Ugo Aliogo and Hamid Ayodeji examine a new survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime which aims to sensitise youths on the need to join the fight against bribery, corruption and other economic crimes
Almost a third of Nigerian adults who had contact with a public official between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay, or were requested to pay a bribe to that public official, according to a recent report.
The magnitude of public sector bribery in Nigeria becomes even more palpable when factoring in the frequency of those payments, as the majority of those who paid a bribe to a public official did so more than once over the course of the year.
A survey by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, (UNODC), disclosed this.
According to a survey carried out by UNODC, bribe payers in Nigeria pay an average of some six bribes in one year, or approximately one bribe every two months.
“By combining the total number of people who paid a bribe to a public official with the frequency of those payments, it is estimated that a total of roughly 82.3 million bribes were paid in Nigeria, during the year of 2016.
“Taking into account the fact that nine out of every ten bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria are paid in cash and the size of payments made, it is estimated that the total amount of bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria in the 12 months prior to the survey was estimated at N400 billion, which is equivalent to 39 percent of the combined federal and state education budgets in 2016.
“The average sum paid as cash bribe in Nigeria is approximately N5, 000, N3, 000, which means every time a Nigerian pays cash bribe he or she spends an average of about 28.2 percent of the average monthly salary of approximately, N18, 900,” the report stated.
It pointed out that the vast majority of bribery episodes in Nigeria were initiated either directly or indirectly by public officials and almost 70 percent of bribes are paid before a service was rendered.
With such a large portion of public officials initiating bribes, which are paid up front, it seems that many public officials show little hesitation in asking for a kickback to carry out their duty and that bribery is an established part of the administrative procedure in Nigeria.
The UNODC report revealed that a large proportion of bribes in Nigeria were paid to speed up or finalise an administrative procedure that may otherwise be delayed for long periods, or even indefinitely, thereby making bribery the most effective option for facilitating that service.
The second largest proportion of bribes is paid to avoid the payment of a fine, a frequent request in citizens’ encounters with the police. While 13 per cent of all bribes were paid to avoid the cancellation of public utility services, an indication that the provision of the most basic amenities, including water and sanitation, can be subject to abuse of power by public officials in Nigeria.
The survey further revealed that Police officers are the type of public official whom bribes are most commonly paid in Nigeria.
Of all adult Nigerians who had direct contact with a police officer in 2016, almost 46.4 percent paid an officer at least one bribe. In many cases more than one since police officers is also among the three types of public official to whom bribes are paid most frequently, it stated.
In the course of 12 months, there were 5.3 bribes per bribe payer in Nigeria. At the same time, the average bribe paid to police officers is somewhat below the average bribe size.
Although fewer people come into contact with judiciary officials than with police officers over the course of the year, when they do, the risk of bribery was considerable.
At 33 percent, the prevalence of bribery in relation to prosecutors is the second highest, closely followed by Judges and Magistrates, at 31.5 percent. The experience of corruption in encounters with public officials whose duty it is to uphold the rule of law can lead to the erosion of trust in public authority.
However, more recent surveys have shown that bribery in Nigeria is slightly less prevalent than three years ago as out of all Nigerian citizens who had at least one contact with a public official in the twelve months prior to the 2019 survey carried out by UNODC, 30.2 percent paid a bribe to, or were asked to pay a bribe by, a public official.
This meant that, although still relatively high, the prevalence of bribery in Nigeria has moderated since 2016, when it stood at 32.3 percent.
Also, a smaller percentage of Nigerians that had contact with public official paid bribes, or were asked to pay bribes, those who did pay bribes continued to do so quite frequently.
In 2019, Nigerian bribe paid an average of six bribes in the 12 months prior to the survey, or one bribe every two months, which is virtually the same as the average of 5.8 bribes paid per bribe payer in 2016. As a result, it is estimated that some one hundred and 17 million bribes are paid in Nigeria on a yearly basis, the equivalent of 1.1 bribes per adult.
The 2019 survey further revealed that an increasing number of Nigerians are in contact with public officials since 2016. From 52 percent to 63percent, in the overall proportion of Nigerians who had at least one contact with a public official in the 12 months prior to the survey, which can be interpreted as a positive sign for the provision of public services in Nigeria.
Speaking during a workshop on UNODC’s Education for Justice (E4J) initiative in Lagos, recently, the Senior Anti-corruption Policy and Advocacy Advisor, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Prof. Shehu Abdullah, said one of the many factors that could have led to the reduction of bribery in Nigeria was the experience of people of bribery at the rural level and the experience of people with no formal education.
“But if you look at either forms of corruption that were accessed in 2019 and were not accessed in 2016 such as, nepotism and vote buying; new data has been introduced into the report which is also contracting attention for people to look into them and analyse those data more rigorously,” he added.
He explained that fighting crime, bribery and corruption was a collective responsibility; adding that government would play an integral role through policy formulation as well as establishing institutions, “relating with other countries in a bid to end corruption.”
“On the other hand, every citizen is to contribute his or her own quota by resisting paying or receiving bribe. Secondly, whatever support we can provide to any of the alms of government in order to curb corruption.
“Citizens inspired fight against corruption would have more impact than the other way around. We have seen this happen in other countries.
“Owing to this, the government has introduced some measures to fight and reduce corruption, bribery and crime by introducing such initiatives like Economical Financial Crimes Commission, ICPC. To more recent development, they are bringing in new structures and implementing more laws and signing bilateral and international agreements to facilitate the fight against corruption, he explained.
The Senior Youth Development Officer, Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports, Isaac Adeagbo, said the ministry’s mandate was focused on youth empowerment in order to ensure that they are socially and economically responsible to themselves and the society thereby, contributing to the sustainable growth and development of the society.
He further remarked that the ministry has implemented a lot of programmes in the ministry that enhances youth empowerment, adding that the ministry also engages youths in capacity building schemes, and skills acquisition.
According to him, “Recently, we just concluded an intensive skill acquisition programme on tailoring and fashion designing training, at one of our many youth development centres, Osun State. This programme lasted for two weeks as people were put through practical trainings in regards to tailoring and fashion designing. Apart from that, there are other programmes that are ongoing.
“The ministry in collaboration with other stakeholders who are youth development driven stakeholders to effectively support the youths so as to harness their maximum potentials to the development of the country’s economy whereby, there is peace and prosperity in the country.
“In addition, we engage the youth in leadership training. We implemented an initiative called youth parliament which is a body of three nominees from each states of the federation. Recently, in Kano they had their first session as Nigerian Youth Parliament which is structured like what we have in the National or State Assembly.”