Murder, Inc. (or Murder Incorporated) was the name given by the American press to organized crime groups in the 1920s through the 1940s that resulted in hundreds of murders on behalf of the American Mafia and Jewish Mafia groups who together formed the early organized crime groups in New York and elsewhere. The name was a journalistic invention.
This same phrase should be applied to Nigeria’s main industry of nowadays – Corruption, since it is now beyond doubt that it is a well organised form of criminal art endeavour. Very good business for those who indulge in it.
In their editorial of 25th March 2012, titled “Corruption Incorporated (1)”, ThisDay Newspaper quoted the former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, bemoaning the extent to which corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation as saying “Sometimes I watch the television and feel that the other name for Nigeria is corruption. In America and other countries, they have hurricanes and other natural disasters. It, however, appears to me that Nigeria has its own natural disaster, which is corruption.”
Mr Wabara, I always feel the same way and I share your frustration (I will forget that you were once the Senate President and you could have done more to fight corruption, but of course, you did not). In fact, I have stopped watching Nigerian TV, because after every daily revelation of one scam and fraud after the other, I get sickened, angry and frustrated because our various governments, past and present (and who knows, future too) are incapable of doing anything to stem the tide of corruption that has deluged and dehumanised us for the past 50 years.
The editorial went on “Whatever the misgivings anybody may have about that seeming generalisation, we should all have cause to be worried about the rate at which our country is being systematically looted on virtually all fronts. The continuous revelations of monumental fraud being perpetrated at the Police Pensions Office alone lend credence to Wabara's assertion. Perhaps more bizarre in this incredible story of graft is the arrest last week of a serving permanent secretary who was said to have in his possession the sum of N2 billion in cash!”
Compatriots, this is sheer greed and madness. These people, who are not even politicians that we have always been laying into all these decades and accusing them of being corrupt, are civil servants. I have heard at least two former Heads of the Federal Civil Service roundly defending the civil servants of this country and exonerating them from corruption, but Nigerians have always known differently. We have to deal with civil servants – federal, state and local governments - daily, in order to get our lives moving and it has been clear that these people are neither civil nor are they serving the people they are supposed to serve.
Hardly can you need something from the MDAs (as Nigerians like to call them – Ministries, Departments and Agencies) that you will not have to reach into your pocket to bribe them to get things done for you. To crown it all, these selfish, greedy and corrupt breed of people are able to carry out their nefarious activities in their little, sometimes windowless and shabby offices. Every ministry, federal, state or local, is pockmarked with these offices which confers privacy to the civil servants and allow them to make deals, carrying files all over the place and looting billions of our common wealth as we have now seen.
A digression: to reduce or manage corruption in the civil service, I suggest open-plan offices for them; so that every cadre from messenger to Permanent secretary will be sitting in the same big room, only separated by cubicles. These lazy and conniving breed of people will find it difficult to carry out their nefarious deals in such open environment. They are able to do this because they are able plan and execute their stealing behind closed doors.
Nigerian civil servants are the laziest, most indolent, most ineffective and most corrupt breed of their kind in the world. They collude very enthusiastically and very willingly with the politicians and bankers to loot the country. And they are so hypocritical, it is almost unbelievable. They have absolutely no sense of fiscal or financial integrity or ethics, nor a sense of their responsibilities to the citizenry of this country. They should be called “sinful savants” – experts in sin and corruption.
And this is because everybody is looking out for only their own pocket. In all countries of the world, civil servant serve the people, drive and oil the government machinery and try to make life better for the citizenry. In Nigeria, it is the opposite. In Nigeria, civil servants actually extort money from the people they are supposed to serve.
Tell me if this is not a corruption syndicate or incorporation. Take the Pension Board scam, which shows how highly-organised this syndicate was – falsification of documents to withdraw N24 billion from the Budget Office for the payment of pensions that required only N3.5 billion; falsification of death certificates in order to claim the benefits of supposedly dead pensioners; daily withdrawals of up to N300 million from banks through issuance of multiple cheques with fictitious names--all with the knowledge and collaboration of senior government officials.
But what kind of a system are we operating in this country that allows such massive amounts of money to be easily stolen by those in charge of administering the funds? And this is happening all over the country – federal, state and local levels, in the executive, legislature, judiciary, law enforcement, military, financial institutions (“for these public officials to make multiple withdrawals of such large sums of money on a daily basis in this era of electronic banking, some bankers must have been made willing accomplices to this mindless racket” – ThisDay Newspaper), industry, etc.
It is nigh impossible for just the civil servants to carry such massive crime without the active and willing connivance and participation of politicians, bankers, contractors and suppliers, and other individuals. So we see the Corruption Incorporated again.
Nigeria is one big corruption industry! It is incorporated. There is nothing getting done without a whiff (did I say whiff? It is more of a stink) of corruption. The leaders will not provide education, healthcare, food, water, electricity, transportation, communication, trade facilities and infrastructural development without recourse to corruption.
Having said this, I am not letting off the politicians; they are also a big chunk of the problem, of course. What with federal and state legislators, with their spurious committees overseeing every ministry and agencies, and demanding bribes before they pass budgets, or actually forcing these government arms to inflate their respective budgets.
The SEC N44 million fraud allegation rocking the House of Representatives is another vivid example of sheer greed, selfishness and unabated corruption. And this happens with ALL the so-called Senate and House of Representative overseeing committees. It is organised corruption. Corruption unlimited and incorporated in Nigeria, RC No. C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N. Even the incorporating institution, Corporate Affairs Commission is bedrock of corruption. All MDAs are swarming with corrupt civil servants. There is no clean exception. Please do a little exercise with your mind and try and come up with any government MDA in Nigeria that is not corrupt. Theirs is not to serve the public, but to serve their pockets.
Another causative factor in the quagmire of massive corruption that we find ourselves is the percentage of the national income or revenue (52%) that goes to the central government; while the states and the local government share the remaining 48% (correct me if I am wrong on this) This is too much, disproportionate and not commensurate with the services that we get and developments we expect in the grassroots. This is why there is so much money to steal in the federal level, more than in the other government levels. It is so much that high officials who are in charge to monitor their spending e.g. Accountant-General, Auditor-General, etc., are either overwhelmed by the sheer figures or complexity or they are also in cahoots with the looters.
So where do we go from here without sounding alarmist (and if Nigeria’s corruption is still considered alarmist at this stage, I don’t know what it will be in a few years’ time if we continue at this rate)
We still have to realise and accept that we do not have good governments in place that have the ability and the political will to tackle corruption in Nigeria. We therefore need to change our governments, or the people, the corrupt cabal who have been running the country to the ground for the past 40 years. It is impossible for corruption to tackle corruption.
We have to admit that the system of governance, or democracy as we practice it in this country actually have corruption built into it, and must be changed. How we do this is a matter for more fertile minds to come up with. There is no single solution and one problem leads to the other, so solutions must be conjoined.
Let’s face it; the euphoria over Nigeria’s experiment in democracy is over. Reality is once again at our doorstep with the unsettling questions about our future. Our nation, home to brilliant minds, rich traditions, rich in natural and mineral resources and centuries of wisdom, is withering in poverty while most other nations rapidly move ahead of us.
The nation, if we are indeed a nation, is drifting aimlessly, without direction or vision, and our current systems, economic, political and social, are limiting us in this era of intense global competition among nations.
We, the people of Nigeria, can no longer afford to stand by and watch while brazen, mindless and feckless official corruption, political instability, religious strife, and rudderless administration, flagrant wastefulness, tribalism, maladministration and administrative lapses, overloaded judiciary, bloated, corrupt and unwieldy civil service, and unbelievable personal greed demoralise our society and negate any advances we have made so far. Why have we been getting a raw deal from our various governments over a very long period of our existence as a nation?
Senate President David Mark can curse and curse the perpetrators of this massive fraud in the Pension Service (he himself is as culpable in Nigerian corruption as anybody else, anyway, so he is being hypocritical and self-seeking). Everyone involved in the racket must be made to face the full force of the law. The organised cabal of corruption in this country must be uprooted. The law enforcement agencies, including the ICPC and EFCC have been lagging in their responsibilities and as they themselves have admitted, are as corrupt as the people they are meant to investigate and bring to justice. The EFCC is a toothless bulldog and is mired in bureaucracy and corruption. The judiciary and the financial institutions, including our Central Bank are no different – clueless, inefficient, ineffective, greedy and corrupt.
A causative factor of our fondness for corruption can be found in our culture and our general disregard for discipline. Our psyche and mind-set are also major factors. Every Nigerian thinks he or she is cleverer than the other. This is borne out in the way we carry on in our daily lives: vehicle drivers trying to cut in front of you to beat the traffic; jumping queues at events; trying to cut corners every time there is a reason for officialdom – university admission, police checkpoints, queuing in the bank to transact business; getting your car’s papers and driving licence in order; paying your taxes, applying for your international passport, importing goods into the country and you don’t want to pay the correct tariff and custom duties, and a million other tasks we have to do with government every day. If the officials don’t demand the bribe, the member of the public will offer the bribe, just to cut corners and ease things for him/herself.
My people say “A bad disease requires a bitter medicine”; we must be prepared to go to the extreme to tackle corruption. Corruption will fight you back a thousand times more, and more viciously and dirtily. Several people have died in this country as a result of their attempts to fight corruption, and many more have had attempts made on their lives by Corruption Incorporated Nigeria Limited.
Do I hear a call for the death penalty for corruption? Might be a good idea, but how do we get this law enacted by the same corrupt politicians, civil servants and others of their ilk we are trying to get?