• Friday, June 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

The origin of corruption in Nigeria

2015 presidential election issues

The way and manner certain uninformed Nigerians blame the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan of corruption makes one to hold the opinion that corruption began and ended also with that administration. This is erroneous because corruption didn’t begin with that administration and didn’t end with it; it will not even end with the Buhari’s government. There is still corruption in Nigeria at the moment, even corruption has been embolden since the assumption in office by Mr. Buhari as corruption is now walking with shoulder high on the streets of Nigeria and it will remain in Nigeria. This is so because corruption has been in Nigeria before the country gained independence in 1960.

The amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates in 1914 to form Nigeria was the beginning of corruption in this country. This was so as the amalgamation was executed without the consent of the various nations that composed the present Nigerian state hence there are mistrust, disunity, bitterness, hatred and demands by various ethnic groups to secede from the country. It is instructive to note that Nigeria is the only country that is formed without allowing the varied peoples that constitute the country to discuss the terms and conditions under which they would coexist. Since Nigeria was founded on corruption, corruption will continue to bloom and blossom in Nigeria until a new foundation of inclusiveness, equality, honesty, trust and incorruptibility is laid for this country.

The second phase of corruption began in Nigeria few years after the forceful amalgamation of the Southern and Northerner Protectorates in 1914. That was when British-contractors and traders introduced percentage profit into the Nigerian trade system. Then, they introduced percentage profits in which contractors and traders were empowered to make huge profits in business transactions. Percentage profits were extra profits contractors and traders were making outside their original profits.

This was how they executed their transactions then. For instance, if Mr. A was a building contractor, he would approach Mr. B for a contract to build a ten kilometre road at certain amount of money. Mr. B would tell Mr. A to add an extra percent to the cost of the contract, say 15 or 20 percent as his own reward for awarding the contract to Mr. A. The 15 or 20 percent extra cost on the contract would be given to Mr. B who awarded the contract to Mr. A when he had received the payment from the government or organization that awarded the contract to Mr. A. That was how the British introduced the second phase of corruption to Nigeria. This process of awarding contracts by government officials and private organizations still persists till date in Nigeria.

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The third phase of corruption was in 1955 when the late Sarduna of Sokoto and leader of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, with the will to have control over the South, requested the Nigerian Colonial Secretary, Mr. Oliver Lyttleton that “If you want us (North) to be part of this Nigeria you have in mind, then we want 50% of the membership of the National Assembly.” It is on record that in the 1954 National Assembly election, the South won 83 seats (51.23%) of the 162 seats while the North won 79 seats (48.76%). However, in 1959, the British Colonial Secretary to Nigeria yielded to the demand of Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and created 312 seats for the National Assembly without any elections or new census conducted to determine the population that warranted the new seats.

Thus, with the inordinate creation of new seats, North was allocated 174 seats and the South had 138 seats in preparation for the parliamentary system of government in anticipation of Nigeria’s independence. Alhaji Ahmadu Bello asked for 50% of the seats in the National Assembly but got 55.7% of the seats! So, the South that originally had majority seats than the North in the National Assembly suddenly became the minority in the National Assembly! This was how the dominance of the North over the South began. This was how the claim that the North is more populated than the South also began. This was the third monumental corruption that plagued the country at that time which is still bedevilling the country at the moment. The January 15, 1966 coup was the aftermath of corruption and the massive irregularities which occurred during the 1965 general elections.

The fourth phase of corruption began when humongous sums of money suddenly disappeared from the coffers of government agencies, commissions and parastatals. Between 1976-1979, the oil sector lost $2.8b. That was when the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari was the Minister of Petroleum. Again, during the Gulf War, the same oil sector lost $12.4b under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime. These huge sums of money were not accounted for by those administrations.

In addition, the fifth phase of corruption was executed through the promulgation of the Land Use Degree (Now Land Use Act). For instance, there was Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) and Green Revolution (GR) programmes where millions of hectares of land were seized from Nigerians under the pretence to farm and feed them. Hundreds of billions of naira of our oil money were expended to purchase tractors and build farm settlements for these programmes. But Operation Feed the Nation and Green Revolution farms have been taken over by individuals. Today, chairmen of local government councils, governors and presidents are hiding under the Land Use Act to steal millions of hectares of land from Nigerians! It should also be noted that the greatest corruption is the seizure of lands from the people because nothing can be done without land. When lands are taken from the people, they become helpless and paupers.

The sixth phase of corruption occurred during the creation of states. Before the creation of states, there were four regions: North, West, Midwest and East. But today, the entire three regions of West, Midwest and East have seventeen states but only region–North has nineteen states! The question is, how can one region have more states than three regions? Is this not corruption?

Similarly, corruption also came into Nigeria through obtaining local and foreign loans. Both governors and presidents at various times had obtained questionable loans with no visible infrastructures to show for such ginormous loans. This is seventh phase of corruption in Nigeria.
Since Nigeria was founded on corruption, corruption will continue to boom here until a new foundation of inclusiveness, equality, honesty, trust and incorruptibility is laid for this country. This can only be achieved through a constitutional reform to be orchestrated by a sovereign national conference. Anything short of this will amount to vain dissipation of energy.

Victor Anya, a public affairs analyst wrote from Lagos.