In order to understand the developmental challenges and predicament of Nigeria, it is necessary to consider the problem of corruption in the country. Corruption is so widespread that it has engulfed the Nigerian political system at all levels of government. Corruption poses a major threat to political, economic and social development. In this article, we take a look at the impact of corruption on development in Nigeria.
For the purpose of this article, corruption will be defined as the “misuse or improper use of power and influence, deliberately and consciously for personal aggrandizement or group advantage”. Power is here used to refer to political power.
Corruption is not only the abuse of state offices for personal or private gain, but also encompasses a whole range of other social behaviors involving morally questionable deceptions leading to the accumulation of wealth, power, or prestige as well as much more mundane ambitions.
It entails a wide range of social ills such as: government bribery and graft, election malpractices, fraudulent business deals (popularly known as 419), ritual killings, cheating in school, importation and distribution of fake or sub-standard goods, political god-fatherism, politically motivated assassinations etc.
In Nigerian, corruption can be viewed from the social, legal, political, economic, institutional and ethical connotations. Corruption in Nigeria comes in various forms and dimensions with every facet of the society corrupt or exhibiting the tendency to be corrupt.
The average individual in Nigeria often bribes or influences his ways into corrupt institutions like the civil service, the Nigerian immigration services or the Nigerian Police.
For the political class, politicians in whatever level often have to get a political ‘godfather’ whom they must swear allegiance and loyalty to before they are endorsed to contest any political office. The political ‘godfathers’ rig elections, intimidate and even murder political opponents to make sure their ‘political sons’ are declared winners and allowed to occupy the public offices.
The ‘political sons’ in turn, must create an environment while in office to enable their ‘political godfathers’ reap the financial dividend accruing from investing their time, efforts and financial resources to see to it that their ‘political sons’ occupy public offices. This is done by awarding contracts that are never executed for the construction of road, schools, or purchase of drugs for hospital to the ‘political godfathers’.
Millions of naira may also be given in physical cash monthly depending on how lucrative such office is. This is a stamp of loyalty to the ‘godfathers’ and guarantees a re-election for their ‘godsons’ in the next election. This is so because in a corruption ridden society like Nigeria, the votes of the electorates do not count. The ‘political godfathers’ are easily able to buy off the electoral officials including law enforcement personnel to look the other way during elections thereby paving the way for election rigging and other forms of malpractices.
Actually, corruption is widespread in Nigeria and other less developed countries because of weak institutions, lack of transparency, inability to separate public activities from private ones and cultures and traditions that are inimical to the creation of effective check and balance mechanisms.
We shall examine the impact of corruption on development in Nigeria from the political, economic, and social perspectives.
Corruption in Nigeria is a major factor responsible for political instability. Virtually all the military take-over of power that have been witnessed in Nigeria with the exemption of perhaps one was as a result of corruption. The military often claim to be taking over power in order to save Nigeria from widespread corruption, even though they too often become victims of the same corruption leading to further military coup d’état.
Moreover, the inefficiency in the public service can be traced directly to corruption which erodes the norms and principles of the civil service and replaces it with ethics which are inimical to the dictates of the public service code of conduct.
Due to the high level of corruption in Nigeria, the country is bequeathed with an inefficient government services and a low quality of public health care provision.
The impact of corruption on the Nigerian economy has a direct impact on the masses that are often at the receiving end. Corruption impacts negatively on the ratio of investment to GDP.
Furthermore, the level of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) put to efficient use is greatly reduced due to corruption.
The low level of foreign direct investment coupled with capital flight as a result of corruption has led to mass unemployment for the teeming population. Due to unemployment, crime rate has also increased with cases of armed robberies and other social vices on the raise.
The economic impact of corruption in Nigeria can also be felt in the area of capacity building since the government often prefers to invest in white elephant projects like purchase of military equipment, building football stadia which cost millions of dollars, hosting international events etc as against investing in education and primary health care services. The main reason for this is that it is often easier to embezzle funds budgeted for such huge projects than say funds for education or health care.
In Nigeria, contract for projects such as electricity generating projects, road construction, etc are often awarded to politicians and party faithful but are never executed or at best, very poorly executed. The resultant effect is Nigeria’s inability to generate electricity for up to five hours in a normal day plus very bad road leading to loss of lives to traffic accidents on a daily basis.
Perhaps the most well known effect of corruption in Nigeria today is that it has indirectly led to the creation of the so called militants in the Niger-Delta and ethnic militias in other parts of Nigeria.
Corruption had led young men and women who felt that the Nigerian state had abandoned them, to take up arms against the state with a view to getting their share of the so called ‘national cake’ by any means possible. Some of these militant groups have enough arms and ammunitions to burn the country ten times over.
The government of Nigeria seems incapable of tackling the problems posed by these armed youths since the problem is largely economic and can only be solved when corruption is reduced to its minimum
Without doubt, corruption has stagnated economic, social, and political growth in Nigeria. This has resulted in no small way to poverty, diseases, violence and other vices that are today characteristics of the Nigerian society.
How can the Nigerian nation get out of the problem of pervasive corruption? The following are recommendations towards addressing the problem.
1. There is the need for a strong political will among the political leadership of Nigeria to genuinely fight corruption. There is need to carry the fight against corruption over from one administration to another as against the situation in the past where every new administration jettisons the previous administration’s efforts instead of strengthening it.
2. There is the need for the Nigerian Judiciary to be free from the control of the ruling government or political party in power. Judges’ salaries, appointments and promotions, demotions or outright dismissals should be in the hands of the Nigerian Judicial Council and not the executive arm of government.
3. There is the need to make the EFCC to be independent from the executive arm of government especially the President of Nigeria. This is to prevent the kind of situation a sitting president uses the commission to intimidate political opponents. Furthermore, there is the need to give the commission far reaching powers to investigate political office holders including the President of Nigeria if strong evidence exists of corrupt practices.
4. There is the need to review the salaries, pensions and gratuities of civil servants in line with the reality of present day Nigeria. A situation where politicians allocate to themselves millions of naira every month as salaries and other allowances while the civil servants are poorly paid is unacceptable and a major cause of corruption in the public service. An upward review of their entitlement will go a long way in reducing public sector corruption in Nigeria.
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