BRIBERY: The Reality of Public Sector Corruption in Nigeria
By Bashir Kabir
There shouldn’t come a time when the institutionalization of corruption would be ignored as unimportant. The rampant prevalence of corruption perpetration in public affairs does not make it normal and harmless because it is encouraged by the society to be accepted as commonplace.
Factors leading to a more corrupt public sector service are strengthening and enhancing the fostering of the scourge. One of the major types of public sector corruption is bribery giving and taking.
Unfortunately, bribery is perceived by many as none consequential and totally harmless to anyone outside of the engagement. This is a wrong perception and because of that, a whole new mindset of the people needs to be changed in order to start seeing the devil bribery is and if to record any progress in the fight to tame corruption.
In the public sphere, officials bank on corruption risks such as unclear standard procedures, secrecy, deliberately weakened institutions, lousy auditing to perpetrate heinous acts of corruption without fear of consequences.
It was absurd when the federal government tried in its defense to prove to the world against 2020 International Transparency’s CPI Index that indeed there is an improvement in tackling corruption in the country, even without presenting a single tangible or intangible indicator to support the claim. It should be recalled that the country, according to the index, is declining further down on the ranking table. In a nutshell, this means; either other countries that occupied positions below Nigeria in the previous years had improved and took the country’s position, or the country is getting more corrupt than those below it before. Either way, it is bad news for the country in the fight against corruption effort.
A ‘second survey on corruption as experienced by the population’ themed ‘Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends’, conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and published in December 2019, pointed out public sector bribery as one of the types of corruption flourishing in Nigeria.
A headline in the study indicated that an increasing number of Nigerians are in contact with public officials. It is through this contact that the survey identified the prevalence and pattern of bribery, which according to the misconstrued perception of most Nigerians, can be dismissed as a form of corruption with direct social, economic, and or cultural consequences.
The public officials continue to be generally blatant about collecting bribes. The survey, however, showed that this might slightly be less so than in the past. Yet, in quite recent years, a huge amount is paid to public officials in bribe. Besides money, these bribes might be in a form of properties gifting, offers, contracts etcetera. But always cash continues to be the dominant type of bribe in Nigeria.
In the public sector, the bribe paying and taking led to the decrepitude condition of service delivery. The reasons for paying bribes in the sector range from needing to speed up procedures, avoiding fines, securing contracts, distortion of facts, incitation of deviation from standard procedure, seeking favor for jobs etcetera.
One of the major impediments setting back the anti-corruption fight is the mechanism for reporting bribery. While many business companies lack standard anti-corruption compliance and ethics guidelines, the need to drop a token or favour to a public official with the intention of greasing his or her knees to facilitate the acquisition of a contract or any other favour is seen as completely normal if not the best smart practice.
Reporting public sector bribery corruption cases to the specialized public anti-corruption agencies is frowned at by most as an absolute waste of time. This is so because in most cases people feel these institutions are the extension of the government pawns that only bark at those not on par with the political interest of the government. A reported corruption case of an administration darling is likely to fell on deaf ears. This is why whistle blowing couldn’t make much impact on the anti-corruption crusade in Nigeria when most of the time nothing is done.
Alternative reporting channel include turning to unofficial institutions such as the media and non-governmental organizations (NGO) where the publicity generated normally lead to consequences for the corrupt official. This makes the CSOs and the media a very powerful tool in the fight against corruption.
The bribe-seeking behavior of the public officials is considered among the serious types of corruption that have destroyed the public sector and downgraded service delivery to mediocrity.
Most of the times, this behavior is apparent from the officials’ rapid ascension to wealth-dom and inverse performance indicators in the sector.
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