Corruption is a Global Predicament part II

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Chris Odinaka Nwedo




 The most widely used definition of corruption is the World Bank’s working definition of corruption as ‘abuse of public power for private benefit’. Transparency International (TI) takes a somewhat broader approach and defines it as ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain’. Accordingly, political corruption can be defined as ‘abuse of political power for private benefit’. Corruption was basically seen as a problem of moral decay.16 Consequently, the previous premise that Roger is a corrupt government agent means that Roger is a morally depraved or a wicked government agent. Similarly it means that Roger uses influence, bribery or fraudulent activities to achieve an objective, personal indulgence or aggrandizement. It also signifies that Roger is unreliable, reversible, selfish, bad or criminal. Ordinarily, corruption is moral deterioration. According to Khan, M.H. ‘corruption is an act which deviates from the formal rules of conduct governing the actions of someone in a position of public authority because of private regarding motive such as wealth, power or status.17 Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases paired the word corruption with the following pejorative concepts, ‘decay’, ‘stench’, ‘neology’, badness’, uncleanness’, deterioration’, ‘dilapidation’, ‘improbity’, and ‘wickedness’.18

In the light of these attributes, a corrupt politician, leader or an administrator can be understood as a politician, leader or an administrator devoid of probity, a person with a rotten or putrid character, a contemptible fellow, a morally impaired official, a vicious person and even a wicked individual. ‘In 18th century England, corruption was understood in context of encroachment by the executive on the legislature, for instance by money payments, the offer of positions and pensions, and the trading of patronage. Corruption was the violation of the principle of constitutional ‘checks and balances’, authoritarian tendencies and the subsequent decay of the political order.19 Corruption is the perversion of integrity or state of affairs through bribery, favour or moral depravity. Corruption takes place when at least two parties have interacted to change the structure or processes of society or the behaviour of functionaries in order to produce dishonest, unfaithful or defiled situations.20 Kalu and Yemi perceive corruption as referring to the conscious and well planned act by a person or group of persons to appropriate by unlawful means the wealth of another person.21 Otite maintains that corruption transcends bribery and includes treasury looting and also the deliberate bending of rules of the system to favour friends or hurt foes. It is clearly an evidence of absence of accountability, law and order.22

 Notwithstanding the fact that corruption is a universal phenomenon, it has no single commonly accepted definition. Moreover societies differ in their views about what constitutes corruption and scholars too disagree about its causes, and effects. Normatively defined corruption refers to the abuse or misuse of public power/position/office/role of trust or resources for private benefit. 23 Corruption can be described or referred to as the conscious attempt or deliberate diversion of resources from the satisfaction of the general interest to that of selfish, personal or particular, interest. The disdain for corruption is clearly felt mainly on ground of morality.24 The elementary impetus for every descriptively corrupt demeanour is wealth, status and power, or more specifically self-enrichment, self-indulgence and power preservation. The consequences of all corruption in politics and/or economy are institutional decay, arbitrary power, and authoritarian tendencies and reduced liberty. Some scholars divergently argue that ‘not all acts of political corruption necessarily lead to institutional decay and political oppression, and political corruption is not the only factor that leads to institutional decay and oppression. Not all acts of political corruption are detrimental to ‘public interest’.25

 For Osoba corruption is a form of anti-social behaviour by an individual or social group that confers unjust or fraudulent benefits on its perpetrators. Corruption is inconsistent with the established legal norms and prevailing moral ethos of the land and is likely to subvert or diminish the capacity of the legitimate authorities to provide fully for the material and spiritual well-being of all members of a society in a just and equitable manner.26 According to Usman, corruption means much more than public officers taking bribes and gratification, committing fraud and stealing funds and assets entrusted to their care. Corruption…means the deliberate violations, for gainful ends, of standards of conduct legally, professionally, or, even ethically established, in private and public affairs. These gains may be in cash, or, kind, or, it may even be psychological, or, political, but, they are made from the violation of the integrity of an entity and involve the subversion of its quality and capacity.27 Corruption broadly has been defined as a perversion or a change from good to bad. Specifically, corruption or corrupt behaviour involves the violation of established rules for personal gain and profit.28 According to Lipset and Lenz, corruption is efforts to secure wealth or power through illegal means, private gain at public expense; or a misuse of public power for private benefit.292845024_corruption_png3719cdf15cead6f93396f568ca1891c0

