First thing to understand is that there is the case where some people act corruptly in society. In every society, there will always be those ones. That is totally different from when corruption is endemic and is part of the means to get anything done in a society. I’m talking about the second case here, because that is the shoe that is pinching us in Nigeria.
You see, for corruption to be endemic, there are for factors that must be present. Let me list and discuss them briefly.
- Discretionary decisioning — corruption thrives when the system allows for a lot of discretion on the part of those who run the system, at whatever level. In Nigeria, almost everyone in a position of authority has enormous discretionary allowance. Today the president can still almost unilaterally decide who gets oil blocks in a discretionary manner. Same for how police treat suspects. Or university lecturers treat students. Discretion abounds everywhere for those that operate systems hence corruption logically follows.
- Cost of Not Being Corrupt is Higher than Cost of Being Corrupt — Take for example getting your drivers license. On the face of it, it officially costs N6,500. But this is not the true cost to the driver. First he will spend plenty time. He will have multiple visits and get a lot of runaround, burning fuel or transport fare. Because of the delays, he runs the risk of VIO/FRSC/Police stopping him and paying huge fines. This is the real price of compliance with the official process. So the officer demands N15,000. For the officer, this price is a big incentive since its probably a nice percentage of his official salary and for the driver, the price is cheaper than the cost of following the official route. Corruption thrives in such an environment.
- Cost of Recourse — Third factor is the cost in time, effort, ease and money for getting redress if you do choose to report corruption. Where this cost of recourse is high, corruption thrives because officials correctly deduce that the probability of being reported is low and victims conclude that the benefit of reporting corruption is not worth this cost.
- Lack of Consequences — fourth is the type of consequences society and the law prescribes for corruption. If people perceive that being outed for corruption will not lead to severe consequences both informally in social circles and formally within the legal system, corruption becomes truly endemic.
- Opacity — the final factor that truly makes corruption pack the steroids is when people are aware that most of their actions will not be revealed and where they know they can hide behind legalese, officialese, bureaucracy and even protection from political ogas to keep their actions away from public scrutiny.
Anyone who claims to be fighting corruption in a society where it is endemic like ours must tackle ALL these factors in concert for the fight to be meaningful. Anything less, as the current admin is doing is simply running on a hamster wheel at the very best. The total focus has been on consequences, only one of the factors and even in that, they have been more hot air than actual substance. This factor focuses on what happens AFTER corruption has occurred. On every other factor, all of which focus on actually preventing corruption from happening, this administration has failed woefully.