It is with great honour and privilege that I stand before you today as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). On this significant occasion, I wish to stress that, I am deeply committed to upholding the principles enshrined in UNCAC and to fostering a corruption-free society.
Let me begin by acknowledging and expressing my gratitude to the Chairman, Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-corruption Commission (PCACC)and all the esteemed guests present here today, including representatives from the government department, agencies, civil society organizations, and other distinguished members of the public. Your presence signifies the collective determination and the shared responsibility we have in uniting against one of the most pressing challenges of our time which is corruption.
The theme “UNCAC at 20: Uniting the World against Corruption” reminds us of the global collaboration required to combat this menace, which knows no boundaries. Over the past two decades, since the establishment of UNCAC, considerable progress has been made in the global fight against corruption. We are aware that UNCAC has set the benchmark for international standards, encouraging countries to adopt measures that promote transparency, accountability, prevention, and enforcement of anti-corruption practices. It has also united us as a global community in our resolve to eradicate corruption from our societies.
On my assumption of duty as the 45th Commissioner of Police in Kano State, having fully recognize the devastating effects of corruption on our community and the need for an integrated approach to combat it. We are working collectively on the pedestal of zero tolerance policy on all forms of corrupt practices. Therefore, we are committed to upholding the principles outlined in UNCAC, as evidenced by the manner we are implementing robust anti-corruption strategies, promoting community engagement programs, and enhancing collaboration with all Anti-corruption Agencies, such as the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Independent Corrupt Practices (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) etc.
Nigeria is a highly saturated country with boundless societal problems from all ramifications ranging from her political, cultural to socio-economic situations. At this moment, Nigeria is experiencing a steady and chronic decline of morals and ethical values over the past few decades, which can objectively be attributed to so many socio-economic factors such as poverty, greed, impunity, celebration of mediocrity, unemployment, excessive government spending, to mention a few. And these factors have a critical influence on the psychology of many Nigerians. The prevalence of these aforementioned factors and their impacts as observed by most Nigerians tends to restructure their orientation and hence engenders corruption leaving the discovery that as moral and ethics in a society vanishes, corruption flourishes”.
Overview on Corruption in the Nigerian Society:
Overtime in Nigeria, corruption has been seen not just as a national phenomenon but also as a domestic phenomenon as a result of its prevalence and domestic usage as a daily household recipe. The Transparency International (TI: 2011) defines corruption operationally as a misuse of entrusted power for private gain or the use of a public office for private gain. In other words the use of official position, rank or status of an office bearer for personal benefit constitutes corruption. Therefore, corrupt behavior portrays traits such as bribery, fraud, stealing from the public resource, partiality, favouritism, seizure of public asset for private use etc.
However, in recent times in Nigeria, corruption has gained an overhaul redefinition by its instances. This is due to the fact that corruption in Nigeria is not only streamlined to the public and private sector of the economy but also prevalent amongst the populace. That makes it a very critical problem in the Nigerian economy.
Some people see term corruption as vague and cannot easily be defined in its proper context. Corruption can take on different meanings depending on whether the acts occur in the public or private sector (Yiras, 2003). Corruption can be thought of as embezzlement, fraud, bribery, treason, or acts that constitute a conflict of interest (Everett, Neu, Rahaman, 2006). Corruption has a lot of negative impact on every sphere of societal development; social, economic and political (Igbuzor, 2008). As Ikubaje (2004) has argued, corruption is a global phenomenon and its effects on individual, institutions, countries and global development have made it an issue of universal concern (Igbuzor, 2008). According to Bello-Imam (2004), the impact of corruption includes; Retardation of Economic Growth, Misallocation of talent of labour capital, limitation of Aid flows, loss of Tax Revenue, Adverse Budgetary consequences, Negative Impact on Quality of Infrastructure and Public services, Negative Composition of Government Expenditure, (Igbuzor, 2008). Corruption is a universal menace (Ottic, 1996, Lash, 2003). Whatever the scale and scope of corruption, the important thing about it is that corruption on any scale is bad (Obasanjo, 1994).
Since the return to democratic rule in the country in 1999, the country has been ranked among the top Countries in the global corruption ranking by Transparency International. This has been a matter of great concern to political leaders and the ordinary populace in the country.
Over the years, numerous policies have been adopted and implemented to fight against corruption, but truly these acts seemed to have escalated its existence in the country. A number of institutions and agencies have been established in this direction, for example, the Economic and Financial Crime commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Despite the contribution by these anti-corruption agencies, corruption has been seen to be undefeatable. This is quite unfortunate because it seems to have become an established norm.
The crisis and prevalence of corruption in Nigeria is difficult to overcome because it seems, as some have argued to be part of the Nigerian culture as it is in many developing countries (Egbemi, 2009, Igbuzo, 2008, Audu, 2008).
