Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 2017 survey on corruption that claimed Nigerians spend a whopping N400 billion on bribes annually was indeed one most shocking revelations of the decade.
The report which also hinted that an average Nigerian worker spends 1/8th of his salary on bribes, creates the impression the corruption virus has permeated the very fabric of the nation’s public service, despite the renewed vigour with which the Muhammadu Buhari administration said it is tackling the menace . These developments came in the wake of the 2017 Transparency International report ranking of Nigeria as 144th most corrupt nation out of 175 countries of the world.
This was also as the 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report by Transparency International said that corruption in Nigeria averaged 121.48 from 1996 to 2018, reaching an all-time high of 152 in 2005 and a record low of 52 in 1997.
The 2017 corruption survey by the National Bureau of Statistic (NBS) in conjunction with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), which implicated the police and civil servants, noted that almost a third of Nigerian adults pay bribes when in contact with public officials and almost a third of Nigerian adults (32.3 per cent) who had contact with a public officials between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay, or were requested to pay, a bribe to that public official.
This damning report has already sent the NBS back to the field for another survey whose report, many believed, may be worse than the previous surveys, considering recent revelations of snakes and gorillas swallowing billions of naira left in the custody of key government functionaries in parts of the country.
Announcing its intention to embark on another round of survey on Monday, June 10, 2019, the NBS said it would investigate over 33,300 households nationwide to ascertain the veracity of its earlier findings and to know the extent that corruption has eaten deep into the nation’s fabric.
Speaking to newsmen in Abuja, the Statistician General of the Federation, Dr Yemi Kale, who spoke through the Director, Real Sector and Households Statistics, Dr Isiaka Olarenwaju, said that the 2019 survey would not target the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government this time but would focus on houses of civil servants.
He said that about 900 households per state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would be enumerated to make up a total of 33,300 households nationwide.
“We conducted the first round of this survey in 2016 and it was published in 2017. It is our aim that we would be conducting this survey within a period of two to three years. The first one conducted in 2016 would be the benchmark on which we are measuring and monitoring the performance of each of the agencies that targeted by the survey. I would also like to inform you that NBS is not alone in the conduct of this survey. Apart from the collaboration with our major partner, United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), the survey is also being funded by Department for International Development (DFID)” he said.
However since 2015, the global community’s corruption tag on Nigeria has affected the nation’s International perception across the world.
Although, Nigerians have witnessed a series of investigations into alleged corrupt practices involving high-profile politicians and public officials, including a former Minister of Petroleum, former National Security Adviser; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the director of Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) now being investigated on corruption charges, these initiatives have however recorded little or no convictions.
A deeper evaluation of the exercise do actually indicate that perhaps only few out of favour individuals are being prosecuted, as critics of the Buhari administration insist there are still bigger ‘thieves’ before Mr President’s nose whom he has refused to see, including political office-holders who are not only close to the government, but are wielding enormous influence or occupying big positions, which makes Nigerians feel that Buhari’s anti-corruption fight is a charade tilted against his political opponents.
Whether these arguments will be vindicated will be determined in the next four years of his presidency.
Indeed some commentators have argued that the best way to escape being hounded by the anti-corruption agencies in the All Progressive Congress (APC)–controlled government is to be close to the government or belong to the president’s party.
Angered by these wild reports, a former Federal Commissioner of National Human Rights Commission and now the co-ordinator of Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), Comrade Emma Onwubiko, wondered why the government should flagrantly abuse Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which obliges the Nigerian state to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office.
“The fastest way to end corruption is for government to end the regime of impunity that characterises the way and manner most government officials carry out their duties believing that since they belong to the ruling political party there will be no consequences for their actions. The Federal Government has created the perceptions and impressions that members of the party that formed the government at the centre are above the law. This is a direct affront to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which obliges the Nigerian State to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office. A situation whereby a presidential aide heading the office of Senior Special Assistant on Prosecutions has since been indicted openly in the Federal House of Representatives by the Chief Registrar of West African Examinations Council (WAEC) who was on oath when he confirmed that the presidential assistant is reportedly parading fake WAEC certificate but President Muhammadu Buhari still retains him as his aide in charge of a panel on recovery of public property is the clearest sign that impunity is the order of the day and impunity is the livewire and the essential ingredient needed for corruption to become widespread the way it is now in Nigeria whereby even the National Bureau of Statistics found out that N400 billion is spent on bribery yearly in Nigeria.
“I’m sure this amount mentioned by the National Bureau of Statistics does not include the billions of naira used to buy votes in the just- ended general elections by politicians. The Vice President was accused of even bribing voters with N10,000 tradermoni allocations. Many beneficiaries made this allegation.
