The biggest disease in the world is corruption and the vaccine is TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY, FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND KNOWLEDGE. Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It erodes trust, weakens democracy, hampers economic development, and further exacerbates inequality, poverty, social division, and the environmental crisis. It can happen anywhere, can involve anyone and is adaptable to different contexts. However, as citizens, corruption could cost you your freedom, political rights, access to a healthy future and trust in the government. Corruption should be a taboo that should not be accepted in any thriving society.
Moreover, exposing corruption and holding the corrupt to account can only happen if we understood the way corruption works and the systems that enable it. Because fighting corruption involves Transparency, which is all about knowing the who, why, what, and how of it. It means shedding light on formal and informal rules, plans, processes, and actions. Transparency helps us, the public, hold all power to account for the common good. However, seeking and receiving information is a human right that can act as a safeguard against corruption, and increase trust in decision makers and public institutions. However, transparency is not only about making information available, but ensuring it can be easily accessed, understood, and used by citizens. Though transparency is the first step to curbing corruption, government officials must be held accountable by the citizens also.
In tackling corruption, the government can create virtual platforms where citizens can report corrupt practices without fear of being arrested or implicated. Also, the fight against corruption is usually a top-down approach for everyone gets to suffer for it in one way or the other for corruption has hindered the development of many societies. Some of the major corruption cases globally are: the 2005, the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal, Former Edo State governor Lucky Igbinedion was charged by EFCC prosecutors in January 2008 with siphoning off more than $25 million of public funds, Siemens: corruption made in Germany, Fujimori’s Peru: death squads, embezzlement and good public relations, The 1MDB fund: from Malaysia to Hollywood, Spain’s largest corruption scandal: Gürtel, The Panama Papers, FIFA’s football parallel universe, Paradise Papers: where the rich & powerful hide their money etcetera.
Aside from advocacy against corruption by civil societies and concerned organizations, the government should enact and implement laws that prohibit engaging in any form of corruption. In 2014, the united states paid US$1.56 billion in foreign bribery penalties in 2014. This means that corruption is not a problem of the developing countries only. The activities of Accountability Lab Nigeria, Transparency International and Accountability International are commendable because they get to honour citizens who speak out against corruption of any form. There is also a need for accountability both at the private and public institutions and an integrity assessment for these officials would be a monitor in fighting corruption. The truth is, if the people of a nation fail to unite against corruption, then they should be ready to experience bad governance and a faulty democracy system.
The question again, can corruption ever be eliminated?
According to Farida Waziri, Former Chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) once said “there is no way you can eradicate corruption in this country,” though, “we will do everything humanly possible to fight the scourge. “As citizens, do we contribute to the existence through our daily activities. In as much as some people benefit from engaging in corrupt activities, that does not mean we will keep shut against its effects in the society, one of which is that it affects not just national development but economic growth and prosperity of a nation. We can root out corruption from our societies if we are responsible and willing to get the job done.
Corruption is rooted in social settings and the core of social setting is the family. Protect the family and provide basic needs, education and enforce child protection law, the result is quality children with better academic achievement…impact nationwide. It is a long-term plan but can be achieved.
Corruption must be fought from down to top and not the other way round. A head without its body cannot do anything. We must accept the fact that we are the tools for corruption. Corruption is a virus planted in third world country; it is exceedingly difficult to find a cure especially where it is well spread. Corruption can only be reduced to the barest minimum through advocacy, awareness, an independence judicial system etcetera. In Nigeria, corruption has impeded the system from the highest citizen to the lowest citizen. Therefore, the need for every citizen to speak against the disease called corruption in the country and Transparency and Accountability are needed in Governance.
In addition, stolen funds from African countries should be sent back to the countries of origin treasuries, Aid recipient states should also improve government procurement procedures, Improved ICT in management of government functions like minimizing cashier centres in the police force, creating a police database, a credit rating agency, and improving citizen police ratio are some of the ways to reduce corrupt activities. Courts should hold people accountable and crimes like public land grabbing, management of local development funds should be consistently audited. An effective short procedure court with an auction should be used to sell impounded corruption recovered assets and the proceeds should return to the treasury. Police prosecutors should be replaced with trained lawyers to increase government side to win and corrupt judges should be fired. Corrupt government officials should also be denied from participating in any public offices and jail time with no possibility of posting bail should be enforced. Zero-tolerance policy is a good start toward communicating clearly that corruption will not be tolerated. There must be a serious zero-tolerance, backed up by firm and decisive action. When a country genuinely wants to communicate, they do not tolerate corruption, the first principles established and communicated are transparency and free speech.