Corruption is being very widely spread in Nigeria and it manifests itself in virtually all aspects of national life. Ibrahim, 2003:3) as this tells a lot about the magnitude of the phenomenon in the country. Hence, it is not only that the Nigerian officials are corrupt, but that corruption is official (Adesina, 2011:56).
In Nigeria, the consequences of corruption reflects on the state of the economy, the misappropriation of funds by public servants, state of the roads, standard of education, inflation, level of poverty, unimaginably poor power supply, chronic rate of unemployment and militia insurgency. As a result, the Nigerian populace have lost trust and confidence in the public sector governance.
The existence of a chronic corruption can be attributed to the non-adherence or non-existence of a functional ethical code of conduct in both the public and private sector of the economy.
Morals and Ethical Values In Relation To Corruption:
The prevalence of corruption in developing countries like Nigeria has been attributed to lack of strict adherence to the societal morals and ethics. To a large extent, we are shaped by our cultural and societal setting and its values which imprint themselves on our minds and are directly linked to our innermost thoughts and feeling. When there exists no standard code of conduct in any society, people tend to be ambivalent and act with divergent interest. When one behaves /acts in ways which are consistent with our beliefs (whether secular or derived from a moral authority), we will characterize that as an ethical act; when ones actions are not congruent with predefined values, our sense of right, good and just we see that as unethical act. (Afolabi, 2014).
Ethics is a set of moral principles that define right or wrong for a person or group, i.e Ethics studies what is morally right or wrong. Botorff (2007) describes ethics as a body of principle and standards of human conduct that govern the behaviour of individuals and groups. The basic idea behind these definitions will view ethics as moral conduct of behavior that are established by a society, organization, individuals, groups or a country to promote their values. According to Ezeani (2005), values represent what individual, group to group, institution to institution, community to community, profession to profession, etc. within any setting. These values are considerably internal driving force of a person, organization, country that propel them towards goal attainment. Therefore, we can say Ethical values are set of established principles governing various behaviors.
Corruption, assessed in absolute terms is unethical, the collapse of institutional ethics and code of conduct put in place to ensure high standard of behavior suggests that moral contradiction in behavior elicits that expectation from the public deepens daily.
There is a perceived lack of an effective ethical organizational framework to mitigate the corruption in the Nigerian Public service. The entire departure of civil servant and Nigerian Public servants from the core human ethical values that ensures transparent private and public conduct of individuals have resulted in underperformance and underdevelopment. It is perceived further that this lack of public service commitment to human values which would have enabled them to consider others above selfish interest, fear divine retribution and dishonor of a good family name, distaste for greed and stealing of public goods have weakened the fight against corruption and turned into an ostentatious and superficial exercise without results. Thus, unethical practices and the abandonment of core values by Nigerians particularly the public servants lubricating the wheel for a chronic corruption in Nigeria.
Corruption and Ethics in the Nigerian Private and Public Sector:
It has however been conceived conventionally that public administration exists with the government at the top, the apparatus of bureaucracy at the middle, and the citizenry at the bottom, who are passive beneficiaries of the services. These units set the basis for corruption, from the top down to the bottom following the statement that virtually everybody in power is corrupt. But with a close scrutiny at the Nigeria context, it is observed and justified that corruption does not only exist in the public sector but also in the private sector.
The private sector as a properly organized framework seems to be more coordinated while the malice which may transpire in such setting can be addressed by established anti-corruption institutions, ethical judgement, theft vulnerability etc. which exist therein. Hence, corruption in the Nigerian private sector is to an extent properly checked. Corruption also exists within private businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and between individuals in their dealings, without any state agency being involved.
This corruption could also be in the form of bribing, swindling, and mafia-methods within and between private businesses, there are treacherous individuals or disloyal employees also in private firms. This kind of corruption may even have repercussions on the political system as it destroys the public moral, and it may be symptomatic for general economic and moral development of a society. According to Ivan Kolstad (2008): Corruption is violation of distributed ethical obligations.
Citizens expect government and its agencies to be ethically just as they expect from any other kind of business (Ezeani, 2006:385). Therefore, Bonzek (1991), observed that todays public managers face increasingly complex dilemma, often having to weigh personal and professional values against current public opinion and the law. Their personal view of recruiting a relative may be not be in congruence with their professional view of recruiting a qualified applicant who is not related to them.
Therefore, Ethics in the public service can be briefly summarized into impartiality, meritocracy, honesty, transparency, loyalty, courtesy, etc. In the public sector, the acceptance of bribes and secret profit, and use of spare time are regulated by statute. The fifth schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) as amended provides that a public officer must not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities. A public officer must not ask for or accept any property or benefits of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything due or committed to be done by him in discharge of his duties. (FGN, 1999 and Uvieghara, 2001).
