The challenge of curbing corruption and implementation of economic reform programmes in Nigeria

By Obidike Chukwuebuka,
EFCC Ambassador

Some human ailments could require many doses of medicines to be treated. Similarly, the menace of corruption, which has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigeria, would require all the necessary antidotesto effectively control it. In other words, no single and simple remedy will achieve it; and the problem cannot be solved corruption has been ingrained into the fabric of the society (Dike, 2005). Nigeria has, in theory, the solutions in the book to tackle corruption; but like poverty bedeviling the nation, implementations of the laws are the Achilles heel (a vulnerable point) of the society (Amadi, 2004).

In the name of turning Nigeria into a corruption-free society, the nation has experimented with many strategies,
programmes and policies. It has tried the judicial commissions of enquiry, the Code of Conduct Bureau. It had wrestled with the Public Complaints Commission to no avail. Also it fiddled with the Mass Mobilization for Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), and the National Open Apprenticeship (NOA), War Against Indiscipline Council (WAIC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in 1989, money laundering Act of 1995 re-enacted 2004, advance fee fraud (419) and fraud related offences Act of 1995, prosecution and conviction of high ranking administration officials, tracing, seizing and confiscation of all proceeds of crime, privatization of failing public institutions, creation of an enabling environment for effective private-public partnerships, failed banks Act of 1996, banks and other financial institutions Act of 1991, foreign exchange Act of 1995 etc. But corruption instead blossomed.

Obasanjo in year 2000 also instituted an Anti-Corruption Commission (ICPC) under the Independent Corrupt Practices Related Offences Act of 2000, established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003 through external pressure from the G8 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) ( Jain, 1998).

Other institutional approaches includes, the establishment of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit
(BMPIU) otherwise known as “Due Process” , monthly publication of distributable revenue from the Federation Account
to the different tiers of government. But assessment of corruption in Nigeria indicates some reasons why corruption still thrives in the country.

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According to Kaufman (1998), all measures against corruption have not been fruitful in Nigeria because they have operated at a level of mere symbolism. Those wagging the corruption-wars are themselves corrupt. Some of the corrupt leaders still find it difficult to change the moral tone of the country. Government domination of the economic sphere significantly enhances opportunities and ability to seek rents. Civil society also still accepts or tolerates corruption.

Other reason while attempt at curbing corruption still failed in Nigeria hinges on the fact of the entrenched and institutionalized phenomenon of the country, the failure of law enforcement agencies/workforce, constitutional
constraints (i.e. some provisions of our constitution seem to give immunity to some set of people), and attitude of defense lawyers using delay tactics to stall or forestall trials, thus resulting in congestion and slow pace of our court proceedings, (Goodling, 2003).

There is a clear-cut correlation between corruption and economic growth, and if stringent measure is not taken
about it, the development of the affected country would be impaired. Corrupt regimes always yield disastrous results.

Corruption which is equal to monopoly plus discretion, minus accountability has serious impediment to sustainable development especially in developing countries. It has stolen the wealth of resource-rich nations like Nigeria thereby making people to be trapped in poverty. Even while thinking of some
firms/people as if better off through payment of a bribe by most people, the overall effect of corruption on economic development still remains negative. The more corrupt a country is, the slower it economic growth rate. Corruption is astigma that destroys the reputation of affected country. It lowers investment thereby lowering economic growth of the country.

Despite the existing challenges facing Nigeria after the establishment of the two major anti-graft institutions (ICPC and the EFCC) by the government in 2000 and 2003 respectively, the reforms have yielded some concrete results with a
reduction of corruption levels when compared with the pre-reform periods when Criminal Code and Code of conduct Bureau were used to check corrupt practices on public office holders only. It is in the rules and practices of governance that the foundations of sustainable development are shaped or undermined. The very basis of development becomes
compromised when these rules and practices are not effectively monitored and applied.

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Development suffers where the rules of governance allow arbitrary resource allocations and the diversion of public resources in defiance of the public good and to the exclusive benefit of corrupt officials, politicians and their collaborators.


Every country has to determine its own priorities on the war against corruption. To tame the surge of corruption in
Nigeria as Dike 1999 and 2002 pointed out, the general population should be re-orientated to a better value system. This is because Nigerians have for long been living on the survival of the fittest and grab whatever comes your way mentality.

The re-orientation of the youth in Nigeria to a good value system could help in the war against corruption.
There is the need for enlightenment in discouraging excessive materialism and the culture of ‘get rich quick’, employment for the teeming youths and incorporation of human rights and development perspectives into anti-corruption work.

In order for Nigeria to successfully combat corruption, there is the need for a mechanism that will transform dramatically the culture and legacy of corruption. Positive transformation of Nigeria can only occur through addressing the root causes of corruption and through effectively implementing the legal mechanisms already in place.

Nigeria has introduced economic reforms through privatization, deregulation, removal of market restrictions, and civil service reform with the aim at promoting the integrity of public service. These measures are all very important in the fight against corruption, but the key factor to galvanize and orchestrate these measures is having honest leaders with the political will
to tackle corruption.

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There is the need for enlightenment in discouraging excessive materialism and the culture of ‘get rich quick’, employment for the teeming youths and incorporation of human rights and development perspectives into anti-corruption work. Provision of appropriate punishment for corruption in and of itself is not sufficient to eliminate Corruption.

The phenomenon of corruption has multiple causes, and is determined by more than just seeing people go unpunished for engaging in corrupt behavior. It is recommended that in addition to other measures being taken to reduce
corruption, the leadership must demonstrate the willingness to track and punish corrupt officials and citizens as well as create a conducive economic climate that would raise the standard of living of the citizenry.

Programs such as social safety net should be instituted among the non-working class in order to reduce the worry
about basic survival in the face of growing insecurity about the job situation.

Finally, there is the need for the provision of adequate resources anti-corruption agencies and non-interference of
government on the mandate given to the anti corruption agencies so as to make them effective. Unless the government is willing to commit adequate resources to fund and operate the agencies, and making them truly independent, the anti-
corruption might not be able to withstand the opposing forces of the corrupt elements in the country.

The fight against corruption is a collective fight that must not be left for anti graft agencies. Blow the whistle, take the action and expose corrupt practices in public and private firm.

We must rise collectively to uproot corruption in every part of our society.

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