Daily Trust

The anti-corruption war hasn’t started (II)

Continued from last week

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We are still looking at the new forms of corruption, and the new tricks which our public servants have got up to. It needs to be noted that corruption is not solely a public sector affair but something every sector in Nigeria engages in. Please read on…

4. Contract inflation of all sorts. I have seen where contracts are doubled and the contractor innocently gets one half of the payment while the other leg goes elsewhere. It used to be that they would create different Tax Identity Numbers for a single company and use the fake TINs, but now, many companies will find themselves paying double Withholding taxes and VAT to government over each transaction, simply because the contract was doubled (all companies should always look out for this at FIRS). I hear ministries and parastatals now route payments through third parties, which then send the correct payment to ultimate beneficiaries after deducting their own addition. To make matters worse, the government operatives will then besiege the contractor to collect some more from the legitimate amount!

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5. A growing tendency whereby expensive assets like SUVs are bought for top civil servants, parked at home for a couple of years, and used only to attend weddings over the weekend, but always taken away as ‘entitlement’ whenever their tenure expires. Some take the cars directly to their village houses. What work are they doing to deserve N60million SUVs? Sometimes more than one or two

6.  Deliberate obfuscation of asset registers – There is virtually no record of government properties in Nigeria. People have been known to simply claim or sit on some of them. Also some agencies have acquired tons of assets that are not needed. Government agencies operate in silos and hardly share services.  This provides a platform for asset acquisitions for the purpose of inflating the value and cashing out

7.  Tech-enabled corruption of all types and sizes, where technology is twisted by human interference in order to make big money. No one can be trusted. One would have thought technology – such as GIFMIS/TSA/IPPIS/e-PAYMENT will catch out these criminals but they always devise new ways to escape. And so the CBN recently reported that cybercrime has leaped.

These and many more strategies are being deployed as corruption gets ‘innovated’ in Nigeria. 

I had to give this issue a deeper thought when I read the other day, a report in the Punch newspapers where the Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad, a close ally of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and APC top gun, said President Muhammadu Buhari had bungled the anti-corruption war.  He averred that corruption cannot be fought via reliance on the judiciary alone as this present government aims to do.  

The statement from the Saraki protege got me thinking. I know he reflects his boss’ ideas, and he even went on to say the solution is to ‘strengthen lawmakers’, which I think is self-serving and will lead to nowhere. Have lawmakers not shown that they are masters of corruption themselves? There has to be a better way. Ahmad did say also, that there was a need to get the buy-in of Nigerians, which in his words is zero for now. That is valid; but how he didn’t say. 

Before I explore just how any government can make a dent on this issue which has now taken on several lives of its own, it is important to consider some of the traditional and cultural brick-walls that such a war might face. The same man Ahmad used a Hausa proverb which says: “malammai sun ce halal ne cin dukiyar gwamnati tunda bat a kowa ba ce” [Islamic clerics say it is legitimate under Islamic law to appropriate Government resources since such resources belong to no one]”. That is one.

On the streets in pidgin English, we say “na where man dey work na im man dey chop”? Or the popular axiom that “gofment property no be anybody property”? In Yoruba land they say “ao kin se’se ijoba laagun”, translated as “no one must do government work to the level of breaking sweat”. In other words, government work is what you do with half-heartedness and levity. And of course you can help yourself to the enjoyment when the opportunity presents itself.

With these thoughts ingrained in our culture – north, east, west and south, we have a big problem and there is a need to roll back these ideas no matter how ingrained in our local cultures. It will take a herculean effort by all means but the effort must be started immediately.  If we have spoken about the Islamic cleric above, the Christian clerics – of which we have thousands in Nigeria – have not made matters better as many preach get-rich-by-every-means doctrines that emphasise selfishness and the bingeing on materiality. Many have been known to collect proceeds of corruption and theft without a care, and many have rationalized these actions by claiming “if you don’t take what belongs to God, the people who serve the Devil will take everything”. In general we haven’t run our society in a reasonable manner at all.

Next week we shall look at what a sincere government can do.