How Not To Fight Corruption, By Niyi Akande

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While the war against corrupt politicians is a welcome development to send signal to others coming that political office is not an ATM, the war needs to be fought with determination, transparency and accountability. Presently the war lacks bite and transparency, and the government is not yet accountable to Nigerians.

Much has been said about the stance of the current government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and the need to rid Nigeria of the corruption pandemic that has virtually destroyed the fabric of the country from various homes to the country at large.

The current offensive from the government of PMB is against corrupt politicians and not corruption itself as we are made to believe. Yes, all the people who illegally enriched themselves from the commonwealth of the nation should be made to vomit such illegally acquired wealth.

However, the government is looking at corruption from a tiny prism focusing only on already embezzled money, thereby micromanaging the fight against corruption. To make the fight meaningful, we should also focus on why people commit fraud and factors influencing fraud and corruption.

Experts have summarised the reasons why people commit fraud into what is popularly regarded as the fraud triangle which consist of: Pressure, Opportunity and Rationalisation.

Pressure may be financial (from family, friends or employers), it may be emotional, or the lifestyle lived by a person.

Opportunity to perpetuate fraud presents itself in different ways, chief among which are weak institutions. These may comprise inadequate or the absence of qualified and experienced staff, leading to incompetent supervisory and management oversight, inadequate internal controls and failure to implement and enforce such controls. The rationalisation of immoral behaviour by perpetrators is a form of denial as the actors never see anything wrong in their actions as they justify that the behavior is worth the risk taken.

The fourth factor still under consideration is capability, which may be in terms of skills, knowledge and know-how, as fraud and corruption are often practiced in electronic and similar environments.

All the aforesaid exacerbate the malaise called corruption in our dear country, Nigeria. In my own view, little or nothing has been done to reverse the trend by previous and even the present administration of Muhammadu Buhari, which is mainly fighting corrupt persons.

Before I am attacked by PMB apologists, let me emphasise what is obvious to all – the embarrassing weakness of the judicial, political and bureaucratic institutions, about which nothing feasible has been done to address. This fact underlines the point I am trying to make here.

While the war against corrupt politicians is a welcome development to send signal to others coming that political office is not an ATM, the war needs to be fought with determination, transparency and accountability. Presently the war lacks bite and transparency, and the government is not yet accountable to Nigerians. What the people want to see is the amount of money recovered from the looters on one hand and the number of people sentenced to jail by the courts on the other. The government needs the support and cooperation of Nigerians in fighting this demonic battle against corruption. People will only support it if the agenda is fairly, purposefully and transparently carried out.

In order for the fight against corrupt people to be meaningful and successful, the CEO of the country needs more than body language for our ‘impatient’ people to feel the impact. Certainly there is need for a change of tactic in confronting the problem. The current approach obviously is not getting the desired results. The judiciary and the legislature as constituted are serious accomplices and will not support the cause fully because of the conflict of interests and earlier involvements (they will never be willing to unearth their past malfeasances and collaborations with corrupt people who are being prosecuted).

On the part of the National Assembly (NASS), the madness and arrogance displayed in the recent months shows that they are just an amalgam of dishonourable people, unproductive and to say the least parasites on the national economy. The choice of a bi-cameral legislature at the federal level is a disservice to the entire country and it’s time we correct this and scrap the Senate.

The government should be pragmatic and employ a carrot-and-stick approach to the war. Placate the NASS to strengthen all anti-corruption laws, make new ones like the ‘Whistle Blowers Protection Act’ where necessary, and set up a commission to oversee the restitution and time–bound voluntary return of the stolen wealth of the country, with some rebate and concession for doing so.

Looters and political thieves who are hardened criminals and will not take advantage given to them through restitution are the people EFCC, ICPC and other enforcement bodies will pursue and commit to prison and by then the laws will not be able to save them.

Therefore, the immediate step to take is really the strengthening of institutions. This will engender:

· Voluntary disclosure of corrupt practices;

· Prevention of future hemorrhaging of the economy; and

· Enable Nigeria to restrategise for real greatness going forward.

A rugged institution will help to enhance the reporting and prosecution of corrupt people. Building institutions includes building important laws for the country that will protect all citizens, whistle-blowers and those repugnant to looting.

Niyi Akande can be reached through niyiakande96@yahoo.com.

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