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Nigeria: the Legislative Role in Fighting Corruption by Prof. Femi Ajayi

THE LEGISLATIVE ROLE FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA:

“…YOU ARE NOT A FISH AND IF YOU ARE A FISH CLOSE YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU ARE SWIMMING”

Words cannot quantify what we feel about policy operators of Nigerian Governments with songs about Corruption that runs in the veins of an average Nigerian public servant, without any psychological approach for a change of mindset of an average Nigerian towards the fight against corruption. It seems that the Legislative body does not care much about sanitizing the country of this disease that seems to have eaten very deep into Nigerians mindset.

Ironically Transparency International, in its Corruption Perceptions Index 2015, ranks Nigeria very low as the 136th, tied with Tajikistan, with 26 scores on the corruption index, among the 168 countries assessed. Unfortunately Nigeria seems to still dancing on the spot since 2012 with 27 scores, 2013 with 25, 2014 with 27, and in 2015 with 26 scores.

While the fifteen most corrupt nations of the world are Eritrea with 18 as the 15th; Syria14th with 18; Turkmenistan 13th with18; Yemen 12th scored 18; Haiti 11th with 17; Guinea-Bissau 10th with 17; Venezuela 9th with the score of 17; Iraq 8th with 16; Libya 7th with 16; Angola 6th scoring 15; South Sudan 5th with 15; Sudan is 4th with 12; Afghanistan 3rd with 11; and the number one corrupt nations of the world are North Korea and Somalia with the Corruption score of 8 each.

Although corruption is still rife globally, more countries improved their scores in 2015 than declined, unlike Nigeria that still dancing on the spot since 2012. Countries like Greece, Senegal and the UK have improved in recent years. While Australia, Brazil, Libya Spain and Turkey have deteriorated. Five of the 10 most corrupt countries also rank among the10 least peaceful places in the world; Somalia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan, Angola, Libya, Iraq, Venezuela, Guinea-Bissau and Haiti

There has not been some positive legislation to prevent corruption in the country. In as much as the Government agencies refused to do what is right; corruption will endure. Ironically, very few Nigerian Politicians have prosperous background before venturing into politics. Unfortunately, few of them, like a drop pf water in the Ocean, have been inspired by the termites in the Nigerian public service.

The just published piece (December 2016), in the United States, fifteen richest politicians in the United States, have very healthy financial background prior to settling for the public offices. Among them are four Governors, four Senators, and seven HOR. Sources of their wealth range from Capital Firm Partners, Flying J Truck Stop Chain, and with Gas, Investing in smaller local companies, Personal balance sheet, Career in law, An Economist, For-profit Health Care Industry, Legal work in the Counter-Terrorism, Auto Parts and Accessories Company; Store Chains like Target and they are all graduates. Amazingly the worth of the 15th richest US politician is $70 million, followed with $89 million, $100 million. $100 million. $104 million. $112.5 million, $133 million, $143.2 million. $154.6 million, $197.9 million, $236 million, $257.5 million. $464 million range, and $1.6 billion while the richest is worth $2 billion.

The American political system is becoming more and more dominated by financial heavyweights, as Donald Trump has added to the equation, as America has some of the richest politicians in the world. During the 113th Congressional session, 268 of the 534 members of Congress were millionaires. The House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and Cabinet are increasingly composed of many of USA wealthiest citizens. Throughout history, people who have commanded credible amounts of wealth, held office within the federal government, as well as in the numerous state and local bodies across the country.

George Washington was notoriously rich, and men like Michael Bloomberg, a businessman worth billions, have also served. Others like Ross Perot and, more recently, Mitt Romney have come close. Businessman Donald Trump, US President-elect (2016), has changed the equation.

Does most Nigerian politicians have credible background before venturing into politics?

Unfortunately, Nigeria has very disturbing news regarding corruption: In 2016, “EFCC recovered N381m from Mrs. Omolara Amosu, the wife of the immediate past Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu”; “EFCC moved against some ex-governors, to recover N57.2 billion from five serving Senators, Ahmed Sani Yerima Zamfara State (N1billion); Joshua Dariye (N1.2 billion) Plateau State, Gombe State, Danjuma Goje (N25 billion), Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu (N15 billion), and son of former governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako), Senator Abdulaziz Nyako (N15 billion).” Can these legislate against corruption in Nigeria?