Often people attribute the pathetic state of affairs in economy and social lives in the so-called technologically developing countries to corruption, and do vehemently argue to validate the contention. It is not uncommon to see people quarrel or approximately fight as a result of impassioned argument on corruption and its destructive impact in many societies. For David Kashangaki, everyone is corrupt, the politicians, public officials and religious leaders. The politicians and public officials enrich themselves with kickbacks from contractors and loot the nation’s property, unfortunately, the people responsible for fighting corruption in my country, Nigeria, are the same people encouraging it.30 Corruption is the misuse of office for private ends. defined it as the abuse of formal rules of the game by actors for their private gains.32 By this, any individual, either a public officer or private operator who deliberately refuses to follow due process in the course of carrying out his or her assigned responsibility for the purpose of personal gain is engaging in corrupt practices. At the center of corrupt behaviour, therefore, is the motive for private gain, either as private citizen or public officer.31

Corruption permeates all facets of public institutions and structures in Nigeria. Corruption in the various arms of government appears in various shapes. In the executive branch, corruption takes the form of over invoicing, conversion of public properties to private use, inflation of contract cost, kick-back paid to monitoring officers on contract awarded, distribution or sharing of public resources as patronage to certain individuals to secure political support. For instance, there are several allegations of corruption against some former and serving public officers in Nigeria that have been investigated since the new face of democratisation in 1999. Furthermore, at the lower levels of government, the trend is for state and local executives to use substantial part of their annual budgets to buy expensive cars for traditional rulers in their domains. Contracts are awarded to cronies, especially family members, friends, party officers and associates or club members. Frequently, such contracts were awarded in utter disregard for due process, as official bidding or set standard are neglected.35

Since independence, corruption in Nigerian public sectors has been hugely damaging to collective interest of Nigerians. It had severe negative consequences on economic growth and development of Nigeria. It adversely affected governance, the larger social structure and crippled the state’s ability to deliver for its citizen’s enjoyment of even the minimum social and economic rights, including health and education. This is leading to retardation of economic development and the deterioration of public infrastructures.36 Corruption allegedly ‘entered a new and more deadly phase during the military dictatorship of Ibrahim Babangida. Ever since, corruption has blossomed, to the extent that members of the top echelons of the judiciary are now regularly accused of graft. A window into the elephantine level of corruption in the political leadership in Nigeria is opening scandalously routinely to the amazement of the Nigerian public. It has been mindboggling atrocities. According to Douglas Anele ‘no reasonable human being who reads the reports which documented how Bankole and his colleagues, using all sorts of cunning and disgraceful subterfuges, stole billions of naira from the public treasury, will not feel like giving them the Madoff treatment. Certainly, it would be wrong to assume that, because information about corruption and gross abuse of office by David Mark and his colleagues in the Senate is not yet in the public domain, therefore, the upper legislative house is free from corruption.38 On the contrary, given the antecedents of most senators, it is a sure bet that the Senate is also a Mecca of corruption. Perhaps, senators have perfected the perverse art of ‘chop and clean mouth’. But I sincerely believe that one day investigative journalists would reveal sordid financial transactions in the Senate – after all nothing remains hidden forever under the sun.39 Many of the nation’s former politicians and/ or heads of public institutions nowadays can be compared to goldfish in a swiftly drying stream as pressures intensify from unfamiliar horizons for proper scrutiny of their financial records. An all-embracing attitudinal change some would suggest is the prerequisite for the recovering of the contemporary society from the deadly grip of corruption. It is bewildering that Nigeria is still slowed down by corruption, crime, poverty, and violence despite the promulgation of several laws as the principal mechanism for curbing them. The legal instruments used to fight corruption in Nigeria include the Criminal Code, Code of Conduct Bureau, the Recovery of Public Property Act of 1984, the EFCC and the ICPC. These however failed to stem the tide of corruption. The rules were confusing, thus leaving open the likelihood that guilty persons might escape punishment on technical grounds.40 However the expectation is that Nigerian society is bound to set the pace for a new tool and strategy for making the battle against corruption more resolute.

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