A close friend of mine called me last week lamenting about the spate of corruption in the country. He had just watched the tragicomedy at the National Assembly where highly placed Nigerians entrusted with our national patrimony were ‘fainting’ and being revived. According to him every week a new case of graft is unearthed. Being a man of the Christian fate, he likened corruption to the pestilence that walks in darkness and the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
Corruption in Nigeria is pervasive and its impact debilitating. It has deranged the economy, it is ravaging the quality of life of the people and assaulting our collective sensibilities with brazenness and impunity. The sad part is that it appears to be rising and unstoppable.
In recent times, we have been regaled with televised proceedings at various investigative panels at the National Assembly. The Magu Presidential Investigative panel, The Keyamo face off with the Senate Committee charged with oversight functions over the Ministry of Labour and Productivity. And the latest one trending, the NDDC probe.
The drama at the NDDC probe will win an award at the Oscars. It was a drama scripted with twists, subterfuge, denials, claims and counter claims and a breath-taking cliff hanger where the protagonist ‘faints’ but is revived and fit enough to walk briskly away from the venue of his ‘trial’.
And as we have not had enough of the shenanigans, the Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Professor Akinola Abayomi , disclosed while briefing the media on COVID-19 update last Thursday, that the state government spends about one hundred thousand Naira daily on managing each COVID-19 patient with mild to moderate symptoms and patients with severe cases could gulp as much as a million Naira daily at the different Isolation centres in the State. While it is a known fact the management of COVID-19 is expensive globally, one cannot help but wonder if the cost in Nigeria has not been ‘padded’.
The Nigeria I find myself in today is crippling. It’s like we have lost all morals and nobody seems to know what to do about it. We have several crusaders who have put their lives and safety on the line to check corruption but their voices seem to be whispers in the wilderness.
Nothing is working!
A major challenge we have is that the people involved in corruption seem to be proud of themselves, promote themselves and show-off their ill-gotten wealth at every given point in time.
The public has also accepted corruption. There is a pervasive mindset that the only way to get things done in the public or private sector is to offer some form of inducement otherwise what you want done will be pending for long or might not even get done.
The facets of our lives that corruption continues to destroy include:
Getting good quality is a herculean task. There is a belief that you must pay extra for services for which people are paid to deliver in the normal discharge of their duties. Nobody wants to work. You go to a restaurant, the security guard greats you profusely with the hope of getting money out of you, the store clerk serves you churlishly except you grease his palm, the gateman refuses to open the gate promptly for you because he was not given money the last time.
The quality of education has been eroded. Parents cheating, students cheating, schools cheating is now the new normal. The first time I learnt a parent paid for his child to cheat was when I lost all hope for education in Nigeria.
The medical profession is not left out in poor service quality and the corruption pandemic. A mother recently shared the story of going to a hospital for a leg injury and saw that COVID was written as the cause of ailment for her son. When she challenged the attendant at the hospital, she was told not to worry about it, that it was what they had been advised by the higher ups to write. I have also seen instances of hospitals concocting bills and writing ailments they did not treat to enable them collect hefty sums from health insurance companies. Let’s not even talk about the counterfeit drugs that kill indiscriminately.
Thousands of people have lost their lives through corruption perpetrated by regulatory agencies. Tragic building collapses and fake drugs kill hundreds of Nigerians yearly because contractors use substandard building materials and importers bring in fake drugs while officials of regulatory agencies issue fake permits or take bribes.
Our Justice System Lacks Justice
Corruption in the judiciary system leads to mis -carriage of justice. And the victims of offence suffer. They are either given unjust sentences, not tried or the guilty are let go after huge sums are paid to the members of the judiciary who have been entrusted to uphold the law. We have seen dirty cases of judges being accused of taking bribes to mete out crooked rulings.
The police in Nigeria is so corrupt that talking about them is almost a waste of time. We all have so many stories about the police falling short of their mandate. My daughter recently reported a civil case to the police. By the time the alleged suspect was visited, the police found enough evidence to show that the suspect was a serial fraudster. The suspect was non plussed and it was clear she was in cahoots with the police. No prize for guessing, no action was taken by the police. This is just, one story, I have many and many of us have stories to tell.
The resultant effect is that criminals and culprits roam free and even commit more crimes.
I can go on and on, truth be told there is no silver bullet to fighting corruption, but we must end the brazenness by effective law enforcement to punish the corrupt. I recently watched in the news a Nigerian Senator in plenary passionately advocate for the implementation of the mosaic or sharia law of amputation of the limbs of corrupt persons.
While I may not necessarily share his views, it shows the level of despondency our nation has sunk into. We must promote transparency and openness; many government agencies have not had their books audited in decades. Kudos to the NNPC that published its 2018 audited report after several long years. How else would we have known that the nation’s three refineries recorded combined losses of N154 billion with the derelict Kaduna refinery was generating zero revenue but spending billions of naira as operational expenses.
To mitigate corruption, we must first interrogate our value system and ask ourselves simple but soul-searching questions. We must seek to answer questions like how greed and our propensity for corruption will affect our fellow man and posterity. It was Lakhdar Brahimi who said’’ I think a failed state is the responsibility of the people who have made that state fail, and those are generally the people of that country’’
We must not allow corruption to destroy us.