More so, “$200 Billion Stolen Money squirrelled in Dubai”; “NNPC accounts not audited since 2010”; “Massive fraud in Nigeria’s N117 Billion rice import.” Why Nigeria does has to import rice? So also, “the discovery of some sharp practices by some individuals in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector; crude oil revenue lost $16billion at the official exchange rate of N196, coming to N3.136 trillion; while with the parallel market, rate is N315, totaling N5.04trillion.”

Less we forget ‘corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit.’ Government, or ‘political’, “corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Whereas political corruption is the abuse of public power, office, or resources by elected government officials for personal gain, by extortion, soliciting or offering bribes.” It can also take the form of office holders maintaining themselves in office by purchasing votes, as majority of elected officials purchased their votes directly or indirectly.

Corruption was first used by Aristotle and later by Cicero who added the terms ‘bribe and abandonment of good habits’, as practiced by some Nigerian serving Ministers, one claimed not to have taken any bribe in his over 20years of high positions in Nigeria public service.

Stephen D. Morris, a professor of politics, writes that “[political] corruption is the illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest.” Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries.

Economist Ian Senior defines corruption as “an action to; secretly provide; a good, or a service to a third party; so that he or she can influence certain actions which; benefit the corrupt, a third party, or both; in which the corrupt agent has authority.” Daniel Kaufmann from the World Bank, extends the concept to include ‘legal corruption’ in which power is abused within the confines of the law, as those with power often have the ability to make laws for their protection, as practiced by the Nigerian National Assembly.

Corruption can occur on different scales, as Nigerian politicians play it on different societal levels. There is corruption that occurs as small favors, between small numbers of people, refers to as petty corruption. In other words Petty corruption occurs at a smaller scale and takes place at the implementation end of public services including the exchange of small improper gifts, or use of personal connections to obtain favors, or a speedy completion of routine government procedures.

The second scale of corruption is that corruption that affects the government on a large scale, refer to as grand corruption. Grand corruption occurring at the highest levels of government, in a way that requires significant subversion of the political, legal and economic systems.

While on the third scale is the so prevalent that it is part of the everyday structure of Nigerian society, including corruption as one of the symptoms of organized crime, called systemic corruption. Systemic corruption, or endemic corruption, primarily due to the weaknesses of an organization or process. Unfortunately the Nigeria public system is mournfully built on the foundation of corruption, so systematic that everyone practices it from low, to high cadre of the public service.

Imagine the public ‘sparing’ at social gatherings by Nigerians. It has been so abused that the Legislature, if it has the moral obligation to do that, should come up with strong laws to prevent the excessive spraying at social gatherings, as testified by some videos we could not post here, displaying arrogance, stupidity like crazy animals, in social gatherings.

Scientifically R. Klitgard postulates that, “…corruption will occur if the corrupt gain is greater than the penalty multiplied by the likelihood of being caught and prosecuted i.e. Corrupt gain > Penalty × Likelihood of being caught and prosecuted.”

However, the original Klitgard equation has therefore been amended by C. Stephan into “Degree of corruption = Monopoly + Discretion – Transparency – Morality.”

According to Stephan, “the moral dimension has an intrinsic, mentality problem, and an extrinsic component, external circumstances like poverty, inadequate remuneration, inappropriate work conditions and inoperable or overcomplicated procedures which demoralize people and let them search for “alternative” solutions.”

Professor Patrick Lumumba, DG, Kenyan Law School, has to lend some strong messages to the Nigerian Legislators, at the 2016 Conference in Abuja, ‘THE ROLE OF THE LEGISLATURE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION.’

“…And I said what do you mean and he said when you work in the public service how is it that you cannot take a little out of the public service, and I told him you are not a fish and if you are a fish close your mouth when you are swimming. {Emphasis Mine}. And he also told me how can you be tinder around the tree and you do not graze on the grass that is around there. I said, you are not a cow and even if you are, remember that the grass does not belong to you.”

