There is no short cut than to create an inclusive and conclusive anti-graft policy that prompts a focused anti-graft drive and results.
In 1970, while Nigeria had a GDP per capita of US$233.35 and was ranked 88th in the world, China was ranked 114th with a GDP per capita of US$111.82. The Chinese were dissatisfied with such economic situation; their leaders desired for a better space of dignity within the global community, they worked for it – first, by building a system that rewards handwork, creativity and investment; then they proceeded to drive an inclusive and conclusive anti corruption policy. Since Xi Jinping’s assumed office, their anti-corruption drive has removed 170 ministers and deputy ministers from power, while another 1.34 million lower Communist Party officials have been punished; more importantly, with visionary leaderships and the collective resolve of the citizens, China had recorded an impressive average annual growth rate of GDP of 9.5 per cent at the start of its market reforms in 1978 to 1994. Subsequently, China has sustained this rapid growth, perhaps, the highest in the world and has been transformed to the second largest economy in the world behind the USA.
By the year 2000, China has initiated the first Forum on China and Africa Cooperation; with the recent edition in Beijing, China has opened a humanitarian and aid window for a continent is dire need of internal sanitation rather than external loans and support.
China has pleaded $60 billion financing for critical development infrastructure across Africa, offered emergency humanitarian food aid worth 1 billion yuan ($146.5 million) for Africa, and a “fatherly “ promise to dispatch 500 senior agricultural experts to Africa, to train young talents in agricultural science.
In Nigeria, the standard of public integrity and the practice of development have remained at abysmal low for decades; it seems, that the scarlet thread of bribery and corruption is the defined code of participation in the process of nation building; ironically, the people have designated themselves as the world’s most forthright critics and advocates of progress, yet we can only celebrate nearly a century of developmental stagnancy. This reality has subjected majority of Nigerians to a frustrating reaction of anger, shame, indifference and cynical dispositions.
Unfortunately, such anger in most cases is forced into a resigned apathy; while those who try to live as patriotic and moral citizens in an amoral state, have generally given way sooner or later under agonizing pressures: pressure of legitimate ambitions which can only be actualized through illegitimate means; pressures of increased defeatism – which accompanies public opinion stigmatizing the offenders so lightly; the insidious pressures of a society in which material success is adulated, where material failure is ruthlessly mocked, where lack of opportunities have turned a greater number of her youth to the alternative option of modified criminality – with a swift rise in the desire of young people and children to go into internet fraud, a reality that the society and government is taking for granted; a pressure from the insatiable demands for help and multiple bills to offset for family members, associates and total strangers.
This entrenched corrupt system in Nigeria is not due to an absence of plethora of anti-corruption laws to address the societal and institutional challenges of corruption in the fabrics of our public life, but lack of a sincere practice of patriotism and development by both the citizens and their leaders. From Nigeria’s independence in 1960, there have been many enacted legal instruments forbidding bribery and corrupt practices in particular situations and many standing orders of statutory bodies governing the award of contracts, the procedure of tendering and bidding, the appointment of candidates for employment, the election of public officers etc. In 1975, the Corrupt Practices Decree was promulgated, as well as the Public Complaints Commission 1975; subsequent laws and bodies established with the aim of tackling corruption are: the Public Officer Investigation Assets Decree 1976; Code of Conduct Bureau 1979; Ethical Revolution 1981; War Against Indiscipline 1984; Corrupt Practices Decree 1984; Mass Mobilization for Social Justice and Economic Recovery 1985; Foreign Exchange Decree 1995; Money Laundry Decree 1995; Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 1991; National Orientation Agency 1992; War Against Indiscipline and Corruption 1994; Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offence Decree 1995; the Corrupt practices Related Offences Act 2000; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act 2004; Fiscal Responsibility Act 2010; among other.
Yet, with all these laws in place, the challenge however, is that the penalties for corrupt practices do not appear to carry a stigma sufficient to deter corrupt officials from indulging in the practice again. Conscious of this, Chinua Achebe, wrote that “Nigerians are corrupt because the system under which they live today makes corruption easy and profitable; they will cease to be corrupt when corruption is made difficult and inconvenient”.
A system that allows a prisoner to submit a nomination form to contest an election while still serving his jail term – last week’s news of Sent. Joshua Dariye submitting his expression of interest form to pursue his senatorial ambition for the third term even, when he just started serving his 14-year jail term over financial misdeeds is just one of the multitude of instances where our system indirectly encourages a culture of corruption. Regrettably, there is a cheerful attitude and an indirect reception of the wrongdoers by the society. Corruption must be classified as a capital offence with no less punitive measure than death. If corruption could be so unkind to allow families go hungry for years, if corruption could be so barbaric to turn our hospitals to “ grave-spitals”, if corruption could collapse our educational system and infrastructure, then there should be no excusable sentiment or reason within moral or legal ambit for corrupt citizens to avoid the almighty capital punishment. We must all see culprits of corruption offences as clogs on the wheels of our progress and development.
In curbing corruption in Nigeria, a model remains immutable: build the people, create diverse opportunities for the people, industrialize Nigeria and create an enduring social security for all Nigerians. Without a real system of empowerment and opportunities, steady socio-economic progress, loyalties will always remain with the self, families, clans rather than moving to the nation.
Quality education is needed for an evolution of a public opinion, which rejects corruption as part of our system. There is also a need for an increase in the number of skilled and patriotic accountants, auditor and lawyers who will raise the ethical standard in the practice of development. There is no short cut than to create an inclusive and conclusive anti-graft policy that prompts a focused anti-graft drive and results.