The problem of Nigeria is not Corruption. It is Unpunished Corruption!

by Akintokunbo Adejumo

“The problem of Nigeria is not Corruption. The problem of Nigeria is Unpunished Corruption”

— The Guardian (NIGERIA)

“No system should be 100% democratic or autocratic. A good system is a blend of both. A good leader knows when to shift from one to the other.” – Unknown Author

“To fight corruption in a Corrupt system, you don’t follow Due Process; you follow the Necessary Process.”  – Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation.

There is no longer any doubt that corruption in Nigeria started from the top (those in government) and trickled down to the people. I have often heard stories of how honest Nigerians were in the past, how newspaper vendors would leave their stalls unattended and people would still drop the money for every newspaper that they picked up, how dishonesty by a person in a community brought shame and disgrace on the person’s entire family.

Somewhere along the course of our history, bribery (which was often done secretly) became a norm. I remember vividly who the Head of State at the time was. I also noticed how morals as a people took a nosedive. It all started from the top.

However, I do agree that the solution can start from the bottom and we push it up to the top. I admit that we all have an individual role to play.

But to be frank, cleaning up our country would be much faster if it started from the top.

A democracy is a political system with institutions that allows citizens to express their political preferences, has constraints on the power of the executive, and a guarantee of civil liberties.

Democracies are distinct from autocratic countries in which political preferences cannot be expressed and citizens are not guaranteed civil liberties. Anocracies – are regimes that fall in the middle of the spectrum of autocracies and democracies. Anocracies are countries which are not fully autocratic, but which can also not be called democratic.

A few years ago, I watched a documentary on Al Jazeera about how Romanians were fighting corruption and I learnt a few facts – A 50% increase in indictments in the past 5 years, a conviction rate of 92%, and a ruthless crackdown seemingly unrivalled anywhere else in Europe.

Corruption represents a threat for democracy, for law supremacy, social equality and justice by undermining the market economy and endangering the stability in public institutions. The expansion, complexity and continuous diversification of this phenomenon manifestation forms, together with the globalisation tendencies, imposed, in Romania, the elaboration of an adequate strategies for approaching scientifically and systematically the criminal sources and the criminality effects and for providing efficient tools for prevention and social control.

Those leading this fight should be as closely scrutinized as those whom they pursue. However, the extensive reach of Romania’s DNA’s power and influence means that scrutiny and criticism will rarely come from within the country. Instead, the duty for criticism of Romania’s anti-corruption system rested largely upon the European Union.

Enhancing Civil Society Participation – Citizens’ participation and the values of integrity, accountability, and transparency are crucial components of fighting corruption. Therefore, it is important to develop programs to change the cultural understanding of corruption and help citizens act against abuses.

Due to the EU accession, Romania has improved transparency and accountability in the public sector. However, the European Commission still considers the government’s reform weak and slow due to poor implementation of laws on transparency of information and decision-making process.

Resulting from sluggish implementation of judicial reform, judicial system is considered to be ineffective in fighting against corruption.

Public procurement procedures, especially at local level, remain exposed to corruption and conflicts of interests, a fact widely acknowledged by Romanian integrity and law enforcement authorities. This has had consequences for the absorption of EU funds. However, it is also true that there are many other factors here, including the administrative capacity of public purchasers, the lack of stability and fragmentation of the legal framework, and the quality of competition in public procurement.

Corruption at all levels remains endemic and the country’s leaders have not yet displayed a consistent political will necessary to effectively tackle this issue. Romanian law and regulations contain provisions intended to prevent corruption, but enforcement is generally weak. However, the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) continued to investigate and prosecute corruption cases involving medium and high-level political, judicial, and administrative officials throughout 2014. Conflicts of interest, respect for standards of ethical conduct, and integrity in public office in general remained a concern for all three branches of government. Individual executive agencies were slow in enforcing sanctions, and agencies’ own inspection bodies were under-resourced.

The fact that Ministers continue in office after indictment on criminal charges, and parliamentarians with final convictions for corruption to stay in office, raises broader issues about the attitudes towards corruption in the Romanian political world. The rejection of the amnesty law by the Parliament in November 2014 gave a positive signal in terms of opposing a law which would effectively result in exonerating individuals sentenced for corruption crimes. Nonetheless, the fact that only a week after this vote, the idea of a new draft law on collective amnesty was again floated in Parliament suggests that the debate has not been closed. The increase of activity also concerns cases of corruption within the magistracy, recognized as a particularly corrosive form of corruption. According to DNA, this high figure does not reflect an increase of corruption within the magistracy (although the scale of the phenomenon constitutes a cause of concern), but rather an increase in the number of signals from the public. Such cases are complex, and a new special DNA unit has been established with this remit. In recent years, CVM (EU Commission’s Co-operation and Verification Mechanism) reports have found it difficult to identify a record of accomplishment in tackling cases of corruption in society at large. Risk assessment and internal controls are key areas for action. Some recent cases have shown substantial bribery cases which might have been identified earlier by careful scrutiny of the records, but which had to rely on a signal by a member of the public.

Back to our country, Nigeria, former Abia State Governor for 8 solid and looting years, (the story is that he, his mother and family owned Abia State during his tenure and nobody dared utter a sound) now a Senator of the Senate of Nigeria, Orji Uzor Kalu was jailed for embezzling N7.2 Billion. While in prison, he was receiving his FULL SALARY AND ALLOWANCE as Senator every single month.