“There is no shortage of attempts at rationalizing corruption in Africa and there is no way in which we are going to fight corruption without changing people’s behavior. My prescription is that we must realize that those who engage in corruption belongs to a different cadre of people and that they must never be owed.”

“The culture in many African countries that, if a thief is from your tribe, you say, yes we know he is a thief, but he is our thief. That must stop! These ownership of thieves, because they come from our ethnic group, or they come from our social class, or they come from our religious circle, is one of the things that undermines the fight against corruption.”

“In many parts of Africa, we must therefore create an environment where those who engage in graft do not have places of refuge in their ethnic groups. We must not create an environment where when we banish people because they have engaged in graft, we then give them protection because they come from our tribes. It is a problem that is going to persist in our country such as Nigeria, but it’s only through the legislature, which comprises people from all parts of Nigeria, that we can ensure that these thieves are not given the oxygen to breath, so that they can suffocate through their iniquities.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, the fight against corruption is one which one can talk about for a long time but when one is speaking in the present of the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, one ought to measure ones words, one only ought to say the things that ought to be said and therefore as I draw to the conclusion of my presentation, there are number of things that I think that are critical in the fight against corruption in the manner that it has been demonstrated in different parts of the world.”

“The first thing that we must do is that we must strengthen institutions. Institutions are at the very heart of the sustained fight against corruption.

Your President, His Excellency Mohammadu Buhari, is on the right path. He has given us the clarion call. He is now recognized the world all over as one of the chief fighters against corruption. But I can tell you, no matter how well intention he is, he is not going to succeed, unless you support him as the legislators. He is not going to succeed unless the institutions are strengthened. And in any event, the maximum he can stay in office is two terms. And let me tell you one thing about those who engage in graft. They have the patience. That is amazing. If they can sleep quietly for eight years only to emerge as greater monsters in NIVER.”

“And therefore, what we must do is to create institutions that defies time. Those institutions must be institutions that are recognized by the law. If it is the institutions of parliament, it must stay strong. If it is the institution of the judiciary, it must be part of men and women who engage in graft. If it is the institution of the executive it must be strengthened. If it is the EFCC it must be strengthened. If it is the civil society, it must be strengthened, it is only institution that defy time that will ensure that we succeed in the fight against corruption.”

“The second thing that we must do is that we must have a raft of laws which ensure that those who want to do things that are detrimental to the society are punished, and punished strictly in accordance with the law and they are not allowed to be unleashed to the unsuspecting public.”

“And I am happy to know that our representative from Europe are here. For a long time, Africans who stole from Africa, has safe havens in Europe. It is my joy, even Europe now is beginning to close their doors. Under the World Bank, we have Mutual Legal Assistant, if we can ensure that those having avenues are closed, so that they cannot keep their money away.”

“What amazes me is that these individuals kept their ill-gotten wealth in numbered accounts. Not their wives, not their husbands knew, so that when they die these money was enjoyed by other civilizations. We must now ensure that those who serve in the public service do not hold accounts outside of this country. If they love this country so much that they serve here, why is it that they do not have faith in having their money in this part of the world? These are things that can only be done if we have sound laws.”

“The third thing is that we must look at our Education system, what are we teaching in the one hundred and forty-three universities in Nigeria? What are we teaching in our high schools? Are we teaching our young men and women that you can be celebrated simply because you have acquired wealth without the source being given? We must interrogate our curriculum and we must involve everybody, religious leaders, traditional leaders because how can it be that among the various people of Nigeria you will not allow your daughter or your son to marry a thief who has stolen a goat but a thief who has stolen Naira is celebrated. We must give the goat and naira equal value because a thief is a thief.”

“Lastly, I have no doubt in my mind that we must introduce hygiene in our politics, the day we introduce hygiene in our politics, so that our men and women who seek public office are men and women of integrity, so that our men and women who seek public office, finance their campaign in a clean manner, we will never succeed. I have always been amazed in many African Countries that the person who appoint being appointed, being elected, if is a Nigerian, for five years will earn no more than thirty million Naira, is prepared to spend one billion Naira to going to public office.”

