Seized by Sleaze: The Siege of Corruption and a Search for Workable Options in Nigeria.

Author:Bamidele, Oluwaseun
Position:Essay
 
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Seized by Sleaze: The Siege of Corruption and a Search for Workable Options in Nigeria

Nigeria is a country born in hope and optimism, but one that has lived with anxiety for most of its fifty-four year history. The anxiety stems from the failure of successive leaders to nation-build, and those leaders inability to mobilize the country towards economic, social, and political development. In Nigeria, the political class has reduced governance to a veritable mechanism that boosts and consolidates their economic strength and fortune to the detriment of the country's economic growth and development. The annual budgets in Nigeria are proverbial buffets for the rulers, who have turned corruption into a trademark for governance in the country. The scale of corruption occurring in the corridors of power led to the creation of anti-corruption agencies, such as the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crime Commission), and the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission). However, these agencies have made almost no headway fighting corruption. The culture of corrupt enrichment, the kleptomaniac tendencies and orchestrated thievery among the political office holders have rendered the national economy comatose. (1) Positions of authority are a means of siphoning, sharing, and manipulating the less privileged and down-trodden. Yet, what is indisputable is the fact that "no nation is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit its economy to enrich themselves." (2) Corruption, generally defined as abuse of authority for private gain, is among the world's oldest practices and a fundamental cause of insecurity, providing a focal point for many social groups' grievances against governments. (3) In the 2013 Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) published by Transparency International, Nigeria was ranked as the 36th most corrupt country in the world. Nigeria placed 143rd of the 176 countries assessed, scoring 27 percent. The least corrupt countries were Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, who all scored 90 percent. (4)

In light of the above, it could be argued that the basic problem with Nigerian governance is its high level of corruption and its attendant poor governance. With a ranking of 143 in the 2013 Corruption Perception Index, Nigeria is depicted as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. The paper will serialize all the ills of corruption in Nigerian governance and the extent to which it undermines all the possibilities of national development and progress. With high level corruption, it is impossible to have good governance; without good governance, there will be no development; without development there cannot be peace; and without peace there will be no security. This paper also sets out to review the approaches to corruption prevention and to discuss some of the practical difficulties in minimizing the level of corruption in governance before making suggestions on options for tackling the menace in Nigeria. But in discussing corruption in Nigeria, some pertinent questions arise. For example, what nature does corruption assume in this country? What are the causes of corruption in governance in Nigeria? The importance of these questions lies in their analytic and normative consequences. Analytically, there is little hope of discerning how Nigeria's corruption in governance will end if its emergence and driving factors are not well understood. From a normative perspective, the task of prescribing solutions is at worst ad hoc, and at best merely palliative, without a proper diagnosis of the causes of corruption in governance. In the final analysis, this paper will examine how ending Nigeria's corruption will only promote genuine peace and stability.

Conceptual Framework of Corruption

Corruption is neither race-bound nor nation-specific. It is a universal phenomenon. However, its universality is not an excuse. Corruption is a complex socio-political phenomenon, a child of the society and social relations in which it occurs. In a way, the definitional complexity is deeply rooted. The complexity owes partly to the fact that ascription of corruption involves both a descriptive and a normative judgment, and these judgments work in tandem all the way down to the root sense, that the political order may be subject to subversion or systematic distortion. As a result, we are not likely to find a universally agreed upon definition of corruption. What is needed is to identify the major elements of corruption, which could then be combined into a working definition--one that sketches a core concept while acknowledging that cases without all the core features may nonetheless count as corruption.

The key elements to consider when defining corruption include: a conception of political office with rules and norms for the conduct of that office-the office being defined partly in terms of the broader public interest that it serves, which may run against the personal interest of the political office holder or against interest that are deemed illegitimate but are not strictly personal; a view that corruption involves the distortion or subversion of the exercise of political office so that private, partisan, or sectional rather than public interest are the focus; and the idea that three actors are normally involved in or affected by corrupt activity. Those three actors are the occupant of the political office (A); the intended beneficiary of that political public office (B); and the actual beneficiary of the particular exercise of that political public office (C). This triadic relation does not always hold. In kleptocracy, for example, A and C are the same. However, with administrative payments B and C may be identical, but the identification of three distinct roles--the occupants of political public office, the intended beneficiary and the actual beneficiary, encourage us to distinguish theft or fraud from corruption, and helps capture how corruption distorts the exercise of political public office and power. Combining these elements in a suitably tentative definition will produce the following scenario: (5) Corruption in politics occurs where a political public official (A), acting in ways that violate the rules and norms of office and that involve personal, partisan or sectional gain, harms the interest of the public (B) (or some sub-part there-of) who is the designated beneficiary of that office, to benefit themselves and/ or a third party (C) who rewards or otherwise incentivizes A to gain access to goods or services they would otherwise obtain. The definition does not assume that A's behavior must necessarily break the law. Legal definitions of corruption can fail to capture some of the worst cases of corrupt activities because corrupt transactions can be institutionalized in the laws of the state or economy. This was recognized in a 2006 work by the World Bank on 'state capture,' which notes that corrupt relations can be used to pass laws that entrench, extend and legitimize corrupt gains. Not all corruption is about the corruption of politics. There is also economic corruption, as well as corruption in a range of public services, such as health, petroleum, and education. But all corruption has the same conceptual structure: a recognition of certain formal responsibilities attached to an idea of political office or a position of trust, which imply certain responsibilities and constraints on self-interested behavior; the violation of rules and norms concerning the exercise of that political office or trust; the harming of one set of interest identified by the rules and norms as legitimate, to serve others deemed illegitimate; and the benefitting of those not formally entitled to benefits. (6)

Corruption occurs where private wealth and public power overlap. It represents the illicit use of willingness-to-pay either in cash or kind a form of gratification as decision-making criteria. Frequently, bribes induce political officials to take actions that are against the interests of their principals, who may be bureaucratic superiors, politically appointed ministers, or multiple principals such as the general public. In light of the complexity of the concept of corruption, one way to improve the understanding of its consequence for efforts at development transformation is to distinguish between the different forms of corruption; first, by contrasting grand and petty corruption; second, by differentiating corruption across sectors; and third, by examining different practices considered to be corrupt.

One of the most common distinctions made by scholars is between grand and petty corruption, at times also referred to as political and administrative corruption, (7) or as state capture and administrative corruption. (8) Despite the misleading terminology, the grand-petty dichotomy is not concerned with the scale of corrupt activity, but rather with the level and manner at which it takes place; either at the level of the political leadership, or with the bureaucracy that implements and administers policy. While the former has undoubtedly had a greater impact on the practices and functioning of the political system because it sustains networks of patronage and distorts the laws and procedures of government (rather than just their implementation), it is petty corruption that is experienced more directly by the population in its daily interactions with the state. For example, petty corruption occurs through favors granted and bribes paid regularly by the citizens to political public officials. (9) While the impact of these individual acts of corruption on the overall development process may be minimal, it undermines citizens' trust in the state. In this sense, the routine nature of petty corruption can destroy the perception of state neutrality.

The second pathway to refine the analysis of corruption is to distinguish between corruption in different sectors (justice, security, procurement) as they...

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