CORRUPTION: BANE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA
Governance is the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country's economic and social resources for development. The World Bank has identified three distinct aspects of governance:-
*The form of political regime
*The process by which authority is exercised in the management of a country's economic and social resources for development
*The capacity of governments to design, formulate and implement policies and discharge functions.
The term governance is usually used to describe conditions in a country as a whole. It is a term used by international financial institutions in discussing the economic development of nations.
Governance is often linked with participatory development of human rights and democratization. It therefore, takes a holistic look at legitimacy of government. That is, degree of democratization, accountability of political and official elements of government, competence of governments to formulate policies and deliver services and respect for human rights and rule of law.
As we continue our discussion of corruption and its effect on Nigeria, we shall see how this endemic cancer has impacted on every aspect of governance.
Impact of Corruption
In 2003, Antonio Maria Costa, a Brazilian Scholar, said that 'fighting corruption is a pre-condition for good governance and the rule of law, which in turn are the foundation stones of sustainable development''.
It has been argued that poverty is the cause of corruption, while corruption is a consequence of poverty and loss of moral values. Poverty and ignorance persist in Nigeria because of the distorted political and economic arrangement we practice.
This arrangement has entrusted a dis-proportionate portion of the nation's wealth in the hands of a few individuals. For instance, what percentage of Nigeria's 150 million people actually lives above the bread line? This is why people see political appointment or election (selection) into public office as a do or die affair, because it appears to be the only way of getting access to the national cake.
There is a social synergy through which corruption occurs between politics and economy and sustainable development. It attacks the vital structures that facilitate development processes. Particularly, resources mapped out for social and human development (e.g. hospitals, schools, roads etc.) are corruptly diverted to individual pockets. Sustainable development is an app….. that tries to balance the social, economic and environmental impacts of all our actions, now and in the future. But corruption makes this objective unrealizable.
Economic growth and development in Nigeria has become stultified as a result of corruption turning the country's economy into perpetual underdevelopment. This is why we have continued to occupy very low positions in international ratings of human development indices. In fact, since the return of this democratic dispensation, that is 1999 to date, there has been an avalanche of pervasive corruption all over the country, at all levels of government. The nation has continued to suffer very serious hyper- inflation, which has robbed the masses of their purchasing power and further reduced their living conditions, leaving the people much more pauperized.
Corruption is a symptom of fundamental failure of governance and so the higher the incidence of corruption, the more sustainable development becomes elusive. Corruption increases poverty and disproportionately affects those in the low income group because it pulls resources from the national treasury into the hands (pockets) of a few individuals who are politically powerful. The effects of corruption on the country's socio-political and economic development are extremely pervasive. Prominent among these effects are poverty and income inequality.
The picture painted in the foregoing part of this discussion indicates a frighteningly bleak future. This should not be so. Nigerians have realized that corruption is a very destructive element in the governance of the country and also the very derogatory way the outside world perceives this country. This, of course, has led to loss of government revenue, poor governance, failure of state institutions, brain drain, and electoral malpractice, absence of law and order, civil unrest, poor investment channels, business failure, unemployment, poverty and unsustainable development.
This realization has led the government to put in place some agencies to check or fight corruption. The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Police are some of these institutions that have been put in place to tackle corruption. These agencies can only succeed if there is strong will by the people and political leaders are truly committed to the process and ready to implement all-encompassing anti-corruption programmes in an impartial way. This is extremely important if the fight against corruption is to succeed.
The way people are selected and placed in public offices should be reviewed. Merit, not patronage should be strictly applied. Round pegs, not square pegs should be placed in round holes.
(2) Provision of basic amenities for the people. If there is constant water supply, good schools, good hospitals, abundant food at reasonable cost, constant electricity supply, affordable housing and good roads for easy transportation, the craze for individuals to get these things through whatever means will vanish.
(3) Public servants should be well remunerated. They should be paid living wages not minimum wages. This should also be prompt as at and when due. The effect of adequate remuneration on motivation cannot be over-emphasized.
(4) The various poverty alleviation measures should be revolutionized and made more practical.
(5) Public officers should be made to swear to realistic assets declarations on assumption and also when leaving office.
(6) Due process should be very strictly applied not only in the award of contracts but, in fact, in all government business.
(7) Public awareness campaigns should be carried out to remind the populace of what constitutes corruption and what the public should do when any such act is detected.
(8) Existing laws on corruption should be strictly applied at all times no matter the level of the culprit in the socio-economic ladder.
(9) Citizens who provide information on corruption should be well-protected and adequately compensated.
(10) Wealth or property found to have been acquired through corrupt practices should be confiscated by the state.
(11) People who have been found guilty of corruption should never be granted any form of pardon or given any future public appointment.
(12) The ICPC and EFCC should be merged into one strong anti-Corruption agency to avoid what at present appears like a duplication of functions.
(13) Nigeria should pursue and strengthen international cooperation in the recovery of corruptly acquired wealth (loot) stashed way in foreign countries.
(14) Moreover, and most importantly, our leaders should lead by examples.
(15) The various law enforcement agencies should be funded and properly motivated to ensure optimal performance.
The average Nigerian is not ordinarily corrupt. He has been attracted to engage in bribery and corruption by a society built on a lousy foundation of political, economic and, in fact, a social system that depends on corruption for survival. However, Nigeria has not gone beyond redemption from this cancerous endemic known as corruption, but certain questions still persist. For instance, who has the proper character in Nigeria to fight corruption? Where shall we find the people still honest enough and ready for self-denial and the struggle for the country's prosperity rather than their own individual interest? Where shall we find the judges, police officers and investigators to accomplish this task? And even if all these are found, will the politicians willingly support an all-out offensive against corruption? These are questions begging for answers.
• Professor Sunday N. Agwu, Ph.D, MNAE, fcai, is of the Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki.