FEATURE ARTICLE

Saturday, September 12, 2020
amos.dada@gmail.com
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA & AFRICA

igeria, we love you, we love you Africa. You are too precious for us to leave you to rut. We are aware that Rome was not built in a day, but it was eventually built. In another month Nigeria will be celebrating her 60th independence anniversary. Sixty years is not a joke in the calendar of a nation. That is why we are not giving up on you even though it is taking too long for you to get your acts together. We believe A DREAM written with a date becomes A GOAL, a goal broken down into STEPS becomes A PLAN, and a plan backed by ACTION becomes REALITY. We want to ensure that corruption is drastically reduced in Nigeria if not eliminated. Nigeria as a baby is crying for these candies - a hub for development, safety for citizens and properties, a booming economy, universal high-quality education, no corruption, political and economic stability, a decent quality of life, low mortality rate, access to qualitative healthcare, working infrastructure, low unemployment rate and more. Unfortunately, the big hindrance is corruption. All those candies have been eaten by corruption.

"Nigeria could be one of the richest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thanks to its oil and gas industry, billions of dollars flood into the state's coffers every year. Yet, the country faces immense challenges. Extreme poverty, a weakening economy, a dilapidated infrastructure, kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, and organized crime are all part of the everyday life of the population. Corruption, the cankerworm, which has been depriving the country of the resources it needs to develop, is largely to blame for the current state of affairs." Ironically and tragically the continent of Africa is home to the largest pool of natural resources in the world, it is the most corrupt area on the planet; and poverty is endemic. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to connect the dots. Grand corruption is keeping millions of Africans in poverty while the political elites get richer and pack the money offshore. Corruption pervades our society entirely. It's blatantly practiced by the ruling elite and comes in many guises including: embezzlement, political clientelism, nepotism, fraud and bribery. Large-scale money laundering permeates every level of society, from high-level politicians and civil servants to the security forces, business people and the country's poorest citizens. It is hardly surprising that Nigeria has languished in the lower quarter of Transparency International's "Corruption Perceptions Index" for many years. In 2018, the country was ranked 144 out of 180, alongside countries such as the Comoros, Kenya and Mauritania. In 2019, Nigeria was ranked 146th, out of 180 countries on Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The country scored 26 out of 100 points - where 100 points is close to corrupt-free. Since corruption is a clandestine activity, the CPI, which massively surveys individuals and organizations who work internationally, is considered the best proxy to measure corruption. To worsen this situation is the obvious compromise of the three arms of government, the judiciary, the legislature and the executive.

To be successful, the fight against corruption must be a collaboration of all arms of government, the media, civil society, and citizens.

The Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC - gopacnetwork.org), which was founded in Canada in the House of Commons in 2002, has more than seven hundred members and is represented in 50 countries around the world. GOPAC's vision is to 'achieve accountability and transparency through effective anti-corruption mechanisms and inclusive participation and cooperation between parliamentarians, government and civil society.'

To achieve this vision, GOPAC's mission is to 'assist and support parliamentarians in their advocacy and legislation to make governments accountable and transparent.'

GOPAC's six regional chapters includes African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC) which is a very active organization. It comprises eighteen African national chapters - including one in Nigeria. GOPAC focuses its non-partisan efforts on grand corruption as opposed to petty bribery. In fact, GOPAC has been advocating designating grand corruption as an international crime prosecutable in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and its regional courts.

To deal with corruption, one must address the supply side (the payers of the bribes) and the demand side (the bribe takers). Legislations like "the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act" in Canada, modelled after "The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act" in the USA, make it an offence to directly or indirectly give, offer or agree to give or offer any form of advantage or benefit to a foreign public official to obtain an advantage in the course of business, etc. In Canada resources have been augmented to ensure that charges can be laid and prosecuted, with some success. To do so the RCMP often rely on whistle-blower leads.

This article is to proffer solutions to corruption in Nigeria and by extension Africa. It is hoped that the stakeholders: individuals, religious bodies, government functionaries, industries, academia, civil servants and others that have this information will use it to fight corruption in Nigeria.

  1. The Church: The church and religious organizations should henceforth be a major component in fighting corruption. To do this the church must have a paradigm shift in her operational, teaching and preaching strategies. The church must take responsibility for the ills in the society and seek to correct it using kingdom principles. The church should be people focused, develop and produce fearless, courageous, honest, holy, integrity focused and responsible Christians ready to fight for the kingdom and fight corruption in Nigeria and beyond. Like David we must be able to turn the debtors, distressed, the prostitutes and all sinners, to mighty warriors, saints who will turn Nigeria around for good. Consumerism message of the pulpit is consuming the nation. A message of hard work, productivity, perseverance and resilience will help the polity.

