The Utilitarian Theory and the Interplay between Corruption and our Judicial System



Corruption is a Nigerian. Every tom, dick and harry is not unfamiliar with this political jargon in Nigeria. It has gotten its way to be a household name therein. Indeed, if this country must receive a medal for anything, it should be for corruption and public looting. This explains why a former Prime Minister, David Cameron, described her as a “fantastically” corrupt nation. Expectedly, mixed reactions and venomous attacks trailed his description as at then. But a question begging for answer is: Is corruption not raging in Nigeria? This singular term is a sole factor that is not unconnected with the woes and maledictions we are posed with in this part of the world.

Nigeria is one the very “few” countries in the world blessed with arable lands, abundant natural resources and bearable weather and climatic conditions. Many other states are seemingly not endowed with such privileges. However, the dividends and fruits of these uncountable blessings are yet to be realised as some undemocratic elements of retardment have chosen to loot, ransack and plunder the national resources. After all, it is a national cake. And they most always have a taste of it. They largely benefit from these resources as against the larger society. Who says Nigeria is an accursed country? Our “fantastically” corrupt leaders are rather the accursed!

Many attempts have been channelled towards mitigating corruption right from the times of the successive governments headed by the juntas down to those manned by the civilians. But they have been to no avail. The scenario appears to be that whenever a government wishes to combat corruption, it will retort and eventually overcome the challenging government. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Most of those who pride themselves as public Administrators and public office holders are the fantastically corrupt species that prompted David’s definition of Nigeria alluded to hitherto. How on earth will they now allow the fight against corruption to thrive and flourish? It is not untrue that these people are in the minority. But they are “oligarchs!” They wield power and command respect. So therefore, they tread every path to render anti-graft wars exercises in futility.

Cases of how top government officials pillage billions of millions of dollars are read to our hearing in Nigeria on a daily basis. But to my utmost dismay, the accused are still found wining and dining with the accusors. Is this not a spell? Who did this to us in this country?

This is a country where some cabals loot public funds with impunity and immunity. This explains why a former President could turn down the order of a Law Court when he was called upon to witness a case. He decisively sought a billion naira before he would appear in court. Till date, he is still roaming about unchallenged. Exotic cars are what we see this set of people ride even when they have claimed that there was paucity of funds. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigerian politics. It appears to be a catch-all term. There is no iota of sanity in this country. No consequences for bad behaviours. Politicians loot and are enjoined to loot more. The judicial system, which is perceived as the last resort of common man, is not helping the situation at all. It is rather in vehement support of the course. Judgements are being póliticized and bought! This is the height of anarchy!

The Utilitarian theory

Corruption will continue to linger unabated in this country unless the suggestion of the Utilitarian theory on crime is borrowed and applied. The Utilitarian theory came to the fore in a time scholars were theorising on the etiology of crime. The biologists and the theologians had earlier submitted their ideas on the etiology of crime before the proposal of the Utilitarian theory. Whilst the former traced the cause of crime to human biological and physiological compositions such as body structure, chromosome and many others, the latter held that crime was only attributable to the level of one’s spirituality.

The Utilitarian theory is a typology of the psychological theory that followed suit the biological theory and thereby rendered the latter incomplete and erroneous in tracing the etiology of crime. The psychologists maintained that crime was only traceable to the psyche of man. In relation to the subject matter (corruption) the Utilitarian theory as proposed by J. Bentham is of the view that corruption amongst the public officials is on the increase because the pleasure derived from looting public funds outweighs the pain attached to it.

Bentham argued that man is a rational being who tends to assess and juxtapose the pleasure and pain attached to an action before engaging in it. After the perusal, if the pleasure surpasses the pain, he tends to engage in it and if on the contrary, he desists from it.

This is the typical case of our looting Administrators in Nigeria. They have taken their time to study carefully the Nigerian Criminal Justice System. They saw it as weak and inept. Albeit, they made it so, because they are the legislators, juries and executors. After making the criminal law apologetic to looters in such a way that the pleasure therein surpasses the pain, they deem it fit to plunder public funds. They know full well that when they are caught in the process, victory shall be on their sides.

This is why somebody will loot billions of dollars of the public funds and will be placed on a ransom of a hundred thousand naira. How and when did looting become a bailable offence? Our judicial system is characterised by ineptitude, inertness and corruption in itself. The criminal laws are projected in a way that they are sympathetic to the rich and intense to the poor masses. This is a country where one will steal a cup of garri due to hunger and stands the chance of being imprisoned for donkey’s years. While those who pillage billions of dollars of the public funds walk and gallivant unchallenged on the streets. This is how our Criminal Justice System had been processed. And this is the peak of partiality and inequality!

Further Recommendation

It is high time we the masses fought for ourselves. No one is ready to fight for us. It will be foolhardy of us to fold our arms and enable these looters tarnish our future. We should focus more on those we appoint as our representatives in the legislative arm of government. They are the harbingers of corruption. The ambassadors of poverty. Messengers of doom. They constitutionalize corruption and corrupt the constitution. They democratise corruption and corrupt democracy. They make laws that protect their interests and amend those that may cause disaster for them in the future.

I do not know of a country that seems to be apologetic to corrupt minded persons than Nigeria. Other countries of the world have begin to try their past Administrators alleged of misappropriation of public funds to affirm the veracity of the accusations. Zuma of South Africa is a good example in this case. If found guilty, he shall be brought to book. Where is Goodluck Jonathan who drained the account of the federation as claimed by the present Administration? He should also be brought to book! Instead of the usual blame game. Releasing looters’ list without prosecution and trial is tantamount to waste of time and an offence of the sensibilities of Nigerians. Where is Bukola Saraki? Is this how an alleged criminal will continue to pilot the affairs of our Senate? Let’s know how much veritable the allegations levelled against him are. Where is Evans? Where is Patience Jonathan? Where is Olisah Metuh? Where is Maina? Where is Babachir Lawal? Justice delayed is justice denied. And injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!

The punishment for corruption should be extremely punitive rather than corrective. If our Criminal Justice System stands to be apologetic to looters, we may not be getting things right in this country. And we may wake up one day only to find out that these looters have sold out the country. They all have dual citizenship. Their children are not citizens of this country. We will suffer the horrendous consequences and the attendant effects. It is therefore incumbent upon us to aid anti-graft wars at all levels. Corruption does not end in the political terrain alone, it is a recurrence in the academic sector down to the religious institutions too. Together we can!


Written by
Abdullah Abdulganiy
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