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On Corruption, Yet Again

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Your writer does not bet, but this time is ready to bet you that he is 99% sure that the current corruption investigations in this country will just fizzle out over time. It is in our character. Fizzling is. Time heals all wounds, but in Nigeria the saying should be 'time heals all corruption and makes us all forget it ever happened'. Almost all Nigerians have lost confidence (if they ever had) in the National Assembly, in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), in the Nigerian Judiciary, and in the Nigerian Police.

  The Nigerian Police, in particular, are in triple jeopardy: their own Inspector General stole their billions while they were active, alive and virile; then some rogues in the See-Evil (Civil) Service further steal billions from pension funds the Police are supposed to enjoy when they are old, retired and infirm; and, therefore, they turn around to replenish those stolen funds by auto-donating to themselves our Twenty-Twenty Naira when we come by them. Many a life has been lost on account of that Murtala Note. Sadly and tragically, even the Military manning our checkpoints have so been infected!

  In the whole wide world, there can't be any other nation that can continue to experience the wanton and despicable corruption like Nigeria and survive. By anybody's estimate, the combined stolen national funds from the current scandal between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the House of Representatives, to the recent Fuel Subsidy Probe, to the current Police Pension Scandal and the others fizzled may well equal all our budgets since independence. But we are lucky in Nigeria, time heals corruption. Fizzled our billions have, as the investigations to get them back also have.

  Like other corruption probes and convictions of the past, these ones will also come to pass, literally, like water down the drain, like dirt under the carpet. We remember the Power Probe, the Rural Electricity Scandal, the Siemens Thievery and the Halliburton Looting (where Germany and America punished the Givers of the bribes, yet the Nigerian Takers continue to in their 'no one can do anything to us' impunity). And now we hear, to add fizzle to our fizzy drinks, that members of the National Assembly have appropriated to themselves billions more of our funds. Legally. Those billions will also fizzle out in Time! (And nobody is thinking of Occupy NASS?)

  Top of all the things that vex Nigerians is the painful fact that there is still no adequate law to punish corruption. This is because the lawmakers and the law givers are NOT free from pecuniary embarrassment. We remember that IG of Police; the 'dressed as a lady' Governor; the woman banker (and don't we give women Treasurer in our associations?) who stole more than One Hundred and Ninety Three Billion Naira; and that political juggernaut who went to Kirikiri. Were not all of them patted on the wrist and got no more than a 'go and sin no more' sentence? Are they not now out and about and moving and shaking? Because time heals, and corruption fizzles!

  Is the Nigerian justice system not ashamed of itself over what recently happened to a former Nigerian Governor who has admitted to helping himself to his state's funds? In saner countries, even the Chief Justice would just resign, or at least cause to be sacked all the judges involved in that particular plea-bargaining shamelessness. But the culprit fizzled out to Dubai, yet the London Police fished him out, even though the looter had 'invested' the stolen monies in their own country. Because, in right-thinking nations, time does not heal corruption! Were it here, that multiplier-effect of a thief would since have been out and about. And the peoples' monies fizzled!

  The bane of fighting corruption in Nigeria is in the punishment. As long as people would steal and get away with no more than a pat on the wrist, people will continue to steal, wallahi.  We will continue repeating that the Chinese have the ultimate solution for graft: one looter, one bullet. We remember a few years ago when China executed the corrupt head of their equivalent of our NAFDAC. He had authorised, for monetary inducement, the licensing of fake drugs which ultimately harmed the people. He was found out, tried, convicted, had all his assets forfeited to government, and shot. The heirs would not even inherit the loot. For Nigeria, can we not suggest a constitutional amendment to make Five Million Naira theft (or 'misappropriation') enough for a shot in the head? Or what do you think of amputating their hands?

  One cannot comprehend how low we have sunk - or how high we have flown - in corruption in this country until we remember that when 'pure water' business started many years ago, there was strict regulation as to the licenses given by NAFDAC. As most people trusted the meticulous nature of the NAFDAC licensing regime, most people believed the water they were drinking was really 'pure', to be so licensed. Little did we know that many of such 'licensed' companies (whose NAFDAC registration appeared on the cover of their polythene bag) used this mandate to manufacture and sell empty polythene bags to other - unlicensed - 'pure water' packagers. (Much like the hustlers who sit for the JAMB UME on behalf of others, using the beneficiaries' names!) Only in Nigeria!

  Do we not remember that a decade and a half ago nine Air Force officers were sentenced to a total of 714 years in jail for corruption. One would love to know whether those soldiers are still in prison, or the 714 years have since expired, fizzled, like the six months of 'super-cop'. Around that same time, several bank managers who bankrupted their institutions warmed up many of our prisons. What happened to them, one would also love to know?

  How come a revenue collecting assistant in a state Inland Revenue office has five cars and four houses and three wives and two gold wristwatches and one credit in his SSCE statement of result? Or how can anyone explain to me how a common computer operator at old NEPA (now Power Holding) would have several cars and houses, yet his 'wealth' is raising no eyebrows?

  Because of corruption in high places, it has trickled down to very low places. My neighbour told me recently that his son, aged five, returned from nursery school and proudly told the father that he had done something wrong in class but had escaped being punished. How, the father asked him; did he apologise? No, the young chap said, he had bribed the class monitor, another toddler, with a biscuit wafer, so as not to report to Auntie.

  The Chinese, more than any other nation, had seen the damage corruption could bring on a nation. A writer, Henry Emerson Fosdick, tells this story about Ancient China: 'The Great Wall of China is a gigantic structure. When it was finished, it appeared impregnable. But the enemy breached it. Not by breaking it down or going round it. They did it by bribing the gatekeepers.'   By BALA MUHAMMAD