After just 5 months, the courts ordered his release on an alleged technicality. Fellow Senators, led by the Senate President himself, joined him to celebrate his victory over Nigeria, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, even declared that going to prison, for Nigerian politicians, is an honour. Can you believe he said that? What kind of signal is being sent to us? Madcap!!!

Orji Kalu’s initial sentence was to serve 12 years in prison. But the Supreme Court nullified that trial and sentence based on “technicalities.”, meaning is that he isn’t being  released because he isn’t guilty, but that apparently, the Judge that tried him and found him guilty has just been elevated from High Court to Appeal Court during the trial, and so, according to Supreme Court, the judge had no jurisdiction to have concluded Kalu’s trial. So, his decision after being elevated was nullified.

“Anyway, Kalu is a free man and will remain so for a long time. He will continue as his role as Senator. He never stopped being a Senator. He will soon be on the Senate floor to join his fellow Honourable colleagues to legislate and create laws for the rest of us. The Senate President led his colleagues to join Orji Uzor Kalu celebrate his victory against Nigerians. At the top of this game, it is all solidarity. They had his back while he was in jail, made sure he got his full salary. Expect him to return the favour if any of them also goes to jail.

The only crime you’d ever be guilty of in Nigeria is being poor and powerless. Go to the market and steal a phone and you’d pay with your life. If you dare steal N10,000 and get caught, you’d spend guaranteed years in jail. The law has no mercy for the poor and powerless. But just become rich, have power and you’d get away with anything. The moment you are influential enough to steal BILLIONS, the law is there to protect you. You can physically and sexually assault people, your fellow Senators and Honourables will “protect and defend you.”

I am tempted to say that our Political class are our weak links but I know that this is a self-delusional farce. Pick any random poor/powerless person from the street, give him/her wealth and power and they’d automatically morph into the quintessential corrupt Nigerian Politician.

We are basically our own problem. We created this system (the law, the culture, the society) and we fan its embers, we ensure its sustainability. The law is a caricature when put to test.  The supreme court is a circus headed by a clown. This whole thing is a one big sad joke”.

I copied the above from an unknown source on a WhatsApp platform I belong to.

Just to add: this visit to celebrate Orji Uzor Kalu’s victory over Nigeria and Nigerians is a bipartisan effort – Both PDP and APC Senators and Representatives were there to celebrate his release. This confirms that, really, Nigeria is a one-party state in the stranglehold of these clueless, insensitive, conscience-less and purposeless excuse for political parties. There is no difference between PDP, APC and other fringe Parties (other minor and faceless parties are just scrambling for whatever crumbs of the loot they can get). They’re all allies in evil, looting, mismanagement and corruption.

Ours is a country where the voice of the people doesn’t matter.

But you see? This is the Nigeria that Nigerians want! When you interact with most Nigerians, statistics will show you that virtually everyone in that country is waiting for the opportunity to steal! This looting did not start today. It started prior to the second coup of January 15th, 1966 and led substantially to that same coup. Since then, corruption has grown wings to the point that it is now linked to belonging to Nigerian secret societies – If you don’t belong to the looting party, you’re out!

That is that! We need to address the social order that allows a few privileged and powerful people to loot and steal with the utmost impunity, become stupendously rich at the expense of the state and the people of Nigeria and then go scot free!

Mr Bode George, former military Admiral, veteran politician and ex-convict, said years ago that governance in the country is Turn by Turn Nigeria Ltd. (TBT Nig. Ltd). We can’t argue with him, can we? What with what we are seeing on a daily basis in the country.

In other words, the problem is not corruption in itself, BUT punishing it. We’re just not punishing those found corrupt in Nigeria enough or at all. And that’s why other people are lying in wait or for their turn to steal. And those already stealing do not give a damn if they’re caught. They are still rich, heroes to their communities, their churches and mosques and to their loyal friends and families.

They also steal massively so that they will have enough to bribe massively and still have some remaining to make them comfortable after their ordeal. Anybody is bribable, so to speak, in Nigeria, the investigating agencies such as the Police, EFCC, ICPC, DSS etc; the Judiciary, the witnesses, the prosecuting attorneys, and every agency or individual connected with the case.

So, the looters get away with it, and laugh in our face.

Unfortunately, we the raped, looted and impoverished people) also smile and wink back at them, grateful for the crumbs they throw down to us from their full and packed tables and even fight amongst ourselves to defend them. We even pray for them in our churches and mosques, religious but godless people that we are, ennoble them with more positions and chieftaincy titles. And many of us are waiting for our turn to loot. You see the problem? If corruption is punished promptly and effectively, this will not be the case.

How will they then stop?

That is part of the working ideology of the Nigerian ruling class. If you cannot beat them, you join them. If you don’t want to join us or you want to obstruct us, we either co-opt you to join us or we eliminate you to protect our interest. That is their standard ideology. In politics, they recruit their kind, who will help them to maintain the exploitative and spoil system, to run for offices.

Part of the solution is from the radical perspective: we need a social revolution that would be engineered by the people, their victims, and led by the people, their victims.

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