According to the recent ranking by the transparency international, a corruption watch dog, Nigeria ranked at the bottom of the index. Corruption has become a feature and sort of hallmark to Nigeria. Since the returned to democracy in 1999 nothing has changed from the corrupt culture left by the military, if not the increases witness in its scope and dimensions. The military administration of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (1985-1993) was accused among other things of stealing billions of dollars of extra revenue that accrued during the Gulf war of 1991, due to the high price of crude oil in the international market; not only that many analysts see Babangida as the person who formally institutionalized corruption as another pillar of government in Nigeria. Despite the rhetoric’s of his government of being responsible for initiating the privatisation program in the country as well as the move towards liberalization, the rate of corruption increased with his so called introduction of market policies into the economy. Babangida left government at a time when corruption has already become the norm and it was from there that Abacha government took over and further made our situation worst. According to Lawal (2007), “Corruption is worse in countries where institutions, such as the legislature and the judiciary are weak, where rule of law and adherence to formal rules are not rigorously observed, where political patronage is standard practice, where the independence and professionalism of the public sector has been eroded and where civil society lacks the means to bring public pressure to bear”. All the above listed features have manifested in Nigeria, it was just last week that a court in London found former Delta state governor James Ibori as culpable in cases of corruptions that amount to millions pound sterling. But, to the surprises of many in Nigeria, a particular court in Nigeria has before that time acquitted him of all charges, setting him free from all charges put against him by Economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC), the country’s corruption watch dog. And just last month there were accusations and counter accusation between the Director General of Nigerian security and exchange commission (SEC) and the chairman of the house committee on capital market. While the chairman accused her of spending public money on dubious hotels bills and food expenses, the DG SEC in return accused the committee chairman of asking for bribe of millions of Naira.
Another recent case of corruption is that of pension scam where billions of Naira that belongs to police pensioners and others were being stolen over many years by top civil servants that included secretaries of government ministries. Some of these stolen monies were hidden inside houses and others were transferred to accounts of unsuspecting civil servants. That is why it is not uncommon in Nigeria to see pensioners that put many years of work for the government begging on the street, because their entitlements are yet to be released. And the link between corruption and poverty can be directly observed here and not to talk of it connection with the high crime we see on the streets of Nigeria every day. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise when you see police and other security agents collecting bribes on the road or security agents aiding thieves in their acts, because the act of corruption is condone at the highest level of authority. Former bosses of the police used to delay the payment of police salaries in order to earn undue interest on the money from banks where the money were being kept. How do you expect to achieve rapid infrastructural development in a country where contract for the building of roads, supply of electric power, pipe born water, and air port is inflated from the actual amounts? The direct implication of this is that a billion Naira ,means to built three roads can only build one, thereby reducing the rate of economic growth and development in that nation. That is why many see Nigeria’s target of becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020 as just a dream which cannot be actualized without confronting corruption monster head on. In one of the House of Representative proves in to the power sector activities during the civilian regime of former leader Olusegun Obasanjo, it was discovered that about $16 billion were squandered on the power sector without any improvement on the level of power supply left behind at the time of handing over from the military. But, people in positions of authority that includes monarch, former leaders, and religious leaders were reported to be begging the House to shelve that plan of taking the matter further.
According to the late economic Guru, Professor Sam Aluko, there is a kind of positive correlation between corruption and the amount of income earned by individuals in Nigeria. As it appears the higher the income of a civil servant or politician, the more the amount of money he steals. The recent case of pensioners money and the current prove by the house into petroleum subsidy has further add credence to this theory, here in Nigeria. Corruption also distribute income in favour of the corrupt class which in most cases they are already rich individuals (Aluko, 2008), thereby, increasing the incidence of poverty and wealth disparities. The recent data released by the national bureau of statistic that shows the percentage of people living in poverty has increased since the returned to democracy to about 70% 0f the population, under scoring the increase of corruption in the country despite the return to civilian rule. In the northern part of the country corruption is one of the major explanatory variables for the high incidence of corruption in the region, leaders with origin from the northern part of the country rule the country for about 65% of the country history since after independence from Britain in 1960 but have nothing to show for the development of their region but poverty. Even in the Niger delta, despite the trillions of Naira that the region is collecting annually there is no sign of infrastructural development as it should be. The region governors are one of the most corrupt in the country. The case of kidnapping for money ransom is one of the major problems that are militating against the development of that region and poverty and unemployment are some of the causes of that. Where you have government official telling the poor to sacrifice for the betterment of the country and in order for the future of the nation to be greener while on their part they are not forgoing their corrupt practices, then there is need for a bigger surgery. In the neighboring Niger republic despite their poverty the level of corruption there is not endemic as is the case with Nigeria, in which case some scholars like to link her deteriorating case of corruption to the legacy left behind by the British colonialist when they left the country in 1960.
In a paper on good governance by Professor Sam Ejite O. (2007), he categorized Nigeria’s current problem of governance in four context, dictatorship and authoritarianism; weak constitutional institutions such as legislature, judiciary, and political parties; class character of the economy that allowed the use of stolen money to acquire power; and lastly, personal rule by those in power. The dominant political party in Nigeria, which promised to rule the country for 60 years, the People Democratic Party (PDP) symbolized anything that is dictatorship and authoritarianism. Since, 2003 general election PDP rigged every election to ensure that it maintain it stay in power. Obasanjo, who rule the country between 1999 to 2007, has never embraced true democracy (he remain the military man that he was before his retirement). It is an open secrete that the old man tried to extend his tenure by looking for ways to amend the constitution to allow him go for third term. In a country where the judiciary has fallen victim of executive dictatorship, and the opposition parties are weak not much should be expected in the way of fighting corruption. The Nigerian judiciary behaves as if it is another arm of the PDP always dancing to her tunes. PDP and its people are the only politicians with large chunk of money at their disposal, apart from few opposition politicians in alliance with the party. It is therefore, not surprising if PDP uses it stolen money to rig election at all cost. While Nigeria’s Africa main rival, South Africa, can boast of less corruption and poverty stricken families, Nigeria boast of them. It is, therefore, clear that any forecasting on the future economic progress of Nigeria that did not take the negative impact corruption and bad governance have on the future growth, will therefore fail to arrive at the realistic future growth and development of the nation.
Aluko S.A. (2008), “corruption and national development”, A lecture delivered at the centre for democratic development research and training, Zaria Kaduna state, on Saturday 31st May, 2008.
Lawal G. (2007), “Corruption and development in Africa: challenges for political and economic change”, Humanities and social sciences Journal 2(1), 2007
Oyovbaire, S.E. (2007), “the crisis of governance in Nigeria”, convocation lecture, University of Port Harcourt, Thursday 15th March, 2007