In the year 2017, findings from a study on corruption in Nigeria jointly coordinated by the United Natiobs Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) were published in a booklet which in essence restated the notorious fact that the twin evils of corruption and bribery have assumed the dimension of a hydra headed monster in Nigeria just as the Nigerian police force which is the mainstream national law enforcement agency in the Country was indicted as the most corrupt agency in the Country.
The researchers discovered what is already a notorious public knowledge that almost a third of Nigerian adults (32.3 per cent) who had contact with a public official between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay, or were requested to pay, a bribe to that public official.
The magnitude of public sector bribery in Nigeria becomes even more palpable when factoring in the frequency of those payments, as the majority of those who paid a bribe to a public official did so more than once over the course of the year, so they stated.
According to the survey, bribe-payers in Nigeria pay an average of some six bribes in one year, or roughly one bribe every two months.
The researchers stated that by combining the total number of people who paid a bribe to a public official with the frequency of those payments, it is estimated that a total of roughly 82.3 million bribes were paid in Nigeria in the 12 months prior to the survey.
These results in an average of 0.93 bribes paid per adult, or almost one bribe paid by every adult Nigerian per year, the report stressed.
Also, another interesting dimension is that the findings show that taking into account the fact that nine out of every ten bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria are paid in cash and the size of the payments made, it is estimated that the total amount of bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria in the 12 months prior to the survey was around 400 billion Nigerian Naira (NGN), the equivalent of $4.6 billion in purchasing power parity (PPP).
This sum statistically is equivalent to 39 per cent of the combined federal and state education budgets in 2016.
The average sum paid as a cash bribe in Nigeria is approximately NGN 5,300, which is equivalent to roughly $61 – PPP just as this means that every time a Nigerian pays a cash bribe, he or she spends an average of about 28.2 per cent of the average monthly salary of approximately NGN 18,900. Since bribe-payers in Nigeria pay an average of 5.8 bribes over the course of one year, 92 per cent of which are paid in cash, they spend an average of NGN 28,200 annually on cash bribes ― equivalent to 12.5 per cent of the annual average salary.
The above findings they affirmed could explain why, after the high cost of living and unemployment, Nigerians consider corruption to be the third most important problem facing their country, well ahead of the state of the country’s infrastructure and health service. Public sector bribery they scientifically deduced is not the only form of corruption affecting Nigeria: the prevalence of bribery in relation to selected employees of private companies is 5.5 per cent, meaning that bribery is also significant in the private sector in Nigeria. However, the payment of bribes to public officials is the most familiar and widespread form of corruption directly experienced by the population and the one that most affects the lives of ordinary citizens. The vast majority of bribery episodes in Nigeria they researchers found out are initiated either directly or indirectly by public officials (85.3 per cent) and almost 70 per cent of bribes are paid before a service is rendered.
“With such a large portion of public officials initiating bribes, which are paid up front, it seems that many public officials show little hesitation in asking for a kickback to carry out their duty and that bribery is an established part of the administrative procedure in Nigeria.”
Going further, the report stated that while money is by far the most important form of bribe payment in Nigeria, the survey shows that other forms of bribe payment, such as the provision of food and drink, the handing over of valuables or the exchange of another service or favour, also exist. For instance, most club girls and commercial sex workers arrested by task force operatives of the Nigerian police force usually give sex under duress for their release. Qualitative research shows that such exchanges may sometimes include sexual services, although the actual extent of that particular form of bribe payment is unknown.
The survey done under strict adherence to global best practices shows that a large proportion of bribes in Nigeria (42 per cent) are paid to speed up or finalize an administrative procedure that may otherwise be delayed for long periods or even indefinitely, thus making bribery the most effective option for facilitating that service.
The second largest proportion of bribes (18 per cent) is paid to avoid the payment of a fine, a frequent request in citizens’ encounters with the police, while 13 per cent of all bribes are paid to avoid the cancellation of public utility services, an indication that the provision of the most basic amenities, including water and sanitation, can be subject to abuse of power by public officials in Nigeria. Then the clincher, whereby the researchers found out that Police officers are the type of public official to whom bribes are most commonly paid in Nigeria.
“Of all adult Nigerians who had direct contact with a police officer in the 12 months prior to the survey, almost half (46.4 per cent) paid that officer at least one bribe, and in many cases more than one since police officers are also among the three types of public official to whom bribes are paid most frequently (5.3 bribes per bribe-payer over the course of 12 months) in Nigeria. At the same time, the average bribe paid to police officers is somewhat below the average bribe size.” Next in line in terms of notoriety in bribes taking is the juduciary”.
Although the report found out that fewer people come into contact with judicial officials than with police officers over the course of the year, when they do, the risk of bribery is considerable: at 33 per cent, the prevalence of bribery in relation to prosecutors is the second highest, closely followed by judges and magistrates, at 31.5 per cent.
The experience of corruption in encounters with public officials whose duty it is to uphold the rule of law can lead to the erosion of trust in public authority,they reasoned accurately. In addition to bribery, extortion and harassment by the police, the Nigerian Police Force is notorious for extralegal killings .
A cursoey look at the above extensive reseach findings will immediately instigate the query why this reflection of a matter that has become a rule rather than exception in the police? This is why I’m doing this piece.
The Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr Mohammed Adamu, has reportedly charged public relations officers (PROs) of the Nigeria Police Force to work towards reinventing the image of the Force and negate the impression in the public that she was corrupt.
Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @www.emmanuelonwubiko.com