For anyone who lives in Nigeria, the report of the Corruption Perception Survey conducted by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), published last Tuesday, which shows the Nigeria Police as the most corrupt agency in the country, is in the least surprising. The notoriety of the police for taking bribe is legendary. The shocking aspect of the survey is that the malaise has eaten deeper into the nation’s fabric than many people thought. The survey, which covered five public institutions, policing, power sector, judiciary, education and health services, shows that Nigerians have come to accept corrupt practices as the norm.
According to the survey, “There was a 63 per cent probability that an average Nigerian would be asked to pay a bribe each time he/she interacted with the police. The likelihood of bribery in the power sector stood at 49 per cent. With the chances of encountering bribery at the judiciary, education and health services standing at 27 per cent, 25 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.” So, it is difficult to get anything done in the country without greasing someone’s palms.
Corruption in Nigeria has assumed a frightening proportion. It is no longer about who is corrupt, it is about who is not corrupt and that can be likened to seeking out a virgin in a maternity ward. Here, corruption has become the rule, not the exception. It is assumed that only fools shun corruption in Nigeria.
Corruption is the main business of the ruling class; it is also the major preoccupation of the hoi polloi. The nation’s leaders assume they occupy public office for private gains. They create crevices that facilitate diversion of resources from government coffers to themselves and their cronies. Almost all activities of those in leadership in the country are geared towards self-enrichment. The same contracts are awarded several times without the projects being executed. The nation’s refineries are not functioning optimally as a result of corruption and the country is forced to depend on imported fuel.
It is corruption that killed the railway system and made most of the roads in the country impassable. Corruption supervised the interment of the education system to the extent that those who can afford it now send their children to schools abroad while the poor make do with whatever the local schools can offer. Corruption is also responsible for the lackluster health services in the country. Unfortunately, those responsible for the destruction of the health facilities in the country jet out to other countries for medical attention at the slightest discomfort.
Bad as it is that the leaders are corrupt, a very serious dimension to it is the seeming acceptance of corruption as a way of life by the followers. If the leadership is corrupt and the followership is not, there is hope for the country but when the mass of the people join the leaders to see corrupt practices as normal, then end may be in sight for that society.
Hardly can any service be rendered by civil servants without money changing hands; you pay a bribe to obtain a free form, you also give a bribe to submit it. You bribe somebody to get your child’s birth certificate; you also give a bribe to get your parent’s death certificate. To get your child admitted into a government school you pay a bribe. To secure a safe place in the parking lot, you bribe a security officer. Although it is said that bail is free, those who refuse to play the game according to the dictates of policemen are remanded in police custody for weeks even when they are not supposed to be kept in custody beyond 48 hours.
The cancer of corruption has also spread to the communities.
A while ago, while travelling to Lagos, as usual there was a problem on the road and commuters had to go through some communities to circumvent the problem area. To the dismay of everyone, the youth in one of the communities had erected a barricade along the newly found pathway out of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway malaise and were demanding money from motorists. Many a motorist grudgingly complied. But there was a particular one who asked the youth why he had to pay. This incensed the youth who threatened to not only beat him up but also burn down his vehicle.
“Do you ask those in Abuja why they take the money they take? Do you ask those in the state capitals why they steal our money? What is the proportion of what we are asking you to pay compared with what your leaders steal every second? Who are you to question us? If you refuse to pay, we will beat you up and burn your car,” a voluble member of the group said.
To the utter chagrin of everyone, other members of the community, young and old, hailed the young man. They all directed the inquisitor to take his inquest to Abuja. With that, it was impossible for anyone to pass through the route without settling the community members.
So, corruption now has the backing of almost everyone in the country and that is dangerous. A society that does not see anything wrong with corruption can never experience development. Once a society deems corruption as normal, it will fail to challenge the wrongs visited on it as a result of corruption. Pervasive corruption leads to increased human rights abuse without any expectation of redress.
It, therefore, means that something new has to be tried and my inkling is that capital punishment is the way out of the stranglehold of corruption on the country. Although China is not the least corrupt country in the world, the rate of corruption in that country has greatly reduced since it introduced capital punishment as reward for corruption. If capital punishment has been able to bring down corruption in China, it can save Nigeria from corruption and eternal retrogression.