Corruption means “dishonest or illegal behaviour, especially of people in authority, or the act of making somebody change from moral to immoral standards of behaviour”.
The world “corruption” is as old as mankind. So we need not bother ourselves about its origin. The area of concern should be its spread in dimension in different parts of the world at various times.
In Nigeria context, corruption has been so institutionalized that many Nigerians, either by act of omission or commission, have come to see corruption as a way of life. This is with the effect that corruption has grown into a full blown cancer which has spread and eaten deep into the fabric of the nation’s socio-economic and political strata.
Corruption has dehumanized and debilitated us as a people so much so that the image of an average Nigerian is badly battered within and outside Nigeria. It is now common place to hear average Nigerians talk about “the Nigerian factor” which has become an alias for corruption.
The situation is so bad that it may not be wrong for anybody to assume that corruption is an official policy in both public and private sectors in Nigeria. That is why, the poverty level with its attendant widespread disease, hunger and low life expectancy is at its highest in Nigeria.
People erroneously tend to associate corruption with public office holders only. This is not so, because corruption, being a state of the mind, does not recognize public or private sector. Take the act of bribery for instance, it is not limited to the public sector. A person from the private sector who offers bribe to the public officer is as guilty as the receiver.
Basically, corruption takes the form of the following: bribery, nepotism, extortion, gratification, absenteeism from work, misappropriation, embezzlement and stealing or looting. It includes inflation of contract value, falsification of ‘official record, ghost workforce, examination malpractices, hoarding, bunkering, smuggling, admission racketeering, diversion of funds etc.
The effects of corruption are deadlier and more dangerous than HIV/AIDS. This is because HIV/AIDS only kills an individual, whereas corruption kills a nation. Corruption has the capacity to breed all kinds of vices and societal degeneration. It brings about poverty, diseases and social insecurity. The infrastructural and security problems we have in the country today are also borne out of corruption.
Corruption is so pervasive that it affects all sectors of the economy, especially the public service, the organized private sector, civil societies and even religious organisations.
Lack of policy implementation and policy inconsistency are products of political corruption. While religious organisations are neck deep in monetization, the proliferation of civil societies in Nigeria has become an avenue to attract international donors. These are all off-shoots of corruption.
Corruption literarily is synonymous with lack of development and progress because by breeding and feeding on inefficiency, it generally strangles the system of social organisation.
For instance, corruption increases the cost of doing business because of the attendant red-tapism, unnecessary bureaucracy, kickbacks and gratification involved. The totality of these escalates the cost of living beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians, hence the society becomes poverty-stricken.
Similarly, corruption creates breeding ground for lack of transparency and wanton abuse of office. Government businesses are conduted as business as usual, money exchanges hands with reckless abandon as the ‘smart’ and crooks dominate influential positions and further saturate the system with unqualified, incompetent and dubious cronies and relations.
Now, how can we remedy the situation? Successive administrations in Nigeria, in an attempt to grapple with the problems of corruption, have put in place various policies to combat it, but the successful implementation of such policies remains an albatross.
We have had such policies like War Against Indiscipline (WAI) during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime. The administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo had to its credit the establishment of two anti-graft agencies namely: Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This bold step was one of the highest points of Obasanjo’s administration between 1999 and 2007.
Shortly before the creation of ICPC, Nigeria was rated the second most corrupt country in the world by the Transparency International; but with the advent of ICPC, the corruption index of Nigeria improved immensely. Since its creation, the commission has received over 5,000 petitions, prosecuted many of them and secured convictions in a good number of cases.
It is in its effort to get everybody involved in the war against corruption that the commission created the National Anti-Corruption Volunteer Corp (NAVAC) and the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Units (ACTU).
The NAVAC is the platform where the commission enlists honest and credible Nigerians who are passionate about the war against corruption to contribute their quota to rid Nigeria of corrupt practices. The ACTU, on the other hand, is a monitoring unit established by the commission in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government at the federal, State and local government levels. Members of the ACTU are career civil servants who have distinguished themselves in the area of discipline, transparency and credibility.
The war against corruption in Nigeria will make more meaning if civil servants are actively involved. This is because the civil service is the engine room of government’s policies. A corrupt civil service is tantamount to poor policy implementation and poor service delivery.
I, therefore, urge the civil servants in the country to join the war against corruption by enlisting in NAVAC and more importantly by establishing ACTU in all the State Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Markson is a student of Port Harcourt Polytechnic, Rumuola.