December 9, has been set aside by the United Nations, to bring our attention to an issue I believe is always on the mind of Nigerians, and that is Anti-Corruption. The Cankerworm to any sort of definitive progress, even the UN had admitted that it would be the greatest challenge to the implementation of its Sustainable Development goals as seen in UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres’ statement:
We can only achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development if every nation has strong, transparent and inclusive institutions, based on the rule of law and supported by the public.”
It is clear that corruption is a complex phenomenon that affects all countries, not just those that are developing. It undermines democracy by distorting the electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and impeding economic growth. Statistics from the United Nations show that globally $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5% of the global GDP.
The effects of Corruption are clearly devastating but even worse for those countries that are less well off. In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance. The Effects of corruption in a society are far-reaching, causing instability and leading to the failure of most states. It is because of the cancerous nature of corruption, that Government institutions, Civil Society organisations and all of the known institutions that strengthen a democratic society work together to stand against this evil.
Nigeria is no stranger to this war, in fact, it was the main battle cry the Buhari administration chanted to win the 2015 elections. As a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption, it is clear that we have carried out a lot of the convention’s requirement to aid the fight against corruption. Bodies like the EFCC, The Special Fraud Unit, The Code of conduct Bureau etc. now exist with the broad arching objective of tackling corruption, as advised in the convention. Laws have been enacted (and still do) like The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000, The Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2012 and most recently The Freedom of Information Act 2011 to help make corruption practices criminal offences that could be tried in court, and to promote and protect the freedom to seek, receive, publish and disseminate information concerning corruption. Civil society organisations, private and public bodies alike, are all fighting corruption in their own way, yet when most Nigerians are asked, they would tell you that Corruption is a phenomenon that will always befoul our society.
The old lead the young in pursuit of a country we once had, and sometimes it feels like all hope is lost. However, there are areas that should inspire hope and of course areas where we can do better.
More than just fighting corruption, a day like the World Anti-Corruption day, marks a reason for the world and its people to not give up on this war, a reason for us to not relent, and to not give in. More than anything, it is hoped that this blog will help you find the courage to keep on standing, against the tyranny of corruption.
2018, would definitely be seen as a landmark for this country mainly because it saw the victory of the Federal Government in high-level corruption cases of FRN VS Joshua Dariye, 2018 AND FRN VS Jolly Nyame, 2018. To some degree, such convictions can be seen as coming too late, but in life, it is true that it is better late than never and these convictions are signposts that an anaemic justice system can sometimes work.
On the 4th of December, the high court of the FCT ordered for the arrest of former minister of petroleum Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke as part of the moves to get her extradited from the UK to face the corruption charges pending against her by the EFCC.
November saw the first lecturer charged to court for demanding sex for marks, something that never happens, and this is likely the beginning of many more to come because now people are realising that such acts carry with it consequences, and the prosecution of the lecturer is a good first step in the right direction.
All of these small victories of justice should ignite the fire of hope, even if it is little and flickering, hope that the system can be made to work if everyone will speak up and turn a collective back to corruption in all of its shades; hope that institutions in Nigeria can be made to work.
Now to the areas where we can do better! Indeed, there are laws in place to help tackle corruption but these laws rest on a weak judiciary, lacking the independence to enforce these laws and address the prevalent issues of corruption. The justice delivery system is weighed down by a combination of factors ranging from the poor attitude of judicial staff to work to lack of innovative technology in courtrooms.
The reality that the judiciary is already entangled with the corruption as it is not independent enough to deal with the corrupt officers is not unknown. There have been convictions of lawyers who tamper with the course of justice, but it does little in solving the problem of slow prosecution of corruption cases. The current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, set up a panel to investigate this lag, and they discovered that the chief issue was poor prosecution of these cases. Apart from the bureaucratic lags, it was discovered that the prosecution agencies “lacked experienced and capable personnel to prosecute corruption cases”.
So, we have a judiciary facing a crisis of credibility and prosecution agencies that are in desperate need of training and retraining; a combination that is a recipe for disaster, in the fight against corruption. It is clear that a lot of work still lies ahead of us, to create and/or strengthen a system that can hold everyone alike accountable to the laws that exist in the land.
So, indeed the non-stop clamouring for a sincere fight against corruption does yield some fruit, and we must not stop so that we may get to Eldorado, a place of zero corruption or in Nigeria’s case, a place where the institutions fighting corruption like the judicial system actually work without fear or favour.
Such steps as has been taken by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Onnoghen, ordering the heads of courts to designate at least one court in their various jurisdictions solely for hearing and speedy determination of corruption and financial crime cases, are ladders towards a winnable war against corruption.
Steps like the Crimes Bill currently being debated in parliament will provide a legal and institutional framework for the confiscation, recovery and management of proceeds from unlawful activities and corrupt acts. There is even a Whistle Blowers Protection bill in the works that would provide a legal framework of protection for those brave souls who choose to alert the world to events of corruption and misdeeds in both the private and public sector.
There are various panels looking into the security sector to proffer solutions in the form of strategies and laws to tackle corruption issues with law enforcement. There is so much happening, and we must all be a part of it, for the true power of a democracy, lays in the hands of the people who elect their leaders.
The coming 2019 elections is an avenue to put better leaders in important offices of power. Evil abounds when the vilest men are exalted, so it is every citizen’s duty to stand for the most credible candidates, and hold them to their promises when they do come into power.
Ultimately every citizen must champion and exemplify the anti-corruption war. Those who know must teach those who don’t, issues of corruption must be an ongoing concern on social media, in homes and at any gathering. Together as a united force against corruption, the echo of our battle stance cannot be ignored or silenced.
The World Anti-corruption Day is a signpost, reminding everyone that we are all part of this war, and must fight on; No retreat, No surrender.3