Anti-Graft War In Nigeria: A Wider Approach By Joshua Abe

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Most commentators agree that corruption is one of the biggest impediments to Nigeria’s social and economic progress.
Nigeria ranks 136 out of 168 countries in the 2015 Corruption Perception Index. According to another survey captured in the Global Competitiveness Report 2016 – 2017, corruption is the second most problematic factor for doing business in Nigeria. Poor infrastructure, identified as the top factor, may be explained largely by reference to corruption. Although corruption is a global challenge, it is indeed a scourge in Nigeria. No wonder for many decades successive governments have announced the fight against corruption as top priority.
For the most part, the fight against corruption has taken the form of enforcing existing laws, creating additional laws and setting up more institutions to strictly enforce the laws. In 2000 and 2003, the government went as far as establishing two additional anti-graft agencies, namely the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (“ICPC”) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)[1], yet corruption remains endemic. Presently, there are at least four anti-graft institutions in Nigeria[2] and not less than 13 anti-graft-laws[3] that are regularly applied by these institutions.
It however appears that the continuous enactment and enforcement of these laws has not proved to be effective. Some commentators have argued that much result have not been achieved in the anti-graft war because the laws are too weak; others argue that the institutions are too weak. Whilst both positions are meritorious, a more holistic approach is called for, especially at this perilous moment that the country’s economy is in recession[4] and regular citizenry and law enforcement officials alike are facing severe strains.
As I see it, a shift from the conventional law-based anti-corruption war should seek to incorporate the following elements:

Enhance civil servants’ remuneration: In Nigeria, the minimum daily earning of a civil servant is approximately $2 (at the sum of $59 per month). Given the poor remuneration, it is common for many civil servants to surreptitiously boost their income. If the government is able to build a policy framework to constantly monitor and review the welfare and remuneration of the civil servants in line with the economic reality of the country, the incentive to indulge in corrupt practices amongst them will reduce drastically. Although there exists the divergent view that increase in workers’ salary does not automatically translate into reduction of corruption.[5] However, when salary increase (which takes away the moral justification for corruption) is accompanied with stiffer penalties for corruption, there will be a more effective result. For instance, Singapore was reputed to be corruption-stricken from its colonial history until it adopted the strategy of imposing strict penalty for corruption and increasing the salary of its politicians and civil servants. Today, Singapore has one of the lowest crime and corruption rates in the world.[6]
Creation of transparency policies and confidential public complaint platforms: If the government creates a platform where people are able to access and monitor the revenue and allocation of funds by the government, they will be able to scrutinise the income and expenditure of the government and juxtapose them with the developments in their environments. With this policy in place, an average citizen can investigate the application of funds by public office holders and blow the whistle when they observe any anomaly or misappropriation.
Reduction of discretionary power of public officials in the usage of public funds: The President and State governors in Nigeria have security votes, that is, allocations for discretionary spending which run into millions of dollars. This practice which arguably has some constitutional support[7] opens a floodgate of wasteful and corrupt spending of public funds. The government should significantly reduce or completely eradicate this discretion in clear terms by amending the Constitution.
Securing greater independence of the anti-graft institutions: In Nigeria, the President has the power to appoint and remove the heads of the anti-graft agencies. Their line of reporting is also to the President at whose pleasure they remain in office. This arrangement clearly interferes with their independence as they are left with no choice than to fight corruption according to the standard of the President or stand the risk of removal. According to a study by John R. Heilbrunn,[8] there is strong evidence of dysfunction in the numerous agencies that lack independence from the executive. The power to regulate and supervise these agencies should be more constrained; for example, the power of removal could be subject to legislative approval by a super majority. As a model, in the New South Wales’ Parliamentary Model, the anti-corruption agency is supervised by two parliamentary committees: a Parliamentary Joint Committee and an Operations Review Committee.

e. Grassroot orientation: There is a moral dimension to corruption, but the Nigerian government often ignores this fact, leaving religious bodies to deal with it. The government will be better positioned if it introduces into the country’s education at all levels teachings on the ethical and acceptable moral foundations of acceptable human behaviour and most importantly the negative impact of corruption. Transparency International Kenya has adopted this approach in recent times and has been able to effectively reach out to millions of Kenyans through its ‘mobile anti-corruption legal advice clinics’ on radios, schools and rural area.[9]

If the Nigerian government will consider and adopt these suggested policies and create sustainable frameworks around them, it is my firm belief that the fight against corruption will be better advanced.
[1] Pursuant to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004.
[2] The EFCC; ICPC; Nigeria Police Force Special Fraud Unit; Code of Conduct Bureau.
[3] See http://acauthorities.org/country/ng
[4] http://finantainment.com/nigerian-recession-imminent-central-banks-emefiele-says/
[5] http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21689642-theory-higher-pay-cuts-corruption-practice-opposite-happens-wages.
[6] http://www.businessinsider.com/why-china-should-study-singapores-anti-corruption-strategy-2012-12
[7] See section 16(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which provides that the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring amongst other things that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.
[8] Anti-Corruption Commissions: Panacea or Real Medicine to Fight Corruption? – World Bank Institute John R. Heilbrunn 2004.
[9] http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/5_ways_kenyans_are_fighting_corruption.