  2. Be the change agent. Unfortunately, most Nigerians and Africans point to others as the corrupt one. Everyone that wants to marry is looking for the right person, the issue is are you the right person? Be the Nigerian that has a clean hand, not corrupt, not the problem but the reformer, repairer, not the bribe giver or taker, not the cheater. Every solution that is proffered in this paper or any paper or speech is driven by this point, the necessity for you the reader to change and be the right person. In every endeavor it is you and I that are involved in human transactions and if everyone will resolve not to be part of any corruption and be the change agent to fight corruption, we shall have a better nation and continent. We must stop giving excuses for being corrupt. Hunger, poverty, lack etc are cheap excuses to destruction. There is no one without a need, find a way to meet your need in a way that does not involve corruption! There are no 'magic bullets' in the fight against corruption, but in Roy Cullen's book, The Poverty of Corrupt Nations, a Twenty Point Plan is offered as a way of attacking these vexing problems.

  3. War with Integrity. War with Integrity. Fight for the cause of the Kingdom. We are to subdue, dominate, and restore God's glory to humanity. We are to war against power and principalities that want to steal, kill and destroy our nation. They want to destroy our children, marriages careers, businesses and eco- system. We recognize these demons have been defeated thousands of years ago, so you are fighting to bring the righteousness and rule of the kingdom of God into your sphere of influence. We must live and teach integrity in the market and academic place. It is a shame for Christians to be stealing, and engaging in corrupt practices. Those are the things you are to fight. We are to attack ungodliness with righteousness and integrity, attack darkness with light, attack ignorance with knowledge and attack hatred with love. Success they say is the best revenge, we say, integrity is the cure for corruption.

  4. The collective corporate will. Authorities should brace up. Introduce transparent procurement rules for public contracts, establish independent commissions to monitor compliance with the rules. Put an end to legal loopholes by creating special courts to try corrupters, money launderers. Cases where the staff of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission- ICPC have become the corrupters is a sad commentary on our system. These individuals should be flushed out and jailed without the option of fine. The advent of COVID-19 has shown that the cost of governance can be substantially reduced. Some meetings where people fly to state capitals, the federal capital and to other countries with their overblown convoys should henceforth be virtual meetings! There should be no sacred cows, with the advantage of whistleblowers all corrupt suspects should be investigated, prosecuted and brought to justice without been maladjusted.

  5. The judicial will. To the ordinary man in Nigeria there is no judicial will to fight corruption. We understand that all the judicial officers are human beings subject to human frailties, temptations and weaknesses. However, we believe that they are well paid and if they are not well paid their salaries should be reviewed but we also know that no salary will ever be enough for everybody. The judicial will to fight corruption is what is needed. Our Judges should make covenants with themselves to fear God and not to pervert justice. These institutions would also have to undergo a cleansing process and establish internal control mechanisms. The great book declares "You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous."

  6. Anti-money laundering legislation and Court Creation. Together with a properly mandated and resourced financial intelligence unit, such legislation can be an effective deterrent for corrupt officials. There is need to set up a special court devoid of all these legal loop holes to try corrupt cases the same way election tribunals are set up for election malpractices.

  7. Genuine Asset Declaration before and after election to office and retirement. Periodic declarations by senior elected and unelected officials of assets and annual income provide important transparency. If privacy is a concern, buffers like a Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner that reports directly to Parliament can be instituted.

  8. Recover stolen assets. Nigeria must be committed and continue to recover $5 billion misappropriated by Sani Abacha. This can be a daunting task, especially obtaining the cooperation of offshore tax havens, but it can be facilitated by organizations like StAR - a collaboration of the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC). The 'Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative' supports efforts of policymakers and practitioners to return stolen assets, remove barriers to asset recovery, and prevent the laundering of proceeds of corruption. StAR will help provide assurance that recovered assets will not simply be repatriated to governments that are corrupt themselves, by setting up a Board of Trustees for the management and distribution of such assets. It should not be limited to Abacha loot. There are many people that obviously have stolen assets; the former Petroleum Minister - Deziani Alison-Madueke and others like her are allegedly in that category. This money should be retrieved.

  9. Committed Legislative Arm. A committed and energetic legislative arm of government can initiate legislation that removes protection and parliamentary immunity for the criminal prosecution of sitting Senators, members of Houses of Representatives, Governors and members of Houses of Assemblies as it's being practiced in Canada and other good democracies.

