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Corruption and the Challenge of Good Governance in Nigeria

Corruption and the Challenge of Good Governance in Nigeria

The Companion National Discourse Organized by the Association of Muslim Men in Business and the Professions, Sunday, June 22, 2014

Discussion Paper by Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, OFR

Protocols:

Introduction

I am indeed privileged to be invited to speak to this august gathering of Muslim men and women that have excelled in their various professional and business callings in our nation. It is a refreshing change from the last few months that I have spent working as the Deputy National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the nation’s main opposition party!

I must commend your association for summoning the courage to invite me, knowing that your decision may be considered as treasonable by an increasingly fascist and insecure federal administration. I hope you will find my ideas, views and opinions worthy of giving up your Sunday relaxation!

 

Let me start with some caveats. Since Saturday the 14th of June, I ceased to be a national officer of the APC, so any views I express here are sorely mine and not those of the political party that I proudly belong to. Secondly, as a responsible Muslim, patriot and professional, the views expressed will as much as possible reflect facts on the ground, draw on research done by others and derived from reputable publications and not driven by partisan politics. These qualifications are necessary because of the well-known national habit of politicizing and ethnicizing everything as a convenient excuse for crass incompetence, unprecedented corruption and totally bad governance – two of the issues we hope to talk about today!

 

We live at a time of great distortions in our polity. Our natural resource lifeline – crude oil – has been selling at over $100 a barrel since 2011, and we are producing at decent levels averaging 2 million barrels per day, yet our nation is broke. Our federal budgets for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 all contain an average of 1.5 trillion naira deficit annually. Our capital budgets for investment in physical infrastructure, human capital and enabling environment for job creation for the five Jonathanian years have averaged a mere 1.3 trillion naira – most of it borrowed by issuing bonds every single year!

 

Yet, we heard from the public hearings in the House of Representatives that some companies may have collected monies in the name of fuel subsidies in excess of 2.5 trillion naira that can neither be justified by previous import levels nor what is possible and practical! Then a globally-acclaimed central governor was unlawfully removed from office because he dared to question the diversion of some $20 billion in federation revenues to accounts and purposes other than those allowed by the Constitution. A minister has spent billions on the charter of private jets and the president shamelessly defends and justifies such waste on national television! In some if not all of these, the legislature has been silent, the anti-corruption agencies helpless while the judiciary is struggling to redeem its battered image. Impunity is the new normal in Nigeria these days.

 

No one in the government seems to know what the other is doing and our welfare, progress and future of our children are the worse for it. Amidst this level of intra-governmental confusion and contradictions, we live in great fear of anarchists called Boko Haram on the one hand, and ethnic irredentists’ issuing threats of secession and break-up of our country if an incompetent and callous president is not allowed to continue whether we choose to elect him or not! Should we talk about corruption or governance at all, or something else?

 

We can choose to be like the ostrich and bury our heads in the sand, pretending that all is well with Nigeria, or we can confront the miniscule minority that is misappropriating our rights, freedom, future and prosperity and push for a good society that works for everyone. I am gratified that you have chosen the latter. It is only by confronting the key challenges facing good governance in Nigeria and proposing bold new ways to tackle them that we will change our society for the better. Without doubt, one of the major obstacles that have consistently thwarted our national progress and the actualization of good governance is the issue of corruption. Let us start with what matters the most – governance.

 

The Good Governance Paradigm

Governance, generally, connotes making decisions and exercising power over people either in towns/villages, states, countries, institutions – both national and international. Governance has been in practice from time immemorial, when human beings moved from being itinerant hunter-gatherers to adopting sedentary communal living. Our Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “If three people go out on a journey, then they should make one of them a leader.” (Abu Dawud). In a similar narration found in the Musnad of Ahmad, the Prophet said: “It is not lawful for three people to be in a desert except that they select one of them as a leader.” (Transmitted by Abdullah ibn ‘Umar).

 

In more modern times but hundreds of years ago, both Thomas Hobbes in “Leviathan” and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the “Social Contract” echoed these prophetic admonitions and articulated the basis for governance of people – when more than two people have to live together, one must lead – whether quite well or not so well. When the adjective ‘Good’ prefixes the word ‘Governance’, we have a phrase that has now become a global phenomenon.

 

Governance consists of the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them. The World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project reports aggregate and individual governance indicators for 215 economies over the period 1996–2011, for six dimensions of governance: Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law and Control of Corruption.

 

These aggregate indicators developed by Danny Kaufmann, Aart Kraay and Massimo Mastuzzi combine the views of a large number of business, citizen and expert surveys in industrial as well as developing countries. The WGI indicators are based on 30 individual data sources produced by a variety of survey institutes, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and private sector firms.

 

These dimensions are consistent with the characteristics of good governance identified by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). These comprise the following:

 

• Participation – by both men and women either through direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives;
• Rule of Law – fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially;
• Transparency – decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows laid down rules and regulations;
• Responsiveness – serving all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe;
• Consensus oriented – mediation of the different interests in a society to reach a broad consensus in the overall interest of the whole community;
• Equity and inclusiveness – all members of the society are availed the opportunity of sense of belonging;
• Effectiveness and Efficiency – processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of the society while making the best use of available resources; and
• Accountability – governmental institutions, private sector and civil society organisations are accountable their institutional stakeholders.

 

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in a 1997 policy document described good governance as a measure that defines the processes and structures that guide political and socio-economic relationships. While adopting all the eight elements accentuated by UNESCAP above, UNDP added a ninth element as part of the features of good governance to include “strategic vision” – which in my view is synonymous with leadership quality.

 

The UNDP suggested that leaders and the public should have a broad and long-term perspective on good governance and human development, together with a sense of what is needed for such development. There should be an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which that perspective is grounded. Yet, what is popular in the media is to approach good governance from a different prism emphasizing the components of the Western-style democracies predicated on multiparty elections, virile parliament, strong and remarkably independent judiciary.

 

The World Bank has identified three distinct aspects of governance that need to be considered in determining how affairs of nation-states are managed. The first is the form of the political regime; then the process by which authority is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development; and finally the capacity of governments to design, formulate and implement policies and discharge functions. The Bank then identified four governance parameters that are enablers of societal progress and national development. They are:

 

(a) Public-sector management: entailing changing the organisational structure of agencies to reflect new objectives, making budgets work better, sharpening civil service objectives and placing public-enterprise managers under performance contracts.
(b) Accountability: requiring governments and their employees to be held responsible for their actions by the citizenry.
(c) Legal framework for development that is appropriate and essential in creating an environment in which business can thrive with opportunity to assess the risks thereof.
(d) Information transparency essential for the smooth functioning of competitive markets that is accessible to the various participants.

 

Even at that, we might have to consider the added effect of globalisation. It has been argued that considering the present world order wherein international law is taking a center stage in the affairs of nations through the instrumentality of the United Nations and other international agencies, courts and tribunals, it is apparent that, good governance would now include other issues beyond national borders. It is now adopted as a yardstick to assess issues such as:

 

“Universal protection of human rights; non-discriminatory laws, efficient, impartial and rapid judicial process; transparent public agencies; accountability for decisions by public officials, devolution of resources and decision making to local levels from the capital; and meaningful participation by citizens in debating public policies and choices.”

 

In multi-ethnic communities such as Nigeria, good governance requires that the government fosters an inclusive strategy to give all groups a sense of belonging. Special interests of the minority and vulnerable groups should be protected by granting them access to make inputs in decision making and the elaboration of the policies affecting them. These can only be achieved if there is transparency built on rule of law, and free, fair and credible elections enabling periodic regime changes. The existence of these not only organically links public leaders and the citizenry but enhances extensive consultations within the political landscape and the nation at large.

 

In summary, good governance must meet certain thresholds comprising the eight major portals : It must be participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.

 

Figure 1: Characteristics of good governance

Participation: Participation by both men and women is a key cornerstone of good governance. Participation could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. It is important to point out that representative democracy does not necessarily mean that the concerns of the most vulnerable in society would be taken into consideration in decision making. Participation needs to be informed and organized. This means freedom of association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other hand.

 

Rule of law: Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. It also requires full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities. Impartial enforcement of laws requires an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force.

 

Transparency: Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable forms and media.

 

Responsiveness: Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.

 

Consensus oriented: There are several actors and as many view-points in a given society. Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in society to reach a broad consensus in society on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how this can be achieved. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. This can only result from an understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community.

 

Equity and inclusiveness: A society’s well-being depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.

 

Effectiveness and efficiency: Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. The concept of efficiency in the context of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.

 

Accountability: Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable to who varies depending on whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to an organization or institution. In general an organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.

 

Moving away from the theoretical research and empirical postulations, I have found the definition of good governance and its nine political and economic principles by the Australian Aid Agency (AusAid) the most useful in practical and operational terms. According to AusAid, governance is the exercise of power or authority – political, economic, administrative or otherwise – to manage a country’s resources and affairs. It comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.

 

‘Good governance’ means competent management of a country’s resources and affairs in a manner that is open, transparent, accountable, equitable and responsive to people’s needs. AusAid then went ahead to outline 5 political and 4 economic principles that underpin good governance:

 

Political Principles – Good Governance:

• Is based on the establishment of a representative and accountable government
• Requires a strong and pluralistic civil society, where there is freedom of expression and association
• Requires good institutions – sets of rules governing the actions of individuals and organizations and the negotiation of differences between them
• Requires the primacy of the rule of law, maintained through an impartial and effective legal system
• Requires a high degree of transparency and accountability in public and private sectors. A participatory approach to public service delivery is important for effectiveness.

 

Economic Principles – Good Governance:

• Requires policies to promote broad-based economic growth, a dynamic private sector and social policies that reduce poverty.
• Requires investment in health, education and other services that underpin a country’s human resource base
• Requires effective institutions and good corporate governance that support a competitive private sector, with social norms that respect contract and property rights
• Requires careful management of the national economy to maximize economic and social advancement of citizens.

 

What do all these mean for our progress and development as a nation? How do these relate to our country situation? What is the linkage, if any, between democracy, good governance and development? In what ways has corruption impacted on our national goals and aspirations for decent governance. Why is our country not working, and what can we do to make it work? Is corruption the primary culprit? With the overview of good governance in mind, let us now turn attention to corruption.

 

What is Corruption?

“To take (something that does not belong to you) in a way that is wrong or illegal” is the simple way the Merriam-Webster defines corruption. Corruption simply refers to dishonest or fraudulent conduct by people vested with authority, and usually involves bribery or gratification. I think corruption is something Nigerians are sufficiently familiar with, so we do not need to spend a lot of time defining it. We all know it when we see it, and we see it often. For those in public office, I think the best way to determine whether that innocuous end-of-the-year gift amounts to a bribe, the question posed by Islamic jurists is appropriate – “Will this thing of value be offered to me by the person in question if I am not holding this public office?” If the answer to the question is not an immediate and unhesitant “Yes”, then the gift is a bribe, and should therefore be rejected.

 

As it is today, there is virtually no sector in Nigeria that is free from the cancer of corruption. The United Nations Global Programme against Corruption (UNGPAC) defines corruption as “abuse of power for private gain”. According to the World Bank (1997), corruption is the abuse of power for private benefit which thrives when economic policies are poorly designed, education levels or standards are low, civil society participation is weak, public sector management is poor and accountability of public institutions is weak.

 

Going by these definitions and by observing happenings in our society, what becomes immediately apparent is that despite our nebulous perception of what constitutes corruption, Nigeria, sadly, cannot avoid the tag of being one of the most corrupt countries in the world, even if President Goodluck Jonathan, who should be leading the fight against corruption, goes on air to pontificate that “what many call corruption in Nigeria is not corruption but mere stealing”. What none of the journalists at the media chat where he made that statement forgot to ask is whether his insidious redefinition makes it acceptable and legal to steal!

 

Corruption Taxonomies

Literature on corruption alludes to three kinds of corruption – petty (or administrative or bureaucratic) corruption an example of which is the N20 police constables collect from commercial vehicles at check-points. Grand corruption on the other hand refers to significant theft or diversion of state resources like the $20 billion that the former central bank governor exposed, and the Senate Finance Committee tried hard to justify or just cover up! The third type is ‘state capture’ which is essentially influence peddling such as when relations or friends of a senior political office holder ‘help process’ tax or import duty waivers or forbearances for a private company for a fee.

 

Another way to classify corruption is a categorization into political and economic forms of the phenomenon. While issues like bureaucratic and electoral malfeasance would come under political corruption, things like bribery, fraud, embezzlement and extortion fall under economic corruption. It is clear from these taxonomies that our nation suffers from every kind of corruption by whatever classification.

 

Economic Corruption in Nigeria

In Nigeria, economic corruption has received greater attention and therefore, more efforts to manage it various manifestations in form of laws and institutions over time. Some of these laws and institutions include:

 

▪ The “Corrupt Practices Decree” of 1975 promulgated by the Murtala-Obasanjo government;

▪ War against Indiscipline (WAI) introduced by Buhari/Idiagbon regime in 1984;

▪ Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal entrenched in the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;

▪ Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act 2000;

▪ Advance Fee Fraud & Other Related Offences Decree of 1995 by the Abacha regime (later re-enacted as the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006 by the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration);

▪ The Money Laundering Act, 2004 and Miscellaneous Offences Act;

▪ The Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004;

▪ The Public Procurement Act, 2007; and

▪ Fiscal Responsibility Commission, 2007.

 

The Mega-Monster of Political Corruption

It is easy to overlook political corruption, but it can just be as deadly, if not more deadly to society. When citizens are robbed of their choice in any electoral contest, political corruption has taken place. When the processes are skewed in favor of certain parties or candidates, political corruption has taken place. When the government uses the instruments of state to intimidate the opposition and to harass ordinary citizens as so brazenly done recently in Kano and Ekiti States, political corruption has taken place.

 

The cumulative effect of political corruption is that incompetent, insidious and totally irresponsible people and parties get into sensitive public offices, and then end up perpetuating political and economic corruption in its various manifestations. Indeed, I have always held the view that rigging elections is the foundation of all corruption because it confers power without legitimacy, and without responsibility. And in Nigeria’s fourth republic in particular, it has birthed not only financial corruption, but immorality, violent crimes and terrorism.

 

Corruption therefore undermines the democratic system by fuelling popular disillusionment with politics and politicians. To make matters worse, corruption can lead to a vicious circle where corrupt people manipulate the political system to get into power only to further corrupt the political system and indeed, the entire society.

 

Impact of Corruption on Governance

Corruption is not a new phenomenon; neither is it a preserve of any community or country. Statistics on corruption are often questionable according to a publication by the IMF. What is not in dispute is that corruption is a widespread social evil which undermines trust, confidence necessary for the development and upholding of sustainable economic and social order.

 

In Kenya in 1997, ‘questionable’ public expenditures amounted to 7.6 percent of GDP. In Tanzania, service delivery data suggested that bribes paid to officials in the police, courts, tax and land offices amounted to 62 percent of official public expenditures. In the Philippines, the Audit Commission estimated that as much as $4 billion is diverted annually due to corruption.

 

According to Human Rights Watch (2007) , the endemic nature of corruption in Nigeria has led to the loss of US $380 billion between independence and 1999. A Global Financial Integrity Initiative report dated January 2011 estimated that US $130 billion worth of illicit financial flows occurred between 2000 and 2008. Adding these numbers to the loss of nearly $7 billion to the fuel subsidy racket alone plus the persistent leakages from the Federation Account that the CBN had shown without any doubt brings our national loss due to corruption to something in the region of US $600 billion from independence to end of 2013!

 

Recently, a reputable global investment bank estimated that the monthly leakage (theft) of official oil revenues in Nigeria averaged $1.2 billion monthly throughout 2014. Governance and corruption are therefore related though somewhat in reverse!

 

How Does Good Governance Manifest to Citizens?

According to the Governance Reports of 2013 and 2014 issued by the Hertie School of Governance, a central government or administration delivering ‘good governance’ must in practical and operational terms provide at least four core goods and services:

 

1. Infrastructure: like electricity, petroleum products, gas, broadband, motor-able roads, efficient seaports and airports, affordable rail systems, etc., either directly or in collaboration with the private sector.
2. Welfare: like free primary and secondary education, schools, affordable healthcare, old age pensions, and social policies for the poorest and vulnerable groups.
3. Sustainability: food security, water supply and management, climate, flood and environmental management, desertification and erosion control.
4. Integration: internal security and national defense, religious, ethnic and regional harmony, cultural tolerance and protection of civil rights, law enforcement and criminal justice, protection of contracts and property rights.

 

National governments desirous of delivering good governance must have some level of competence exemplified in four administrative capacities. These are vital because it is at this administrative level that an interface between the citizen and the government exists. The public service of a country must have the capacity to do the following with public interest, not political or private interest as guiding principle:

 

• Analyze: provision of information and intelligence to political leaders in particular times of uncertainty,
• Coordinate: the mediation and bringing together dispersed actors and interest to achieve joint actions in the public interest
• Regulate: the provision of oversight over heterogeneous public and private organizations, and
• Deliver: execution and management of policy decisions and actions.

 

Doing these require human and material resources that tend to be scarce in any society with endemic corruption and significant distortion of incentives as explained below.

 

How Corruption affects Good Governance

By depriving the nation of legitimate revenues needed to provide public services, corruption can affect the capacity of the public sector to carry out its constitutional responsibilities and service delivery, in addition to affecting levels of investment, taxation, business development and even the efficacy of the judiciary. By enabling those that do nothing productive to be wealthy, corruption encourages exhibition of conspicuous consumption and destruction of the link between hard work and success in any society – a fate that appears to have befallen our nation and affected our young people, particularly in the last half-decade!

 

This leads us to the focal point of this national discourse – corruption and the challenges of good governance. Let me restate that good governance is not only a pre-requisite for national development; it is THE catalyst for progress in every facet of life, at personal, group and institutional levels – both macro and micro. A catalyst needs other additions to produce the right outcomes, so as economists would say – “good governance is a necessary, but not sufficient pre-requisite for development.”

 

I will therefore suggest today that good people in politics provide the leadership, vision and effort needed to exploit a nation’s competitive advantages and create the inclusive institutions that would enable growth, development and prosperity. Good leaders, honest leaders, just leaders that shun all forms of corruption are more likely to lead their nations to prosperity than others that pretend to be religious but are dishonest, corrupt and unjust. Those under any illusion about the failure of leadership that has created the current Nigerian condition should recall the words of Allah (SWT) said in Surat Al-An’Am (6:82): They who believe and do not mix their belief with injustice – those will have security, and they are [rightly] guided.

 

From the foregoing literature and research findings, corruption thrives in a country when national leaders lack commitment to justice and integrity, institutions of accountability like the police and the courts are weak, rule of law is not strongly embedded and the legitimacy of the state as the guardian of public interest is contested. All the four elements are clearly evident in Nigeria under President Jonathan’s watch.

 

Regardless of allegations of bias or selectivity, the effort of the Obasanjo administration in the establishment of the EFCC and ICPC, two bodies that were saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting corrupt officials, brought in a measure of sanity to the conduct of public officers. According to Human Rights Watch, under Nuhu Ribadu’s media-savvy leadership, the EFCC put fighting corruption on the front-burner of public consciousness during the Obasanjo administration even if the actual results and high-profile convictions were limited in number. However, not much can be said of succeeding administrations since 2007. If anything, corruption in Nigeria has reached levels today that are unprecedented in the nation’s history.

 

Right now, the activities of the institutions that are supposed to fight corruption appear to be directed towards those who are not in the good books of the government; this is probably why the 2013 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Nigeria prepared by the United States Department of State, also noted that “the anti-corruption efforts of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) remained largely ineffectual”. The report also added that “although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engage in corrupt practices with impunity”. In the event that a corruption case is prosecuted up to the point of conviction, there is no guarantee that the President, would not by the stroke of his pen, grant a presidential pardon, thereby undoing months and years of investigation and legal battles that might have cost tens of millions of naira to prosecute.

 

At the root of our failure as a country is the absence of true democracy for most of our history. Rigged elections put in place unaccountable leaders with no organic link with the electorate, legitimized only by corruption in the Judiciary but not in the eyes of the citizens. Unelected leaders in power rule, not govern, and do so with impunity. They know the citizenry neither elected nor supported them. They know they are in power only because they paid massive amounts of money to staff of INEC, the Police and the SSS in the first instance. They then spent further amounts to persuade the judges to uphold the fake election results written by the first set of electoral and security officials. Their single-minded focus in power is therefore to ‘make’ as much money as possible to pay to write the results of the next election. They do not care to fulfil any election promises, because they know that our votes have never counted.

 

Good Governance: Elections with Integrity as Panacea

Once it is accepted that (1) the quality of a nation’s political leadership, (2) the choices it makes, and (3) the inclusiveness of the legal, economic and social institutions it develops determine whether a society prospers or stagnates to failure, it is clear what we need to do – focus on attacking political corruption and the strengthening of institutions that will deeply embed the rule of law:

 

• Strengthen the Nigeria Police, amend the Constitution to enable establishment of State and Community Police. Amend Criminal and Penal Codes to include few and limited number of Federal Crimes.
• Enhance judicial independence and abolish the National Judicial Council enabling each State to have its judiciary with appellate courts.
• Entrench free, fair and credible elections as the sole determinant of the emergence of elected public leaders.

 

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security published a report in 2012 titled “Deepening Democracy – A Strategy for Improving the Integrity of Elections Worldwide” which has introduced a new phrase in electoral lexicon – ‘Elections with Integrity’.

 

I will summarize hereunder the main recommendations of the Global Commission, and reproduce copiously the report’s key insights, which I think will be generally helpful to all the arms of the government of Nigeria, INEC and the political parties. I will then conclude with matters specific to Nigeria.

 

The strengths of democracy as the best system of government are political equality, the empowerment of disenfranchised, and the ability to manage societal conflicts peacefully. Elections are the foundations of democracy, but only when conducted with integrity. Essentially according to the Annan Commission, this concept entails that:

 

(1) The bedrock of political equality is honoured, with everyone of age allowed to vote and be voted for (universal suffrage) without discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnic or religious and other differences;
(2) Citizens select their leaders and hold them accountable, and able to vote them out at the next election if they fail to live up to expectations.
(3) Conduct of the elections by an independent election management body in a professional, impartial and transparent manner from the preparation stage to registration of voters to end of the electoral cycle.

 

Elections with integrity therefore not only advance democratic values and human rights, but yield other tangible benefits for the citizens. Empirical evidence worldwide suggests that elections with integrity matter for empowering women, fighting corruption, delivering social services to the poor, improving governance and ending civil wars.

 

The Global Commission admitted that elections with integrity alone, without more, cannot develop economies, create good governance, or make peace, but can act as important catalysts towards realizing democracy’s potential to transform the political economy of nations. Elections with integrity enhance the ability of societies to resolve conflicts without violence. This is because the electoral processes include campaigning, debate, information sharing, interaction among citizens, voting and meaningful participation in governance – all these have the potential to change people’s minds and provide governments the legitimacy to take authoritative but fair decisions.

 

The Global Commission has identified five challenges that must be overcome to conduct elections with integrity. Firstly, the nation must build a justice system based on the rule of law to substantiate claims to human rights and electoral justice. In this regard, the unlawful suspension of Justice Ayo Salami to facilitate the cover-up of the electoral fraud of April 2011 is proof that we have a lot of work in this area as a country.

 

Secondly, we must build a professional, competent and impartial election management bodies with full independence of action to administer elections that are transparent and merit public confidence. The issue here is whether our INEC and the various state “independent” electoral commissions are up to these standards. Once again, it is my view that we have a lot to improve in this area as well.

 

Thirdly, we need to create institutions and norms of multiparty competition and division of power that bolster democracy as a mutual security system among political contenders. Elections with integrity confer legitimacy on those who win fair and square, and political and physical security for those who lose, because each election is simply one round of a periodically-repeated game. Game theory dictates that in such situations, short-term loss can be overcome through long-term learning, organization and mobilization, so both winner and loser have stakes in the long-term survival of the system.

 

As I have written before, democracy by its very nature ought not to make people to be frightened of the consequences of not being in power. With term limits, losers are guaranteed another stab in just a few years. And where the rule of law prevails, an electoral loss is not the same thing as exclusion from the political space and vigorous participation in the political process. But such political sophistication prospers only when there’s certainty about electoral integrity and where the respect for the rule of law has become part of the DNA.

 

Fourthly, we need to remove barriers to universal and equal political participation, whether covert or overt. In Nigeria, women in politics are sometimes perceived to be of easy virtue – a covert form of discrimination which suppresses the political participation of half of our population. Some minorities and settler communities were either intimidated or not allowed to vote in the April 2011 elections in many parts of the country. These unlawful and unconstitutional barriers need to be eliminated nationwide.

 

Fifthly, the role of money in politics – particularly the uncontrolled, undisclosed and opaque sources of the ruling party, poses a fundamental threat to electoral integrity. In many countries, organized crime syndicates have found that campaign financing can buy political influence and protection. Here in Nigeria, we have seen the clear linkage between the fuel subsidy fraudsters and the financing of the 2011 elections, side by side with the reluctance of the justice system to prosecute them and obtain refunds. We must find ways not only to reduce the prevalence of cash in our economy, which gives a greater role in politics, but must rigorously regulate campaign financing.

 

While the recommendations of Kofi Annan’s Global Commission are of general application, we have the report of the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee that has been in the drawers of the presidency since December 2008. One of the most important recommendations that need to be implemented is the reversal of the burden of proof in election cases.

 

In the determination of election petitions, the Uwais Committee recommended that constitution and our laws need to be amended to shift the burden of proof in electoral disputes from the petitioners to INEC. It would be recalled that in the last Presidential elections, the burden of proof on the plaintiff gave room for the PDP and INEC to manoeuvre their way out of the CPC suit before the Presidential Election Tribunal.

 

All efforts to gain access to electoral materials and the database as required by Section 77 of the Electoral Act, 2010 were thwarted by INEC thereby violating the law. While the CPC worked tirelessly to acquire proof of rigging and fraud from the INEC database, a cabal connived to unconstitutionally remove the President of the Court of Appeal– Justice Ayo Salami. Even after getting away with the electoral heist, Salami remained on unlawful suspension until his retirement in 2013.


There are other areas INEC can improve. Open voting booths to enable voters show ballots for payment before voting are unlawful. Virtual polling units to facilitate rigging must be abolished. All preparations need to be made and materials must be delivered to all polling units without delay. The restriction of movement of citizens a day before elections which has enabled security agencies and the ruling party to move freely and plan the rigging is not only unlawful and unconstitutional but also unjust. In summary, the game should be up for those who plan to rig, or facilitate rigging.

 

Some schools of thought believe that electronic voting may be the solution to problems such as ballot box snatching and massive thumb printing by individuals to justify false vote records. In fact, the Uwais Report recommended that the Electoral Act be amended to lift prohibition on the use of electoral machines. As much as this seems like an implausible idea, a voting machine costing about $30 each has worked in India so similar rudimentary electronic systems could be employed to supplant the paper ballot system. At the very least, technologies exist to encrypt results from each polling unit and send them to an electronic collation platform via the 3G networks all over the country. This would eliminate paper-based collation centres and their susceptibility to manipulation.

 

Implementing some of these general and specific recommendations will help improve the integrity of our elections. This would enhance accountability and establish an organic connection between the leaders and the citizens leading to the growth of inclusive political and economic institutions that create prosperity for all in the long term. It is my hope and prayer that the authorities will do what is right so that we can reclaim hope, peace and stability that our nation and its citizens badly need.

 

What About Reducing Corruption?

Corruption distorts societal incentives, and contributes to state and market failures, leading to mismanagement of national resources. It also diverts talent and resources, including human resources, towards “lucrative” rent-seeking activities, such as defence and security procurement. Are we surprised that a whooping one quarter of Nigeria’s entire budget for the last few years has been spent on national security, though the situation has only gotten worse?

 

Corruption acts as an inefficient and unofficial tax on business ultimately raising the cost of production and reducing profits. In the case of Nigeria, it worsens capital flight. Corruption decreases the productivity of investments and also undermines the quality and quantity of public services like health and education. It propels rent-seeking, causes inefficiencies and waste of resources. Worse, it stifles good governance because resources that should go towards improving public good end up in private pockets or are unaccounted for.

 

According to TI, bending the law, beating the system or escaping punishment – and getting away with it – define impunity for corruption. Impunity is anathema to the fight against corruption especially in the judiciary and law enforcement sectors. It is a direct challenge to the rule of law.

 

The challenges go beyond knowing what the problem is. One of the first steps is to discuss it in public in events like this. It is important for citizens to see corruption for what it really is: the phenomenon that denies them the opportunity for good governance. It is sad that in some cases, citizens no longer see the danger in corruption; they are only looking for when it will be their turn to share in the ‘national cake’.

 

Whatever form of corruption that is being considered, there is an interrelation as they affect one another translating to a larger effect on the country since governance is synonymous with management. Once government is seen as “corruptly” managing public resources, the entire essence of good governance is lost and society is in grave danger. This implies that we owe it to ourselves, families, friends, businesses, professions and political convictions to tackle corruption and fight it wherever it manifests itself. If we do not fight back, corruption will destroy the fundamental nature of our society and all that we stand for.

