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Sunday, 21 July 2013

NIGERIA: IT'S THE CORRUPTION, STUPID?




or those that followed American politics towards the end of George Walker Bush era and the coming of Bill Clinton, they are probably aware of someone who came up with the phrase: "It's the economy, stupid". The phrase was used to question George Bush's handling of the American economy. In this article, the phrase "It's the corruption, stupid?", will be used to question whether corruption is actually the bane of Nigeria economic development and advancement.
When I encounter Nigerians discussing the country's woes, the common denominator in their argument is that corruption is the key issue, it is the bane and the real issue that need to be tackled to get the country out of the economic and development doldrums. Without undermining this claim, I want to posit in this article that corruption is not the real issue; corruption is, in my opinion, acollateral damage that came out of the real issue.
The real issue at the heart of Nigeria problem, in my own opinion, is the country's "organization structure" or if you like, the constitutional arrangement. Nigeria government portrays Nigeria as a country governed by a Federal constitution, but in reality, it runs a Unitary system where power is centralized and firmly in the hand of the federal government. The federal government has control over the resources and makes monthly payment to each state from the federation account. However, there is nowhere in the constitution that empowers the federal government to demand accountability from the state Governors for the huge monthly allocation. The word accountability was mentioned once in the constitution i.e., in section 22 that empowers the mass media to uphold the principles outlined in Chapter II of the constitution. The constitution goes further to grant immunity from prosecution to state governors i.e., a governor cannot be charged for crime of corruption until the end of his tenure. The same constitution allows the governor to run for 2 terms of four years each. In essence, the governor is given a large sum of money for 8 years without being accountable to federal government and he is immune from prosecution if he chooses to mismanage the money. Though the constitution under sections 121 and 122 seems to subject the Governor to the state house of assembly, we know that the members of that assembly are, in most cases, under the governor's feet because he has money to "deal" with whoever challenges his authority. The people of the state are indifferent because the money is from a remote federal government and the source of that money is not from a resource that comes out of their soil which means they have no vested interest or moral obligation to direct their representatives in the house of assembly to demand accountability from the governor.
As a governor, after 8 years of serious embezzlement, I have a large war chest to fight both EFCC and ICPC lawyers; I have enough money to engage the services of the best lawyers in the land. I challenge those reading this article to tell me how many governors have been successfully prosecuted and sent to jail. If the man at the helms of affairs at the Presidency is my friend, then I do not have to worry.
This is the real issue. The present system of having states to go cap in hand to the federal government cannot bring about economic development because there is no incentive or need to be innovative. All over the world, economic growth and development come from the constituent parts of the federation not from a remote federal power. When you give power for revenue generation and control to the regions like we have pre independence, you create incentive for regions to compete and develop at the pace of their human and natural resources. The people from whom the regional resources flow will demand accountability, i.e., the agbekoya uprising in the old Western region . In each region where there is a manifest failure of governance, you will have the "Niger Delta militant" experience where the people will demand justice and accountability. When the issue of Niger Delta militant and struggle came up, we the people from other parts of Nigeria did not understand their position, we do not care because we do not know where the 'shoe pinches', we are remote from their pain, but we get to share from their wealth. We, through our governors, are like someone who collects welfare cheque. People who collects welfare cheque has no history or record of prosperity.
I know some people will counter this article and its position by asking "how much of the federation account goes to the states? Yes, that is a valid question. The answer to this lies in another flaw with the current centralized system. The present system creates an incentive for people to vie and fight for power at the centre to squander the money that they do not care how it is made. I want to challenge those that oppose my position to tell me why the federal government has consistently failed to develop non oil resources that abound in many states in Nigeria? It's simple, the person is there for 4 years or 8 at most, and he does not have incentive or push to pursue development agenda. In his first term, he is struggling and accumulating wealth to get a second or third term in office, the states that have non oil resource to tap is not his state, he has no agenda to develop that state since the easy money from oil is still flowing. Like the state governors, he has immunity and he is not accountable to anyone. The people whose bosom the oil comes from have few representatives in the national assembly, so they lack the political muscle to demand accountability and people from non oil states careless.
Beyond the issue of flawed constitution, let us look at corruption from the human angle. I am a Certified Fraud Examiner. I studied the human psychology of corruption. Let's look at what the fraud examiner called the Fraud Triangle vis a vis the current system we operate in Nigeria and how it provides the atmosphere for corruption to proper. The fraud triangle has: Pressure at the top, Opportunity and Rationalization at the base. Pressure is that negative influence from immediate family and society. A governor is under pressure to get a second term and be relevant in the society after leaving office. Opportunity comes from a system that has no accountability, check and balances. Rationalization comes from the governor saying that: I have served this country or state and I need to be compensated, my pension is not going to meet my new taste and may not come if my political foe becomes the governor. He looks at those that have served the state honestly and diligently in the past and discovered that they are men of yesterday. They are no longer relevant; they have no financial muscle to be relevant. This is the human behavior aspect and how our current system need to be fixed.
It is time we reexamine the present constitutional arrangement and make changes. Nigeria is at the brink, not only because of corruption, but because of a system that makes corruption humanly possible. It is time to fix Nigeria. If we fail to fix the constitution, we will continue to blame corruption. We will continue to leave the deadly "skin cancer to treat eczema".

Adekunle Ajisebutu is a professional Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner.
NigeriaWorld

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