Three years ago, about $14million Ebola response funds were allegedly misappropriated and unaccounted for in Sierra Leone; leading to the death of thousands. Earlier in October 2012, the Irish government had suspended aid to Uganda after a report from the Ugandan Auditor General’s office found that €4 million of funding from the government’s aid agency had been transferred to an unauthorised account. Besides, Somalia and South Sudan, the two most corrupt countries (Corruption Perception Index, 2016) have remained least developed. These are just few a cases reflecting how corruption hurts a country’s growth and development.
According to the United Nations, corruption is a complex social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries; one of the greatest threats to global economic and social development. Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) disclosed that every year, $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5% of global GDP. Moreover, the World Economic Forum estimates that corruption increases the cost of doing business by up to 10% on average.
The main objectives of the global development agenda (Sustainable Development), which should positively transform global economic, social, and environmental direction and eradicate the most extreme forms of poverty is threatened by corruption. Already, the UN highlights corruption as one of the biggest impediments to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
On October 9, 2003, the General Assembly of the UN declared the 9th of December as International Anti-Corruption Day, in order to raise awareness on corruption and highlight the role of the United Nations Convention against Corruption as well as strategies for combating and preventing it. Although the convention entered into force in 2005, twelve (12) years later, over two-thirds of 176 countries remain highly corrupt (Corruption Perception Index, 2016). Corruption remains a huge threat to development.
In Nigeria, multiple cases of international donor fund diversions persist. For instance, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s donation towards helping Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been allegedly diverted. Likewise, several cases of local government funds, education funds, including bailout fund diversions are currently under probe whilst fresh cases unfold periodically. Nonetheless, corruption transcends the public sector to the corporate sector and institutions, not exempting the civil society. According to the first comprehensive nationwide household survey on corruption, almost one bribe is paid by every adult citizen per year to public officials and the average amount paid in cash for a bribe is equivalent to a fourth of the average monthly salary. Moreover, nepotism and cronyism have risen in the corporate sector while non-compliance to corporate governance is worse in the private sector.
As another Anti-corruption Day is commemorated tomorrow, we once again draw attention to the setback corruption has placed on Nigeria’s socio-economic development. Despite that the current administration places high importance on fighting corruption, the country still ranks 136 out of 176 in the 2016 corruption index. It has become imperative for the government, private sector, non-governmental organisations, the media and citizens to join forces to fight this crime; by standing united against corruption.
Unflinching Commitment to the UN Convention against Corruption
The United Nations Convention against Corruption is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. As maintained by the UNODC, the Convention’s far-reaching approach and the mandatory character of many of its provisions make it a unique tool for developing a comprehensive response to the global problem of corruption.
Through a periodic review of signatory States, using the five-area approach of preventive measures, criminalization and law enforcement, international cooperation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange, the Implementation Review Mechanism assists States parties to effectively implement the convention and fight many different forms of corruption, such as bribery, trading in influence, abuse of functions, and various acts of corruption in the private sector.
Although Nigeria ratified the convention since 2004, the country has not adequately dealt with the implementation challenges identified in the two cycles of the convention reviews since 2014. Notably, the lack of an enhanced data collection system continues to impede the success of the mechanism, bribery between private sector actors is not yet visibly/comprehensively criminalised whilst the balance between immunities, comprehensive investigation and prosecution has not been reached and the independence of the corruption and crime fighting commissions remains questionable. Despite the active and commendable efforts of the present administration against corruption, expected results may remain hampered unless the commitment of the country towards the capable instrument of the UN convention against corruption is strengthened by all concerned, as the convention is also fully domesticated across national, state, and local government levels, including within the private sector.
Uniting against Corruption
Preventing and combating corruption requires a comprehensive approach; one with the full participation of every member of the society and not just government and public agencies alone. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that corruption is eradicated from the top. The EU-sponsored survey on corruption in Nigeria reveals that bribery is highest within the police force, judiciary and custom services. Not until the executive, legislative, and judiciary unite to truthfully combat corruption by setting good examples and ensuring that the rule of law always prevail, it will be difficult for the country to make considerable progress with the war against corruption. It is only when citizens are confident in the credibility of their legal systems to fairly and honestly address corruption, can they likewise desist from crime. Furthermore, an engaged youth – with quality education and empowerment can be distracted from corrupt vices. Likewise, decent wages for public officials can strengthen their abilities to withstand the temptations of corruption.
Moreover, all private organisations need to integrate strict anti-corruption strategies within their operations beyond just developing anti-bribery and corruption policies; whilst erring organisations are prosecuted for bridging the tenets of corporate governance. It is also important that advocacy bodies raise clear, strong, continuous and country-wide awareness about the link between a corruption-free society, stability, growth and development, as citizens, NGOs and media serve as effective checks and balances to both the public and private sectors in fighting corruption.
Finally, “although people often think that they are at the mercy of corruption and that it is just a ‘way of life’, every society, sector and citizen would benefit from getting united against corruption in their everyday life” (UNODC/UNDP). Most importantly, it is the responsibility of this generation – both the government and the people to ensure that future generations of citizens are accustomed to corruption-free societies in order to ensure a sustainable future.