  10. Proper Management of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other parastatals. Nigeria may be suffering from what is referred to often as the natural resource curse, given its immense oil and gas assets. These assets regrettably lend themselves to corruption on a grand scale. GOPAC has argued for greater transparency in the disclosure of natural resource revenues in the public accounts of national and sub-national governments. Greater transparency can shine a light on nefarious activities, or at least beg important questions.

  11. Transparency. Greater transparency and accountability in the disclosure of the beneficial owners of companies and trusts will inhibit the formation of layers of companies with nominee shareholders and directors to hide illicit funds. It is important and helpful if the typical destinations of corrupt funds also enact these measures. These include offshore Caribbean tax havens and others like Switzerland, UK, the USA, and Canada. CAMA is a step in the right direction if there are no hidden agenda to muffle churches and NGOs.

  12. The West & East must will. The will of the western world to see Africa free must be genuine. When people steal money, they typically take it to banks in the Western world and recently Dubai. Until these nations legislate against such funds and punish offenders, they should stop calling Africa a corrupt continent. Other nations should stop raping Africa, taking the resources of Africa without accountability is systemic corruption and should stop. It's unacceptable that Francophone nations still report to France. When you take the resources of Africans and use their leaders against them, it is corruption on a high level that needs to stop. The new romance of Africa with China is dangerous. China should not be allowed to buy Africa and her future!

  13. Catch them young. This is the best strategy for winning the war against corruption - educate the younger generation. Unfortunately, most of the current leaders are irredeemable. They are dry fish that cannot be bent but they will not live forever. Nobody does but, if we fail to "work" on the youth and just hope they will suddenly change then, we are wasting our time. Pastor Dada wrote a novel To The Rescue (Say No To Corruption), hoping we could use it as a thermostat not thermometer in colleges for general knowledge studies. There is a limit to what government can achieve with the current approach of haphazard investigation, prosecution and recovery system. It has not worked and it is difficult to see it working on the long run. Educating the minds of the next generation will be critical in the fight against corruption.

  14. Create enabling environment, fight poverty. The law of demand and supply is real. If there is no way for the people to feed themselves and the demand is higher than the supply the people will do anything to get the few supply. When 5 million people apply for 5,000 jobs there is a problem. People will be too willing to bribe a willing bribe taker to secure a position. We are part of the school of thought of those who condemn people for taking politicians' money, accessing stomach infrastructure during elections, we still hold that position but, as long as we are not tackling poverty with the provision of proper infrastructures, steady power supply, security, good road network we are not ready to fight corruption. We are not against governments taking loans (not with the conditionality of losing our sovereignty) if loans taking will be used to develop infrastructure. That being said, Nigeria, the sixth world oil producer should not be begging for loans, nations should be begging us for loans, particularly smaller nations in Africa.

  15. Do the necessary and right thing always. Determine to do the right thing at all times whether someone is watching or not. We are in an age where some people boast that there are no absolutes, which is not true. It is like saying there is no white or black, man or woman, there is surely color difference. There are rights and wrongs, you don't have to be a Christian or a Muslim or of any religion to know what is right or wrong. Everyone is given the grace of conscience. You cannot rape an 80-year-old woman or a 10-year-old girl and claim you don't know it is wrong, you know. Similarly, you cannot take the money that should be spent to build schools, hospitals, roads, rail lines and say you don't know that you are deliberately hurting the present and future generation. You cannot receive bribes in the night and wrong judgment in the courtrooms in the afternoon and claim you don't know, you do. Your actions can lead to someone's premature death. Besides, every choice has consequences, you may be really clever or have connections to avoid human judgment but, you cannot avoid God's judgment. So, do the right thing always.

Conclusion. Corruption is man's injustice to man. It is taking cheap advantage of the opportunity you have to exploit people or situations. It is a huge betrayal of a public trust. Corruption is a human creation. Corruption can be stopped by you and me. Let us fight corruption in Africa. Let us no more be the shame of the world. There is a trending video clip on the social media about the "knowledge-based economy" and the "religious based economy" and that the religious-based economy continent also consist the most corrupt nations. We bet none of the religious books advocate corruption. There is nothing wrong with religion, what we need is to practice the contents of the Holy books and we shall be corruption free. We are believers in Christ, the bible taught us not to be corrupt and like Paul of old we are not ashamed of the gospel! May that corrupt free Nigeria, yeah Africa we all hope for and pray for in our generation emerge today because you intentionally refuse to be corrupt and become an anti-corruption crusader!

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