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The Lexicon of corruption in Africa and how Corporate Governance can redeem the situation

The Lexicon of corruption in Africa and how Corporate Governance can redeem the situation

In an interview some eight years ago with CNN’s Christian Amanpour, the then out going Head of State of Nigeria Retired General Muhammadu Buhari noted that the high rate of corruption in Nigeria could consume the country if nothing urgent was done to curtail it.

Buhari is not the only Nigerian that has raised this alarm. Many Nigerians including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, and Abdulsalami Abubakar, have also, on several occasions, lamented the high rate of corruption in the country even with the anti-corruption agencies in the country.

Corruption is condoned by our system and institutions of state. We have even developed our own specific language for the scourge. The Lexicon of corruption is an interesting one in Nigeria. You would hear people talk about “giving Kola” appreciating you” “oiling the process” and “paying homage”

In most police stations across Nigeria you would see posters saying bail is free but police officers would not grant bail until the “table is wet”*or “pure water on the ground”

According to the respected UK business magazine, The Economist, in most African countries citizens tell pollsters that graft is getting worse and police is severally mentioned by respondents as a major institution they see as very corrupt.

Interestingly many of such results are seldomly not published but handed to government that would quietly sweep it under the rug. Therefore researchers would quote polls by International outlets instead of local news channel. Top government officials do claim that such polls could be sponsored to embarrass their principals and they would ensure such reports are discredited if published.

High-profile scandal among political bigwigs is one reason for that, though it may also be that dodgy deals are being uncovered more often, rather than becoming more common.

For most people, though, it is because they still face regular shakedowns from officials and the police. One in four Africans who used public services or interacted with police told pollsters they had paid a bribe in the previous year, according to a report in 2019 by Transparency International, a Berlin-based NGO. Still, widespread anti-corruption efforts do at least pose awkward questions to the determinedly unscrupulous.

Some public officials still trust in impunity. “Give me something,” demands a woman X-raying bags at Enugu airport in Nigeria, conceding impressively little to anti-graft efforts. The begging knows no age, a young student on his way out of Nigeria at the Murtala Muhammed Airport , Lagos was asked to drop something and he replied the Customs and Immigration officials that they should do their jobs. They proceeded to check his luggage and he left their desk after 30 minutes of checks. The officials tagged him uncooperative because he simply asked them to do the needful.

Read also: Rule of law: National Anti-Corruption Conference asks Buhari to protect his legacy, sack Bawa

Aside frustrating the passenger to ask for a bribe , others make small concessions to subtlety. “Help your brothers on duty anything would be appreciated”

Nigeria police officers might suggest that they are simply trying to do their job by saying they need fuel for their patrol vehicle. They would let you know the elements are not friendly to them and anything given is motivation for better productivity. They would remind you “We are here for you,” says a policeman to a motorist, even as he prevents him from moving on reported The Economist

One of my neighbours in the Nigerian Police once wondered why the fuss about the coins they collect on the roads compared to the millions that public officials hijack through the pen and paper in many government offices . The police do their thing not only on the road but they are known to cut dirty deals with drug dealers and other unscrupulous elements.

The Role of Communication and the Anti graft Agencies

Many high profile cases are dragged for years in court without resolution.The politicians have perfected the art of wasting the time of the people using the institutions of the people “The Courts”

The anti graft agencies must show their fangs and teeth. Nuhu Ribadu former EFCC boss was respected and successful because he was determined to make example of anybody and discourage stealing by showing good example. It’s also not too late to refresh the whistle blowing policy and reenergise the anti graft campaign at all levels.

With revenue from oil and gas in decline, we must manage the financial resources of the state better for the good of the Nigerian commonwealth. It’s also never too late to investigate stolen government money and make graft unattractive to both public and private sector officials.

Michael Umogun is a chartered marketer with interest in public policy