from the private sector and the public sector (for instance, the legislators for the purpose of trading money for passage of a particular legislation) was judged as “legal corruption” or “legal lobbying fees”. Adding to an array of definitions in existing literatures as misused of public or private funds or power for private or personal benefit, Dr. Adesina-Uthman quoted the theory on the “sanders” and “greasers”, in which the ‘sanders’ argue that corruption grinds the wheel of economic development and makes political transition difficult, while the ‘greasers’ nonconforming view is that corruption greases the wheel of economic development and enhances economic growth. She, therefore, argues that in Nigeria, the ‘sanders’ have it and that corruption is official, officials are corruption themselves. Dr. Adesina-Uthman concludes that “If our President, Muhammad Buhari,, could solve the problem of endemic corruption, which is deep-rooted in all sectors bottom-up through his de-marketing of corruption, then he would fix Nigeria”.
It is stating the obvious that Nigeria operates perhaps the most expensive democracy in the world. Billions of naira have gone down the drain through funding a needlessly bloated government and its corrupt officials. Nigeria has evolved a system that is uniquely expensive. The cost of running the present democracy is simply scandalous.
It could be true that we have a courageous President who is determined to curb economic wastages in the public sector in addition to blocking the avenues through which funds are siphoned out of government by the privileged few. Very soon, stealing public funds may become unattractive. The implication of the present crusade is the need to trim the size of government so as to reduce running costs. In that regard, Buhari has, therefore, started on a right note by merging the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other overheads incurred in running them. Cost of governance may have been drastically reduced.
It beggars rationality that in a country where majority go to bed without a meal, a few public and political office holders are busy squandering our collective wealth, all in the name of running the government. And this is in spite of the high incidence of poverty in the land which can be seen from the high incidence of diseases and other forms of social deprivations.
Empirically, at the executive arm, billions are allegedly lost through unnecessary overheads, inflated contracts and outright frauds. Apart from the executive, the spending spree (one commentator called it bazaar) at the legislative arm at federal level cannot be overlooked. There are reports that our legislators are among the highest paid in the world. On a comparative analysis, the monthly emolument of a federal legislator is said to be higher than that of the presidents of most countries. It was stated in a recent news report that the National Assembly would be buying 469 exotic cars worth N4.7bn.
Now, replicate the same scenario to the Judiciary, the State and the local government levels, and you will see the mind-boggling financial hemorrhage in our public sector. Perhaps the biggest drain on the public purse is the unfettered access to easy money through over-invoicing. In other words, government contracts have become avenues to killing our economy. Aside inflated contracts, government loses billions of naira through other corrupt practices.
The implication of all these is that so much is lost to graft in official transactions. And it is obvious that these wastage and corrupt practices stymie development. Indeed, it is evident that Nigeria is spending the bulk of its national resources to fund government rather than making investments in key sectors and funding other capital projects that our country needs to stimulate growth and enhance the quality of lives of our citizens. As an Economist, I call this sub-optimal management of our natural resources and the risks of deterioration in the macro-economic condition of the country in the face of possible external shocks. This scenario no doubt showcases why Nigeria has remained trapped in the quagmire of under-development.Now, a sampler: With so many Ministries and a plethora of extra-ministerial departments and agencies, many of which have overlapping functions and the attendant funding, it does not require rocket science to understand why a large percentage of the country’s annual budget goes into recurrent expenditure. Add that to the number of ministers, the army of Special Advisers and Assistants, and Personal Assistants and the large number of legislators with aides and hangers-on, and you will appreciate why so much is spent on overheads.
Government should, therefore, muster the political will to plug all loopholes through which frauds are perpetuated.
•Obaka lectures at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)