“In most government offices where the public interfaces with public and civil servants the citizens are extorted and exploited by bribes-seeking officials. The police, Customs and Immigration services all demand one bribe or the other to carry out the duties for which tax-payers’ money are deployed to pay their salaries. Contractors pay bribes to get contracts and usually deliver shoddy projects because they had paid bribes to the government officials.
“The Federal Government must allow the anti-graft institutions (EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau) to combat corruption in line with due process of the law.
Currently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is led by Ibrahim Magu who is perceived as being a loyalist of All Progressives Congress and the President. EFCC goes after yahooyahoo boys whilst the government officials stealing Nigeria blind are allowed to parade the corridors of power like conquerors.
“The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related offences Commission (ICPC) is headed by a respected professor of law who is best qualified for the job but the Federal Government officials are interfering in their work. Take for example the case of alleged misappropriation of N2.5 billion Digital Switchover fund domiciled within National Broadcasting Commission which the ICPC is prosecuting the Director General of NBC, Alhaji Modibbo Ishaq Kawu, but the said public official already facing criminal prosecution is sitting pretty tight as DG of the same office where he is accused of diverting N2.5 billion belonging to the agency and this same fellow went to his home state, Kwara, to run for office of governor under APC.
When he failed to clinch the ticket, he continued as DG of NBC even with the ongoing criminal prosecution against him. This is against the tenets and principles of the constitution which makes it mandatory that government must abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.
“The institutions that ought to fight corruption are heavily politicised and used to go after the political objective of the political party controlling federal government.
So, it is almost an uphill task—-indeed an impossible task to expect that government can use corrupt practices to fight endemic corruption in the system.
The corruption amongst security forces has made it possible for rag-tag armed hoodlums to wage war against Nigeria because security chiefs have pocketed the fund meant for buying of weapons. So corruption even amongst top government officials constitute grave threats to national security of Nigeria” he lamented.
Giving a statistical analysis of the dangers of corruption to the nation, a professor of statistics from University of Ibadan and the co-ordinator, UI Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (UI-LISA), Department of Statistics, Olusanya Olubusoye divided corruption into two —the office corruption and the corruption perpetrated in collaboration with foreign companies.
For him, the office corruption is not up to one per cent of the corruption perpetrated in collaboration with foreigners.
“Corruption is on two levels. The corruption at the level of the police, corruption at the level of government officials. This corruption finds its way back to the economy. It may have its own negative effects but it also has its positive impacts. The only thing is that it is earned illegitimately.
The other level of corruption which is more injurious to the economy is perpetrated at a higher level. That is the one that siphons the money outside the country. Most of these corruptions are perpetrated in collaboration with foreigners. That is the one that is dangerous. Look at the amount of money that has been recovered through Abacha Loot. Put the police corruption and office corruption together, they are not up to one per cent of Abacha Loot” he said, noting that the crude produced by oil companies is not what they report.
“Corruption we all know is a pervasive problem in Nigeria and as a matter of fact this is not the first government that would claim to be fighting corruption.
The anti-corruption institutions were not set up by this government and the Buhari Government has not in anyway shown any commitment to make those institutions very strong. We are fighting a war that we don’t know the strength of the opponent. In any fight, the first thing is to assess the strength of your opponent before you can formulate any strategy to win the battle. Corruption has to be measured. You can see the global community has the indices to measure the level of corruption in a particular country. Unlike other countries that I know, apart from the global measurement of corruption, Kenya has its own domestic indices to measure corruption. So, in Nigeria, we do not have that.
We depend on indices reported by Transparency International and other global bodies. That is why we should give credit to National Bureau of Statistics for at least conducting a survey on corruption in Nigeria in 2017.
“We should go further to produce corruption indicators which we should be reporting on regular basis. We should produce indicators we will use to rank government officials. We should produce indicators that we will use to rank non-governmental organisations. We should produce indicators we should use to rank multinational institutions. It is not only government offices that are corrupt” he emphasised.
Speaking to Daily Sun on the dangers of corruption, during the launch of Education for Justice Initiative (E4J) in Abuja, the Country Representative of United Nations Office for Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) Nigeria, Dr Oliver Stolpe, said that corruption and insecurity have a direct impact on the nation’s economy.
He surmised that corruption and insecurity have denied the country of veritable investment from the business community and that Nigeria should do something to curb these twin evils.
“About 10 years ago we did a study in Nigeria among the business community in terms of their own assessment of the extent of the impact of crime in the economy. What we found is that insecurity and corruption are the two main obstacles of doing business in Nigeria both in terms of cost imposed on them in their businesses and also in terms of actually not making new investments because of the problems of crimes and corruption” he said.