During the week, while appearing on a radio programme as an analyst, I heard a caller make a suggestion on how to tackle the problem of corruption in Nigeria. The caller named Henry, had an idea which seemed unrealistic but at the same time, familiar.
“There are too many government officials who have been involved in corruption in one form or the other,” said Henry. “I think we need to grant everyone amnesty. And then start all over again with strict punishments.”
I suspect that Henry’s suggestion is already being implemented (sort of) by the current administration under President Buhari. I suspect that from the start, there was an agreement within the APC-led administration that everyone serving in it would be covered by some immunity. And that to me seems like an amnesty agreement. How else could a man with Buhari’s hatred for corruption be able to work with career politicians who have walked through the pollution of the public sector? Buhari must have understood that without military powers this time around, he would have to work with people of questionable record. But that purported agreement is not working is it?
Immunity/amnesty regarding past sins hasn’t done much to prevent new cases of corruption. We have had startling cases of corruption within this government and they have all been followed with an awkward inaction on the part of the Presidency. A good set of examples are the new discoveries of ministers in the President’s cabinet who have been serving for years with dodgy credentials.
Clearly, this unofficial amnesty is too messy and is not working out. However, it may be the best that Nigeria can have at this stage in its growing democracy; maybe the best we can get (at the moment) is for each President to get into office and use the anti-corruption agencies to fight the opposition and the opposition only. At least we’re getting some big men indicted. Maybe over the years, these selective prosecutions will dissuade public officials from graft, until we eventually have a new standard.
Since we’re not the only country dealing with the monster of corruption, let’s see how other countries are fighting this problem. Singapore might be a good example since it wasn’t so long ago that it was a third world country plagued by corruption. Are there any examples that we can implement or borrow from Singapore? Here are some of the regulations they use to keep their public servants in check:
a) a public officer cannot borrow money from any person who has official dealings with him or her;
b) a public officer’s unsecured debts and liabilities cannot at anytime be more than three times his or her monthly salary;
c) a public officer cannot use any official information to further his or her private interest;
d) a public officer is required to declare his or her assets at his or her first appointment and also annually;
e) a public officer cannot engage in trade or business or undertake any part-time employment without approval; and
f) a public officer cannot receive entertainment or present in any form from members of the public.
(Source: CORRUPTION CONTROL IN SINGAPORE by Koh Teck Hin)
Interesting shopping list, that one; I am sure we can tweak our laws to come up with something as attractive. The one challenge we seem to have with corruption laws isn’t creation of them but rather their enforcement. Like I said, maybe we should ‘manage’ the selective prosecutions until a new standard forms – or maybe some miracle in our democracy to move up the timeline for the eradication of corruption.