Corruption on fiery rampage, holds Nigeria hostage

Corruption has steadily grown over the years, into a hydra-headed monster on a fiery rampage, now holding our nation hostage.

Even though corruption existed from early period of independence when during the First Republic governed by some of our founding fathers, politicians were accused of taking just 10% on contracts, before the military struck in January 1966.

But the incursion of the military into political governance worsened the situation as the rule of law replaced rule of brute force when the craze for wealth and ill-gotten individual prosperity escalated.

As put bluntly by Justice Mustapha Akanbi, one-time Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC).

“If anything, the various coup d’etat in this country worsened the situation. The direction and course of our history changed, our values and judgement changed, honesty and integrity were relegated to the background. As the years rolled by, so overwhelming was the situation that for some, the worship of money became the order of the day.”
He said that we became more and more materialistic so much so that it was no longer possible to convince the average Nigerian child that we can achieve greatness and position of respectability without necessarily being corrupt or that he can still achieve financial success in business or in life without recourse to corrupt means or corrupt dealings. According to the former ICPC Chairman, corruption has become both systematic and endemic so much that the average Nigerian came to accept it as a normal way of life. Indeed, public office is seen as means of acquiring illicit wealth or enriching themselves through corrupt conduct.

Corruption destroys socio-economic life of the nation, makes economic planning difficult if not impossible, stifles implementation of infrastructural project, while it concentrates wealth in the hands of a few individuals.

In addition, corruption promotes widespread poverty and large scale unemployment, inflation, destruction of efficiency in pubic institutions, destruction of ethical, moral, religious and democratic values, in which an unfair, unjust and inequitable environment thrives.

Today, corruption is walking on two legs in Nigeria with a rotten leadership neck-deep in stealth, while about 70 per cent of the people are perceived to be corrupt. So any cleansing of the nation must start from all the citizens. Corruption is killing this country. From the presidency, the executive, legislature, judiciary, local governments, community, the grassroot population, private and public sectors of the national economy, there are brazen manifestations of corruption everywhere.

For the legislature, the National Assembly members who received all types of bogus allowances and excessive salaries paid to themselves which had been described by many well-meaning Nigerians as “looting of the treasury.”

Recently, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General who was in parliament in the First Republic (since 1959) said he had never seen such outrageous allowances, when salaries of lawmakers were higher than that of US President Barack Obama, stating that, “what is happening at the National Assembly nowadays could be aptly described in two words – treasury looting.”

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi alleged that 25% of the overhead of the Federal government budget is being spent on the National Assembly.

Quoting figures from the office of Budget for the year 2010, he said total government overhead was N536,268,49,280. Total overhead of the National Assembly is N136,259,768,112 which is exactly 25.1% of Federal Government overhead.

The country runs one of the most expensive democracies in the world, with about 50 ministers, thousands of special advisers, special assistants, advisers, and so on at federal level, “just finding jobs for the politicians,” all of them corruptly helping themselves to their share of the national cake. The same applied to the states and local governments governance where governors and council chairmen swindled and siphon public funds in billions recklessly. The judiciary is not better as judges receive huge gratifications to deliver judgement to the highest bidders in all kinds of litigations brought before them.

Bribery scandals are so frequent that the nation has lost count with just a few found guilty. There was the $180 million Halliburton bribery scandal in which some government officials received bribes to secure gas contracts at Bonny Island on behalf of some multinational energy companies. The Halliburton probe was later dropped.
There was the N55 million bribery involving one-time Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara,, former Education Minister, Professor Fabian Osuji and a Senator. The lawmakers allegedly demanded and collected N55 million from the Education Minister for the passage of the 2005 budget of the Federal Ministry of Education. All those involved including five legislators were later freed by the Court of Appeal because the prosecution. “Woefully failed to establish prima facie case against them.”

A N5 billion fraud charge was brought against the former Chairman of National Electricity Regulatory commission (NERC) and six directors of the commission by EFCC for allegedly sharing the money among themselves. There was the 17.5 million Euro Siemens scam in which some officials of PHCN and NITEL were fingered. Former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and two officials of the Abuja Geographic Information System, AGIS, were arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja over alleged abuse of office and corruption.

He was accused of willfully distorting the Abuja Master plan by irregularly revoking the ownership title of two parcels of land belonging to Power Holding Company of Nigeria Plc (PHCN), and the Nigeria Postal Services, NIPOST.

El-Rufai later dragged the Federal Government to court over his trial, saying that his actions as FCT Minister were proper and valid under Nigerian law.
One-time National Chairman of PDP, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor was charged with N2.36 billion fraud, for allegedly conniving with others to float fictitious companies while in office as Minister of State for Special Duties. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole was alleged to have looted N9 billion purportedly spent on cars and miscellaneous items.

His predecessor in office, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, was removed as Speaker over alleged impropriety in contract award for renovation of official residence. Some high profile cases on corruption filed by the EFCC include those of Mr. Boni Haruna, ex-governor of Adamawa State, Senator Rasheed Ladoja, ex-governor Oyo State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, ex-governor of Sokoto State, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode ex-minister, Aviation, Dr. Babalola Borishade, ex-minister Education, later Aviation, chief michael Botmang, former governor, Plateau State, Senator Nicholas Ugbane, Mr. Elumelu and others in N5.2 billion REA contract, Alhaji Abdulahi Adamu, ex-governor, Nassarawa State.
Chief Bode George, a former military governor, ex-national chairman (West) PDP and former Chairman of NPA was convicted for corruption. Two-term governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion was also convicted for corruption while his Delta State counterpart is cooling down in a British jail for corrupt practices and money laundering. Former governor of Bayelsa state, Chief Alamaseigha was the first to be jailed for corruption in the country. Several other governors who left office, some of them even elected into the senate are still facing charges for corrupt enrichment.
There are several high ranking politicians across the country including ex-ministers, legislators, council chairmen, bank chief executives, who have cases to answer bordering on corruption.

The nation is contending with the pension fraud in which top government officials swindled or stole pension money to the tune of about N273 billion. There was the power project whereby some prominent persons helped themselves to the tune of $16 billion fraudulently without supplying any equipment or constructing power plants anywhere. Nobody has been charged for such massive embezzlement of public fund.
No wonder that the United States has dismissed Nigeria’s war against corruption, saying that “massive widespread and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces.”

According to its 2011 Country Reports on Human rights Practices submitted to Congress by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, while acknowledging that the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively as officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The report didn’t mince words, saying: “Public officials including the President, Vice President, governors, deputy governors, cabinet ministers and legislators (at both federal and state levels) must comply with financial disclosure laws, including the requirement to declare their assets before assuming and after leaving office. Violators risked prosecution, but cases rarely came to conclusion.”

The judiciary was not spared either: “There was a widespread perception that judges were easily bribed and that litigants could not rely on the courts to render impartial judgements. Citizens encountered long delays and alleged requests from judicial officers for bribes to expedite cases or obtain favourable rulings.” It is no longer a secret that the same people who stole public funds mostly end up as governors, minsters, senators, members of the House of Representatives and even ambassadors to foreign countries, because after leaving political office, they are sent abroad as ambassadors.

It’s like a vicious cycle.

To make u-turn, Nigeria must embark on total cleansing of the polity in the form of attitudinal change, character reformation, welfarism for all to share in the national we lath, leaders becoming pro-active. People are now going into politics not to serve but to amass wealth.

By Emmanuel Edukugho