Abdulrasheed Akere Abdulkareem and Ezinwanne Onwuka
Transparency International (2006) defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private benefit. In the world around us, especially the country we live in, corruption is regarded as a given.
Corruption is one of many intractable social pathologies ravaging Nigeria. British Prime Minister, David Cameron, without mincing words, described Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt” at the anti-corruption summit hosted in the UK on May 2016.
Furthermore, the latest report on the 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by Transparency International rated the country as the second most corrupt country in West Africa. This makes it evident that corruption is a social menace that has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian polity. According to the CPI details, Nigeria ranks 154 out of the 180 countries ranked, scoring 24 points out of 100.
In Nigeria, corruption embraces a broad spectrum of activities ranging from fraud (theft through misrepresentation), embezzlement (misappropriation of corporate or public fund) to bribery (payments made in order to gain an advantage or to avoid a disadvantage).
Corruption is illegal in Nigeria, yet everywhere it is woven deep into the fabric of everyday life.
The wands of currency notes slipped under the counter to speed up a traveler’s way through the customs; the tip given to the police at checkpoints; the brown envelope given to lecturers by students to get a pass mark; the president and ex-presidents, including all political leaders living well beyond their declared assets etc. are all evidence of corruption.
The attempt to break the cycle of underdevelopment has been hindered by the high level of corruption in the country. Unfortunately, after years of independence, Nigerians still harbor the mentality that public money belongs to no one and that any person who has access to it should convert it into his or her personal use.
Today, Nigerians applaud and tolerate ill-gotten wealth which in reality is money stolen from public coffers. This is a pointer to the fact that corruption is endemic in Nigeria. It has permeated into every facet of the society; the family, the church and even the traditional systems are not left out of this contagious disease.
One thing is clear, corruption is widespread in our society, at all levels and many would readily blame the government or those in public offices as being responsible for the situation. However, given the widespread nature of corruption, it is safe to assume that most of us have been either active or passive participants in the act of corruption as either bribe takers or givers.
A large number of us are willing to cut corners for selfish reasons and don’t care much about the greater public good and moral fabric of society. The existence of such moral turpitude is the bedrock of reality that gives rise to the problem of corruption and emboldens people to move on to more organized and potentially damaging forms of corruption.
Corruption is a social, legal and developmental issue, and we need to understand that the value of the greater public good outweighs our individual need to take shortcuts, and any short-term benefits we derive from that.
President Muhammadu Buhari was once quoted as saying, “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us all.” This is accurate, given that the debilitating effects of corruption on the country are enormous. It affects the routine processes of governance both in public and private sectors, and it pollutes the business environment generally. It also undermines the integrity of government and public institutions.
As a matter of fact, corruption is the bane of our development and the major cause of our economic paralysis.
This is the reason all hands must be on deck in fight against corruption. The fight is not just for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies, it is for us all.
Abdulrasheed Akere Abdulkareem, Sokoto
Ezinwanne Onwuka, Abuja