Pragmatically, the reverse of these statutes is what actually forms the basis of public administration in the present Nigeria. Hence corruption exists more tremendously in the public service.
To effectively unite against corruption, we must prioritize prevention, detection, and prosecution. We need strong legislative frameworks, efficient law enforcement agencies, and effective prosecution mechanisms. But beyond that, we need to foster a culture of morals and ethical values, where every citizen is empowered to reject corrupt practices.
Eradicating Corruption through the Promotion of Moral and Ethical Values:
Ethical decadence to a large extent caters for the prevalence of corruption in any nation. Scholars argued that the vulnerability in the economy of Nigeria during Babangidas regime was objectively as a result of the abandonment of ethical values. Corruption in its simplest form is the misuse of authority as a result of consideration of personal giving which may not necessarily be monetary (IKejiani-Clark, 2001). It is the deviation from acceptable norms, values and standard of a society (Agba, 2010).
Corruption has given Nigeria a bad image internationally and locally thereby instigating the initiation of programmes like the rebranding project by the Federal government to redeem the image of the country (Agba, Ushie and Akwara, 2009), ethical re-orientation in schools to inculcate morality on future leaders through restructuring from the primary education level, ethical approach by government at every level, revitalizing political will to align with the nations ethical values, periodic retreat for civil servants to ensure ethical re-orientation at intervals etc. other strategy for promoting ethics with respect to wining against corruption may include;
The anti-graft institutions should be reformed in such a way that the values of the institutions would affect the values of individuals that work in them. There should be measures put in place by judiciary to punish any judge whose personal interest are reflected in his judgments against the institutional values.
Theistic Approach and Nigerian Values Integrators:
From the work of Duker(2010) we noted that in the early days of the Nigerian society, people fear taking oaths and nemesis due to their belief in God. In Nigeria today, there are spiritual men of God in Islam and Christianity and even in traditional religious practice that people revere. It is our contention that instead of administering the oath in the court, public servants and political officer bearer should take their oath in the church, mosque or shrine as the case may be.
Traditional Oath taking By Private or Public Servants:
This oath taking should be made mandatory for every public administrator who is in a position of serving the public. This will definitely lead to the commitment of public servants ethically and to allow them to be compromised in the service of the Nigerian public, since they fear mother earths wrath (Ani Casmir 2009).This is more effective in stopping bad behavior and unethical conduct.
Parent, community and religious leaders and the government must be involved in the campaign and fight for ethical orientation in the country through workshops, conferences, radio and church programmes. This must be backed up by strong political and administrative will and a firm commitment by all to maintain the sanctity of Nigeria. Thus, it can be concluded that once the overall population is aware and fully informed about such crusade, achieving optional ethical position will be feasible. Hence, result in positive bringing to a corruption halt.
Government can also consolidate this anti-corruption campaign by embarking on conscious employment, appointment and deployment of honest, dedicated, and fearless men and women to run the affairs of anti-corruption agencies like EFCC, ICPC and others. Government equally should ensure a highly sophisticated selection process to avoid the employment of corrupt and unethical individual in the civil service.
Issues that are prone to make people behave unethically should be properly addressed such as poor remuneration of civil servants, cases of absenteeism of workers, ineptitude to work, embezzlement of public funds abound. However, public servants should be well paid and be encouraged to reciprocate such pay with high level of performance.
Education and awareness play a crucial role in combating corruption. We must empower our citizens, especially the next generation, with the knowledge and tools to reject corruption and build a better future.
I pledge my full support to initiatives that promote anti-corruption education in schools, tertiary institutions, and communities, as an investment in the eradication of corruption.
In conclusion, corruption as it has been critically assessed over the past few decades has been an issue of key target by successive governments in Nigeria. Equally, several measures, policies and technologies have been adopted to uproot its existence and prevalence in the Nigerian society. But conversely, it has seemed like each policy adopted to eradicate it further intensifies its spread. However, considering the restructuring of the background ethics and the morals of the people (both the political officers and ordinary populace) stands a chance to totally eradicate the menace that has so far been created.
Finally, as we celebrate the milestone of UNCAC’s 20th anniversary, let us rekindle our commitment to unite against corruption. Our collective actions today will shape the future we leave for generations to come. Let us build a society where transparency, accountability, and integrity thrive. Together, we can create a world free from corruption, a world where justice prevails.
Thank you, and may we succeed in our united endeavor against corruption.
This is a paper presented by CP Mohammed Usaini Gumel, FIPMA, Psc on the occasion marking the United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption Convention Day Celebration, held at Coronation Hall, Government House, Kano, on 9th December 2023