By now corruption in Nigeria is a very well published and widely discussed “phenomena” throughout the media world. It is widely known and discussed for several reasons, understandably. First, Nigeria with a large resource base (human capital and natural resources) has failed, most woefully, to make a dent on mass poverty and the suffering of its citizens. Secondly, the “419 e-mail scam” is equally a well known and talked about by-product... Several movies have hightlighted this(see District 9 from Sony). Even Google, as well as most internet publishers warn their patron about receiving scam emails. Most banks from Africa, Europe, America and Asia continue to warn their clients to beware of certain communications from “scammers” and "spammers" phishing for their banking details. Most of those mails could, on the fly be traced to Nigeria or some Nigerian somewhere. I think someone needs to make a study – it would not be unfair to say that practically 90% of the world population who have email addresses will receive a scam mail at least once in their life time. Not to say that all of these would come of Nigerians. Many people in the West have also made money acting as trusts to some money launderer from a third world country. Billions of money are involved here. Banks have had to close shop as a result.
Corruption in Nigeria
In Nigeria the effects of corruption and graft are evident. Recently, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made some comments while on a visit. Her comments were carried by the media and several Nigerians posted comments as well. Almost everyone agreed with Clinton and everyone pointed a finger at officials as being corrupt. But I differ, though slightly. All Nigerians are to blame for corruption and every Nigerian has a role to play in liberating the country. For example. In the 90’s I was a Marine technician at the Nigeria Ports Authority aboard a Marine Tug boat MT Minna. The tugboat was recently procured from Poland and did not have much to worry about so my duties was reduced to watch keeping in the engine room, of which I took turns with other personnel. The task of the crew was to pull visiting vessels to harbour into the Lagos Ports. Each day after work the boat will dock and the night crew will take over. One day after work I got a share of money 300Naira (at the exchange rate then it could have been as much as $30) and a box of fishes. This did not make any sense to me at that time because I was on Industrial Work Experience scheme, I was not paid, I was still a student and I was not in particular need of money then. Later I curiously asked someone what that money was for. The money turned out to be a share of a bribe taken by the officials from a vessel bringing in banned products (probably a Russian Vessel bringing in fish) into the country. This is corruption at the very heart of the establishment. Do this acts still happen today in Nigeria? I have no doubt about that. What am I talking about? The only way to fight corruption is if the people in general would understand the implications of it and willingly decide not to be a part of it; at least if more people could be persuaded to be honest and true. What should I have done at that time, if I was sufficiently aware of what was happening? I should have blown the whistle. The government must establish proper procedures for reporting such acts. Even private companies should have their hands strengthened in dealing with corruption and corrupt officials. The citizens are as guilty as the officials and politicians. From the streets to the Presidents office corruption and corrupt practices have continued in a very subtle manner undetected, unappreciated and rationalized in various cloaks (may be as tribalism, nepotism, survival, its my turn, others are doing it, etc). I am not saying the President is corrupt but I am saying various routine acts by regular workers is actually corruption and ordinary citizens must take up the fight from an individual point of view. The problem is not just the politicians or public servants but every Nigerian.
Fight Corruption from the Root
When someone takes money from his place of work that is not receipted and accounted for, that is corruption. When I take money from a client to provide regular service and the money is not receipted and accounted for that is corruption. When I take money or accept favours to place somebody or someone in a position that is graft. Corruption kills the system and makes control of service/product outcomes unbelievably erratic and unpredictable and turn planning and plans into probability events. Corruption is one major reason Nigerian civil regulations and laws are “perfect” but they never work and statistics is practically non-existent on any point of study; people have an amazing capacity to spin events and obtain any desired outcome. Corrupt practices cannot not be controlled except people own up to their responsibilities and do things according to laid down procedures, policies and guidelines no matter who is involved and what situation of lack they are in. By taking money (favour) from someone today you have actually destroyed a future (possibly your own future or a child's) and robbed your own very self, but you do not realise it. Do you do that and still point your finger at the politicians, the leaders or your superiors? How can you justify that you are doing the same thing you accuse others of? That someone is corrupt is not a reason for me to be corrupt as well? Every Nigerian must be willing to be a whistle blower but every Nigerian must also keep his hands clean. In every country there are bad people (most drug barons are actually not Nigerian, Al Pacino is not a Nigeria, Maddof is not a Nigerian, the bankers at Wall street are not Nigerians etc) but a country is corrupt or suffers the effects of corruption if majority of the people keep silent or are corrupt themselves. The ultimate outcome of graft and corruption is destruction of systems, failure of enterprises, poverty and lack of wellbeing to many people the kind we see in Nigeria today and many third world countries. The ultimate outcome of a moral and ethical system is the growth of personal enterprise, self belief, trustworthy public service delivery and national growth. In a corrupt society those who have money cannot keep it and those who do not have often fail to get it. Of course the political will must be there to fight corruption. Anyone should be able to report a crime and be ready to put forward the evidence and have state protection. If a public servant is taking money to do his job it is because no one is taking responsibility (especially those who are not willing to give him that money and are therefore disadvantaged by his actions) and also because someone is willing to give that money to get an advantage over others. Both of these people should be reported to the appropriate authorities and prosecuted. Several industries have failed in Nigeria because of corruption and millions of jobs lost. Take a look at the Insurance industry (practically non existent), the Banks (they keep fumbling), Manufacturing (in coma), Public service (the Police, immigration service, public procurement all are lame ducks) etc. These industries failed because of graft and corruption, anything is possible in these industries if you are willing to bribe a few people or if you know one or two people. If you are “lucky” you can even get what you want by playing “politics”, play the ethnic card or play the friendship card in which case you get what you want because someone would assume that in future he/she can get something from you in return. People must learn to say NO and take up the initiative. Public servants and even private sector workers must have their jobs placed on the line against any act of corruption on their part or of which they are aware of and took no action. This is the only way to fight corruption. According to the Transparency International, Corruption Perception index is a poll of how corrupt a country is based on the perception of its citizens. Nigeria’s ranking in this index is high (meaning very corrupt) but what this does not study is how many of the people they have polled have taken part in a corrupt act in the last year, for example. It would be interesting to have such a figure.