Nigeria needs a complete re-orientation and a system put in place that will celebrate the dignity of work and entrench meritocracy. Until a system where entrepreneurship is encouraged and taxed fairly, is in place, which will usher in job creation and skills development, parasitic leaders will continue to hold the citizens to ransom. Only when the public refuses to submit to such extortion will the widespread practice of corruption and impunity be brought under control.
Eradicated? No, never, not even in the US, Scandinavia, and Singapore.
Controlled? Yes, certainly, and it needs to be for the sake of all Nigerians and Africans.
In Nigeria only mass revolution can stop corruption. Corruption has been perpetuated by people in power like state governors, legislatures, Ministers, custom Chiefs, Army chiefs, Police chiefs, Bank MDs, & people in high places. In Nigeria, corruption is the cancer that is eating up our collective political & economic efforts. There is no cure for cancer but to stop it from spreading. In Nigeria corruption is spreading even to the impoverished masses. Corruption is endemic in Nigeria and will not end without a major societal shift. However, Integrity must be encouraged from the top by paying government official’s what is accrued of them and a vigorous integrity enforcement agency can go after government officials who falls below the standard of integrity while in service.
How can corruption be eliminated when the various governments have no or little commitment towards eliminating it. Though it seems to me that in Africa there is little or no difference between gift and bribe and so with this situation some of the public officers collect bribes in the name of gifts. Also, we can attribute it to the ineffective and weak public institutions responsible for probing corruption cases and the politicization of corruption cases. A country like Nigeria might have to press the “Restart Button” to eliminate corruption for it is woven into the fabric of mankind.
Today, more than two-thirds of the countries measured by global anti-corruption group Transparency International score lower than 50 — out of a possible 100 — on the annual Corruption Perceptions Index. (A score of 0 is seen as very corrupt; 100 is seen as exceptionally clean.) The average score worldwide is 43. According to the organization, a shocking 79 percent of the 7.6 billion people in the world live in countries with “corrupt” governments.
Besides, development precedes successful anti-corruption programs, not the other way around. Instead of poor countries continuing to try to fight corruption with their limited resources, what would happen if they focused on enabling the creation of new markets that help citizens solve their everyday problems? Once enough markets are created, people have an interest in those markets succeeding. Governments will generate more revenue to improve their courts, law enforcement, and legislative systems. In addition, markets provide jobs that give people a viable alternative to accumulating wealth through corrupt means.
Corruption for most people is simply a means to an end. If they had an alternative, most would not choose to hire corruption to make progress and a world free from corruption is critical to the strengthening of the rule of law, achieving the ends of justice and ensuring the advancement of core fundamental principles of a just society, including a fair state of play, integrity, transparency, and objectivity in both the public and private sectors. But to be truly transformative, efforts to end global corruption and achieve sustainable development must have at their core the full participation and involvement, at all stages, of young people. As the next generation of political and business leaders, civil servants, educators and community workers, the young represent the fundamental fabric of society. We will need their engagement to achieve the three keyways to curb corruption set forth below, and to ensure the generational advancement of the global community towards a better world:
- Focus on education
- Create a culture of integrity that cuts no corner or places a citizen above the law
- Demand accountability
Translating these three key focus areas into concrete action can help free the world from corruption and lead to long-term sustainable development built on Integrity, Professionalism and Accountability. Citizens should further be enlightened that Corruption is not only about bribes, but wastage of resources, absence of freedom of speech and engagement in governance, cutting down on the bureaucratic process’s etcetera. Technology should be used to build dynamic and continuous relationship between the citizens and stakeholders, sustainable policies should be implemented to improve government services to the people, integrity standards can be adopted in organizations and every corrupt activity should be duly punished. The government should leverage on platforms to promote Good Governance both nationwide and globally. Public administration and finance management reforms should be carried out, promote transparency and access to information, Empower citizens and Close international money laundering loopholes.
About the Author:
Lilian Efobi is a Public Policy Professional and serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Nigerian Global Affairs Council (NIGAC). Lilian is passionate about Policy Advocacy, Good Governance, Democracy and Development. With over three years in the NGOs space and having undergone so many leadership, fellowships, and trainings such as the YALI, African Change makers, Global Goodwill Ambassadors etc. Lilian has set forth a career path in the Public Policy space with a focus on Monitoring, Evaluation and Data analysis. Lilian hopes to use her passion-driven expertise through NIGAC Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism that measures the expected and unintended outcomes of policy programs that impacts on players within the private and public sector. More so, she currently advocates for women and youth’s inclusion in governance because change cannot be made in ignorance or exclusion. She has simplified and analyzed several government policies for the citizens consumption as a way of bridging the communications gap between government communications bureaucracy and citizens awareness. Lilian has been recognized as one of the African Union Top 20 Innovators and An Accountprenuer under the Accountability Lab Program.