The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently put the amount of money spent on bribes in Nigeria every year at about N400 billion. The damning disclosure was made in a report that the organisation, in partnership with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), presented to the public at a stakeholders meeting to mark the end of its five-year project on corruption in the country.
The report entitled “Corruption in Nigeria – Bribery: Public Experience and Response”, covers June 2015 to May 2016. It concludes that law enforcement agencies and the judiciary are the highest receivers of bribes in Nigeria. Its study of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, also says that “police officers are the type of public officials to whom bribes are most commonly paid in Nigeria.”
According to the report: “of all adult Nigerians who had direct contact with a police officer in the 12 months prior to the survey, about 46.4 percent paid that officer at least one bribe.” The document further holds that “although fewer people come in contact with judiciary officials than with police officers over the course of the year, when they do, the risk of bribery is considerable.”
It further stresses that the “prevalence of bribery in relation to prosecutors is the second highest, closely followed by judges and magistrates.” It concludes that “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.”
Although the National Judicial Council (NJC) has stoutly denied the ranking of judiciary workers as the second highest receiver of bribes in Nigeria, this does not distract from the fact that corruption is rife in the country. There is no doubt that the corruption cankerworm has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation. The NJC, in a statement by its Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, claims that the poor grading of the Nigerian judiciary was untrue, baseless and a figment of the imagination of the two agencies. The statement further points out that the conclusion of the organisations on the Nigerian judiciary is subjective and speculative.
Although many questions can be raised on the methodology used by UNODC in arriving at the specific sums spent on bribes in various government organisations, these allegations should worry all the agencies mentioned, irrespective of their rebuttals. For instance, the ongoing probe and trial of high-ranking judicial officers for bribery lend credence to this report. The frequent reports on the bribery of police officers also appear to support the UNODC claim. The NBS involvement and collaboration on this survey also gives the report a badge of authenticity and believability.
That corruption is pervasive in the country is not in doubt. What is needed is the political will to cleanse the Augean stable and rid the country the menace. The war against corruption requires more verve. We need political will to fight corruption at all tiers of government, especially the federal and state governments.
If we get these two levels right, the third tier can easily fall in line. We want to see the conviction of corrupt high ranking public officials. We want to see the loopholes in the corruption war plugged to prevent further looting of the public treasury. All hands must be on deck for Nigeria to win the war against corruption.