Bribery: Liability of giver and receiver
Laws are a fine thing on paper, but painful when no bribery can ease their bend – Paolo Bacigalupi, American science-fiction and fantasy writer
Bribery involves the making of illegal payment or offering anything of value to persons in official positions with the intention of inducing or rewarding them. Anyone in power or position of authority who acts dishonestly and fraudulently is said to be corrupt.
An individual or public office holder who accepts or receives bribes is corrupt. One who is morally degenerate and weak is also corrupt. The acts of bribery and corruption are both interwoven and can be used interchangeably. While corruption may include illegitimate use of office, misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds, bribery is limited to giving or accepting gifts or rewards to induce action. Bribery can be private or commercial depending on how it is carried out.
These two illegal actions are rife among public officials and those in positions of authority. However, attention is always on those who receive bribes and not on those who induce or offer them. Meanwhile, the law frowns at the two parties who partake in the process involved to complete bribery. Both the bribe giver and receiver are liable under the law.
Most people generally assume that it is one who receives a bribe that violates the law, not the giver. Such an assumption is wrong and misleading as the two parties involved in the bribe exchange are both lawbreakers. It takes two to tangle, and so does bribery requires two parties for completion. The bribery process becomes complete only when one party solicits or demands it before carrying out an action or the other party initiates an inducement for action.
Inducement and gratification are also important to mention in order to explain bribery and corruption from a broad and wide context. An incentive given or offered to bring out the desired action is called inducement, while gratification is a pleasing act to appreciate a good deed done in turn. These two words differ completely but could be wrongly used or misinterpreted in a discussion that involves bribery and corruption.
Some actions and inactions could be regarded as corrupt depending on the context. Corruption isn’t limited to fund embezzlement, impaired integrity, deteriorated virtue or loss of moral principle only, it also means not doing the right thing. An individual who fails to do the right thing can be said to be corrupt. The action then becomes bribery when the person waits to be induced with a gift before carrying out his statutory duty or to bypass and circumvent due process.
The effects bribery has on a society underscores the urgent need to stem this ugly tide before it is turned to a norm in our society. Bribery, among many other negative impacts, erodes trust in leadership, widens the gap between the rich and poor, and leads to uneven distribution of resources, frustration and untold hardship among citizens of a country.
Most law enforcement agencies in Lagos State are usually at the receiving end of bribery and corruption allegations. Reason is not farfetched as law enforcers are exposed to bribe-inducing violators and offenders who tempt them with mouth-watering gifts in order to bypass the penalty for their offence. Some of these law enforcement agencies are Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (Taskforce), Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps, Vehicle Inspection Service, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Rapid Response Squad and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) among others.
In order to show that LASTMA isn’t leaving any stone unturned in curbing bribery among its officials, some departments specifically act as checks and balances to their activities on the road.
The Monitoring and Surveillance unit of the Agency is saddled with the responsibility of checkmating officers’ activities on the road. Also, in order to ensure that formal complaints from road users against men and officers of LASTMA are entertained and well treated, the General Manager of LASTMA, Mr Bolaji Oreagba, recently sought a mutual working collaboration with the Public Complaints Commission.
In the words of Mr. Oreagba, “We are ready to cooperate with the Commission during the investigation on any complaints from the public and information sharing where necessary.” The general manager added further that, for prompt action, motorists or individuals should channel their complaints through LASTMA’s official and social feedback media platforms (Twitter: @FOLLOWLASTMA, Facebook: EKOLASTMA, Instagram: EKOLASTMA, YouTube: @LASTMA TV and Sound Cloud: LASTMA RADIO). The LASTMA boss, therefore, urged all road users to abide by the State Transport Sector Reform Law 2018 as anyone caught on the wrong side of the law will be made to face the full wrath of the law.
These platforms and windows are open to all motorists and other road users to report any case of extortion or instance where their rights are infringed upon.
Many LASTMA personnel have been dealt with by the agency for various offences in accordance with the extant laws if investigations proved them guilty with punishments ranging from demotion, and suspension to termination of appointments. It is important that members of the motoring public avail themselves of the opportunity LASTMA’s social media handles provide to report any officer’s misbehaviour in their line of duty.
LASTMA Connect, a Radio Programme, which comes up Tuesdays at 10:15 a.m. on Lagos Traffic Radio 96.1 FM, is another avenue where millions of Lagos road users can lodge complaints live on air or report any misdemeanour.
In general, public office holders and civil servants on the fiddle paint other dedicated and non-corrupt government officials in a bad light as the general public regard them as the same. The fight against bribery and corruption would be futile if those in positions of authority do not make stiffer the penalty for anyone caught in the act.
One good way by which bribery can be stopped naturally is when the traffic violators no longer offer to pay their way out through bribes and on the other hand when the traffic manager refuses the inducement. Traffic offenders should desist from offering bribes to traffic personnel even if they solicit it. If the unethical act of bribery, an action which involves two parties (giver and receiver), isn’t nipped in the bud, the morals of the entire society may be endangered.
Ojewale is of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA.