Like an unbridled horse, corruption remains unstoppable, in Nigeria. A lot of public resources have ended up in private pockets. The brash new tycoons made their fortunes from corruption. Too many people have got rich based on their proximity to the government. There are two sets of laws in Nigeria: one for the common people and another for political princelings and industrialists.
Both government and the private sector are incapable of building roads, factories, cities, reservoirs, power grids, other infrastructureand basic amenities due to corruption. Corruption produces bad decisions. Concern over corruption produces indecision. Graft is responsible for the inert bureaucracy, greasing the sized-up wheels of industry. Shady and shaky loans to industries, businesses, and the well-connected have collapsed many banks in Nigeria.
Ninety-nine percent of bank loans in Nigeria have gone sour. Inept contractors, who are cronies of the ruling elite have messed up vital road and power projects. Mines and other assets lie idle, untapped, unexplored. Corruption helps in financing networks of cronyism, nepotism, and patronage. Corruption is rife and pervasive in all sectors in Nigeria: rapacious elite, politicians, managers, university professors, medical doctors, judges, journalists, and top bureaucrats. The police and customs are hopelessly compromised.
Our democracy is not working because of corruption. Rampant corruption hinders our democracy from taking root. It gives way for instability, polarisation, secession, military coups, dictatorships, and violence. In addition, corruption weakens our laws, erodes the people’s faith in government institutions, divides our society, and increases nepotism. Our democracy is ineffective and a disaster. To make democracy work, we must have good governance. The judiciary and bureaucracy must function properly, and strong measures must be taken to tame corruption.
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, reached an absurd milestone when it took almost three years to prosecute Senate President Bukola Saraki. Not too long ago, Nigerians were relieved of the unending comic soap opera of a case that kept on coming back to life like Wole Soyinka’s poem – Abiku. Other potential big tigers such as the Kogi Senator, Dino Melaye, Abdulrasheed Maina, Abba Kyari, Bashir Abubakar, Tukur Buratai, and so many others, have so far escaped the EFCC dragnet. Failure to successfully prosecute a single big tiger, opens the EFCC to ridicule and makes it a redundant agency. The EFCC, some say, is as good as dead.
Now, there’s the need to revise the laws that established the EFCC. If passed, elements of the revision could strengthen the agency’s power to investigate and prosecute corruption, thus making it a new, kinder, and gentler anti-graft agency. The remaking of EFCC will be music to the ears of 469 members of the National Assembly who believe the agency is a witch-hunting body with the primary function to terrorise, intimidate, and humiliate them. The National Assembly would like to appoint the EFCC chairman, which is why Magu, the current chairman, is the lawmakers’ public enemy Number One.
How can we make EFCC kinder and gentler? Simple. I think Senate President Bukola Saraki should be given the honour to reform the EFCC. As a first step, he should appoint Senator Dino Melaye as the new EFCC chairman. The agency is only good at harassing, arresting, and prosecuting the honorable legislators and governors. Newspapers are inundated with stories of many arrests by EFCC. After so much noise-making and fanfare, nothing is heard again. Of what use is an anti-graft agency that specialises in issuing only warrants and arrests on pages of newspapers? Of what benefit is EFCC that’s dysfunctional, powerless, and ineffective? Of what relevance is EFCC that basks in front page prosecution of suspects? Of what use is a toothless and gumless EFCC that can neither bark nor bite?
The new EFCC under, say, Melaye will be different. Melaye with chains of degrees from ivy league universities from seven continents of the world, will conscript his colleague senators into the EFCC to wage a successful war on corruption. With the professional team of Saraki, Maina, David Mark, Ike Ekweremadu, with governors of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosu, Kaduna’s El Rufai, and other big tigers of the National Assembly, the new EFCC will be well positioned to fight corruption. The focus will shift from arresting and prosecuting corrupt politicians to fighting corruption among petty thieves, pickpockets, shoplifters, house burglars, home invaders, price gougers, mail fraudsters, wife beaters, husband beaters, drunkards, and other low lifers. After all, this is what EFCC has been doing these years.
Ninety-nine percent of bank loans in Nigeria have gone sour. Inept contractors who are cronies of the ruling elite have messed up vital road and power projects. Mines and other assets lie idle, untapped, unexplored. Corruption helps in financing networks of cronyism, nepotism, and patronage
Curbing corruption is the signature campaign promise of President Muhammadu Buhari. The Buhari administration has struggled to contain public anger at a seemingly endless stream of corruption scandals, which threatens its legitimacy. With barons of corruption in charge of EFCC, corruption should decline, especially in the Federal Government. Nigeria’s economy is still badly positioned on various indications of corruption. Corruption has been crippling Nigeria’s ability to attract foreign investment.
The EFCC under Melaye, and with oversight by Saraki, corruption will have no means of fighting back. Melaye and Saraki will put corruption and its patrons out of business. For the first time in our history, we will kill corruption before it kills us. Corruption will be history! We can then sing the Old Negro Freedom Song: Free at last, thank God Almighty, Nigeria is free of corruption!
“Oluwasanmi, a Nigeria-born social critic, lives in the US.