“There must be something that they see that we the electorates do not see. And that thing is the ability and the opportunity to privatize public wealth, the day we introduce hygiene in our politics, that they will deal with the financing of our politics, that is the day that we will begin to sanitize our country and that is the day that Nigeria will begin to be a great country.”

“I look forward to the day therefore that corruption will be an exception rather than the rule, I look forward to the day therefore when the laws that we are enacting will be laws that will be observed. I look forward to the day therefore when we will have created an environment where we can prevent corruption. I look forward to the day therefore when national honors in Nigeria will be given to men and women who deserve it, not those who have bought them. I look forward to the day therefore when our men and women in institutions of higher learning will have as their natural instinct, the instinct to do good. I look forward to the day therefore when the EFCC may be abolished because there are no more corrupt Nigerians. I look forward to the day therefore when all these laws will have their pride of place, I look forward to the day therefore when the protocols of Africa and when the laws of Africa will be in the museum of history, because corruption would have been eliminated, I look forward the day when we will be able to say, like the morning, the bible, corruption where is thy stint? Corruption where is thy stint? God Bless You”.

The Nigerian Senate

Incongruously, kicking the earlier advice by Professor Lumumba, the Nigerian Senate is altering the Constitutional provision to allow its members to have foreign accounts, and also fire an incompetent Minister. Whatever Professor Lumumba advised is like putting water in a basket. As at December 15, 2016, a self-serving Senate Bill 347, titled: “An Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 To Permit Public Officers to Maintain or Operate a Bank Account In Any Country Outside Nigeria; And For Related Matter.”, sponsored by Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, representing Lagos West. It will alter Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution on the Code of Conduct of Public Officers by deleting paragraph 3.

According to the sponsor, “This bill seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, in order to delete the provision in the Code of Conduct for public officers which forbids them from operating a bank account in a bank outside Nigeria. This is owing to the fact that the prohibition does no accord with the current realities where the world has become a global village, where illicit funds could easily be tracked.”

Tactlessly, when Nigerians want practical solutions to the hunger in the country, the crop of the current legislatures are there to serve themselves.

The same self-serving Senator, echoing his colleagues’ yearnings, is making another corrupt act of sharing with the executive to remove non-performing Ministers from office; to alter Section 147 of the Principal Act by inserting a new subsection (4). That is, “An Act to Amend The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 To Provide For The Consent Of the Senate/State House of Assembly For the Removal Of A Minister Of the Government of the Federation/ Commissioner Of the Government Of A State. Any person appointed to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation may be removed from such office (by) the President for inability to discharge the functions of the office in question (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body) or for misconduct or for contravention of any Act of the Federation: Provided that the Senate concurs with such removal by a unanimous vote.”

The President hires and fires the Ministers, not for the Minister colluding with the Senate, to retain his job. Is this what the Senators should be doing when there are millions of issues to legislate about, to sanitize the country?

According to José Ugaz, the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index clearly shows that corruption remains a blight around the world. People across the globe sent strong signals to those in power as people are taking to the streets to protest corruption. It is time Nigeria tackles the grand corruption. It has gotten to the point now that Federal Government has to give more than five per cent of the recovered loot to any successful whistle blower, who exposes corruption by providing relevant information leading to the recovery of the funds. People has to work together successfully in fighting corruption.

Nigeria should work very hard to reduce or eliminate any extrinsic aspects that might reduce morality. Additionally, Nigeria should establish a culture of ethical conduct in society, while those that have stolen should be prosecuted to the last letter, to enhance the intrinsic morality.

Following Professor Lumumba’s advice “…you are not a fish and if you are a fish close your mouth when you are swimming…”, when you work in the Nigerian public service. “…you are not a cow and even if you are, remember that the grass does not belong to you”.

Season Greetings!!!

Femi Ajayi is a Professor of Policy, Management & Conflict Resolution, at Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State

SOBEF650@aol.com

 

 

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