How to invest recovered loot (1)
THE burning economic issues in Nigeria today is on stopping corruption, empowering the teeming unemployed youth, and achieving a sustainable economic development. Although these are independent economic problems, a cursory look reveals that the last two are products of the first. Corruption stagnates the economy, deprives the youth the opportunity to get sound education, health facilities, good employment and the right to live peacefully and decently. This is anti-development.
Key indicators explained the slump nature of the Nigerian economy. For example, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2013 reported that the unemployment level was 24.3 per cent in 2012 against 12.2 per cent in 2002. Same NBS report put poverty level at 62.60 per cent. UNICEF in 2013 reported: In every 10 minutes, one woman dies on account of pregnancy or childbirth.
Furthermore, the United Nations Human Development report in 2013 revealed that Nigeria’s literacy rate (61.3%) was lower than a number of African countries such as Sudan (90.7%), Kenya (87.4%), Ghana (71.5%), Namibia (88.8%) and South Africa (93.1%). This negative statistics on Nigeria may be linked to corruption especially when we consider the World Bank reports in 2015 on how over $400 billion was looted in the country before the coming of this administration.
Corruption destroys the economic seed intended to sow for harvests in the future. This is a clear harbinger of impaired future development. The questions have always been: What is the nature of corruption in the public sector? What is the genesis? What is its implication to future generations? And how do we stop it and make the effort sustainable?
Corruption in the public sector
Nigeria has been in the top ranking of corrupt countries according to findings of the Transparency International. Further evidence to this was the well-publicised statement “corruption is not stealing”, a proclamation of the former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan endorsing the perpetual corruption at the higher government levels. However, the fact is that corruption involves stealing of public money or property by the person to whom the money or property is entrusted.
Perhaps there is no country without certain level of corruption in the public sector but that of Nigeria is endemic and highly anti-development. Corruption in the public sector can be classified into two, namely, macro and micro corruption. Macro corruption is a grand corruption coordinated by high government functionaries and it involves large scale stealing of funds meant for projects, programmes or viable activities. This is evidenced by a number of former government functionaries currently facing charges for the same crimes.
Micro corruption is carried out by the society as a whole and in some cases by the lower ranking public officers. Our society promotes corruption by rewarding treasury looters with awards, titles, and other honours, as well as rushing to them for financial assistances. The lower ranking officers engage in micro corruption through stealing of office materials, false claims of allowances, work absenteeism, use of fake certificates for promotion, and related unethical practices.
Depending on the corruption opportunity open to a lower ranking officer, he may even earn much more money than a senior officer not opportune to be placed in a position of trust he can abuse. Nigeria today is witness to the evolution of such terms as, good posting, juicy ministries, gold-mine, and so on to denote avenues of corruption. These terms refer to how good an office is for an officer to earn extra-ordinary money other than his legal income.
Using macro and micro approaches to define corruption in Nigeria shows that only a few persons can be spared. More so, both macro and micro corruption are equally impediments to economic development. So corruption in Nigeria should be seen as everybody’s problem and the fight against it should also be a collective responsibility.
Genesis of the public sector corruption
Conventional writers on corruption link the epidemic to greed, selfish interest, wickedness and ungodliness. However, I attribute corruption further to economic factors. The macro corruption is a product of greed and egoistic behaviour but the micro one is a result of the falling real wage rate attributed to falling value of Naira resulting in the falling purchasing power of the public servants. Despite the series of increases in nominal wage rate in Nigeria since independence, the real wage rate decreased due to Naira devaluation. This is coupled with import dependency, export of primary products like crude oil and cotton at a giveaway price, industrial decay including the petroleum refineries, primitive and subsistence nature of agricultural system, insecurity and low level of literacy, dejected socio-economic infrastructure and hyper-capital flight.
An average public servant in particular, finds it difficult to cater for the various needs of his status such as house, car, medical expenses, and community demands on him. The immediate solution to his problem is the diversion of public resources in his custody. When this diversion is done successfully and the society condones it, the officer is encouraged to steal more to prepare adequately for his retirement.
Corruption versus the youth and future generations
The youth and future generations are bound to bear most of the burden of Nigeria’s corruption. As a result of the corruption, youth have found themselves in a totally devastated economy. Key productive sectors, namely, industry and agriculture are totally weak.
• To be continued tomorrow
•Professor Magaji is of the Department of Economics, University of Abuja.
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