 

Successfully fighting corruption requires us to learn from the failures of the past. A solid program aimed at fighting corruption should address what accounts for the incidence of the phenomenon, directly attack its major causes and learn the relevant lessons from the efforts to tackle it thus far, whilst dealing a heavy blow to the global stigmatization of Nigerians as inherently corrupt.

 

The attack on the human and constitutional rights of Nigerians, more to impress and amuse an impoverished population than to fight a fundamental problem, and currently to narrow the democratic space, should give way to a program intelligently planned to stamp out corruption. The usual high grand standing in the media has sustained the global stereotype of our citizens as corrupt. We must now make haste to allow our brains to pick up from where our hands have failed us.


This means we have to take certain specific but preventive steps to make bribery and corruption transactions more difficult to consummate by for instance; eliminating cash payments by governments and contractors to establish an audit trail for public expenditure; and withdrawing all exemption of Due Process accorded to national security spending.

 

Concluding Thoughts

Macro level studies, using country-level data to explore cross-country variations in both governance and economic indicators, have consistently found that corruption significantly decreases economic growth and development. This invariably affects good governance. For example, cross-country data indicate that corruption correlates with lower growth rates, GDP per capita, economic equality, as well as lower levels of human development (Rothstein and Holmberg 2011). Corruption affects the quantity, quality, cost and profitability of investment and reduces the ratio of investment to GDP, lowers investment and retards economic growth to a significant extent (Mauro 1995).

 

One way of measuring the impact of corruption on national development and how it challenges good governance is by looking at the opportunity costs of stolen funds, since President Jonathan says we only have mere stealing and not corruption in Nigeria: Assuming that it costs $1 billion to build a 1,000 MW gas powered electricity plant, the $15 billion that varnished under the fraudulent fuel subsidy regime would have built about 15 different power generation plants capable of producing 15,000 megawatts of electricity.

 

If you add the $20 billion that simply vanished into thin air from the NNPC’s accounts, you could increase the power generation of Nigeria by another 20,000 MW. In other words, in the last four years alone, if we had committed some of the sums lost to “mere stealing”, Nigeria would actually generate nearly as much as South Africa’s forty thousand megawatts of electricity, not the miserable 3, 000 we currently generate that Obasanjo left behind in 2007.

 

I will end my presentation with two quotations from the Holy Scriptures to show the dangers of corruption and buttress to the need for each and every one of us to join the fight to tame this deadly cancer. Since the President is fond of making policy statements in church, he should be reminded that The Holy Bible also speaks on corruption in 2 Peter 2:19:

 

“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage”.


The organizers of this Discourse would know that in the Holy Qur’an, Allah says in Suratul Hud (11:85):

“O my people! Give full measure and weight in justice and reduce not the things that are due to the people, and do not commit mischief in the land, causing corruption.

 

Let us all listen carefully to the words of God, learn from history and all the lessons of the life and death of the corrupt. Let us strive to leave proud legacies to our children instead of ill-gotten wealth. Let us work together and build a nation of shared prosperity that we will all be proud of.

 

Thanks once again for inviting me. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention. Ma’assalaam

 

References

Commonwealth Secretariat (2000) Fighting Corruption, Promoting Good Governance. Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London.

Gupta, et al (2000) Corruption and the Provision of Health Care and Education. International Monetary Fund (IMF) Working Paper.

Gyimah-Brempong K. (2001) Corruption, economic growth, and income inequality in Africa. Economics of Governance (Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 183-209).

Hardoon, D & Heinrich, F (2013) Global Corruption barometer 2013. Transparency International

Khan, M. H. (1996) The Efficiency Implications of Corruption. Published in the Journal of International Development 1996 Vol 8 (5): 683-96.

Mauro, P. (1995) Corruption and Growth. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 110, No. 3 (Aug. 1995), pp. 681-712. Published by The MIT Press.

Sören Holmberg, S & Rothstein, B (2011) Dying of corruption. The Quality of Government Institute, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Tanzi, V. & Davoodi, H. R (1997) Corruption, Public Investment, and Growth. International Monetary Fund (IMF) IMF Working Paper No. 97/139.

Websites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_in_Nigeria

http://ejournal.sedinst.com/index.php/asedu/article/viewArticle/82/55

http://www.cleen.org/Corruption%20and%20Governance%20Challenges%20in%20Nigeria%20-%20Final%20Version.pdf