Corruption has been defined in the case of BIOBAKU VS NPF as the receiving or offering of some benefits as reward or inducement to sway or deflect the receiver from the honest and impartial discharge of his duties. Thus, the offence of corruption extends beyond mere financial considerations, to cover such areas as sexual favour, conferment of titles or appointment to offices, promotions, admissions into clubs, societies or institutions etc. As a matter of fact, the main element of the offence includes the offering of or acceptance of money either in kind or cash to refuse to do, or do an act for the benefit of the giver.
An instructive definition of the word was however made by a Committee on Prevention of Corruption which was appointed by the Indian Government in 1962 to review the problems of corruption in India and to suggest a remedial measure. The committee defined corruption in its widest connotation as including:
“ The improper or selfish exercise of power and influences attached to a public office or to the position one occupies in a public life”
The criminal procedure in Nigeria (law and practice) by Oluwatoyin Doherty PP 223-224
“Any person who being employed in the public service, and being charged with the performance of any duty by virtue of such employment, not being a duty touching the administration of justice corruptly asks, receives, or obtains or agrees or attempts to receive or obtain, any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything already done or omitted to be done, or to be afterward done by him in the discharge of the duties of his office is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years”.
One of the greatest things that have happened to Nigeria since Independence, 46years ago, is the establishment of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
Worried by the spate of bribe taking by public officers and employees in the private Sector, the Federal Government established the two Commissions (ICPC) and the (EFCC) both Commission embarked on Pro-active sting Operations in various Ministries, Parastatals, Extra-Ministerial Establishments and Government Corporations. A special squad drawn from operatives of the Commissions attend to cases of corruption especially in the public service. Under the pro-active sting operations, officers of the institutions infiltrated government offices as part of measures to fight corruption.
These officers usually liaise with the (Anti- Corruption and Monitoring Units) in various establishments in the course of carrying out their sting operations. Operatives from the Commission with the establishments, are on the look out for people making corrupt demands or soliciting for bribe.
In the first instance, the operatives are deployed to target offices such as recruitment/employment offices, offices in charge of award of contracts, issuing permit and driver’s licenses. Other offices targeted are security and law enforcement agencies such as the Police, Immigration, Customs, FRSC, SSS, Navy, Army, Air Force, NDLEA, Civil Defence and so on.
Also targeted are the Judicial Officials in charge of administration of justice, Officials of the Inland Revenue Service, Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Institutions of Higher learning and Health establishments. This strategy is part of the measures to block all the loopholes for the perpetration of corruption in all Sectors of our National life. Any public officer caught offering or taking bribe or engaging in other corrupt practices would be prosecuted in accordance with the provisions of the law.
THE CORRUPT PRACTICES AND OTHER RELATED OFFENCES ACT 2000
The government of Nigeria in the year 2000 enacted the Anti-Corruption Act on 13th June 2000. The purpose of the Act is to fight corrupt Practices in all its ramifications. “The Act seeks to prohibit and provide punishment for corrupt practices and other related offences by investing in the Commission the responsibility for investigation and prosecution”.
OFFENCES CREATED BY THE ACT
It is very important to enumerate the offences created in the Act in Sections 8 to 26. this enumeration is important because of Section 22 of the Criminal Code which States that: “Ignorance of the law does not afford any excuse for any act or omission which would otherwise constitute an offence……”
It should also be recalled that the trial Judge of Singapore who tried Mr. Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi for importing 700 grams of heroine into Singapore in 2004 found that Mr. Iwuchkwu did not know that the Capsules contained heroine, but that ignorance did not exculpate him. Please note the following offences so that you do not pretend ignorance if you are caught.
- Offence of accepting gratification – Section 8
- Offence of giving or accepting gratification through an agent – Section 9
- Accepting or giving gratification not withstanding that the purpose was not carried out – Section 10
- Counseling relating to corruption – Section 11
- Fraudulent acquisition of property – Section 12
- Fraudulent receipt of property – Section 13
- Offences committed through Postal system – Section 14
- Deliberate frustration of investigation – Section 15
- Making false statements or returns – Section 16
- Gratification by or through agents – Section 17
- Bribery of public officers – Section 18
- Using office or position for gratification – Section 19
- Forfeiture of gratification and other penalties – Section 20
- Bribery in relation to auctions – Section 21
- Bribery for giving assistance, etc in regard to contracts – Section 22
- Duty to report bribery transactions – Section 23
- Dealing with property acquired through gratification – Section 24
- Making false or misleading statement – Section 25
- Attempt/conspiracy are punishable as offences – Section 26
VARIOUS ATTEMPTS TO FIGHT CORRUPTION
Corruption has been in existence even before the attainment of independence by Nigeria in 1960. It has been there even in the time of our forefathers, but it did not attract much attention. Today, it has become a major issue and an embarrassing menace. In the comity of Nations, Nigeria occupied the second most corrupt nation in the world in 2000, 2001 and 2002. This was as a result of several failed attempts to fight corruption.
You might recall that the attempt to fight corruption in Nigeria could be traced from the Jagi declaration in 1977 during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. Thereafter, we had the Shehu Shagari’s Ethical Revolution between 1981-1983. The War Against Indiscipline was prosecuted by Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 1984. While the National Orientation Movement was championed by the Ibrahim Babangida’s Military administration in 1986. The Sani Abacha’s Military Administration re-enacted the War Against Indiscipline and Corruption as well as the Mass Mobilization for Social Justice between 1993 –1998. We are now faced again with the fight against corruption with the establishment of ICPC and the EFCC Act 2004. This is the first time that the several efforts to fight corruption is making use of force of law with severe sanctions against highly placed public servants and Politicians. The aim is to restore Nigeria to the enviable standard of respectability within the comity of Nations.
The fight against corruption should be every body’s business. It must not be the responsibility of the ICPC, EFCC and Anti Corruption and Monitoring Units (ACMUs) alone. Public servants must not stand by, keep mum and watch these social ills prevail. There are several legal instruments in Nigeria containing provision against corrupt practices. Section 98(I) of the Criminal Code provides that any Public officer who is found guilty of corruption is guilty of a felony and is liable to seven years imprisonment. Section 15 (5) of the 1999 constitution states as follows:
“The state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.”
Furthermore, Section 23 of the constitution provides for a National Ethics which shall be; discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, Social Justice, religious tolerance, self reliance and patriotism. These are all made to nip corruption in the bud.
The gamut of the ICPC Act and the EFCC Act are tailored to fight corrupt practices. It can not be said that we lack enough legal instruments to fight corruption in Nigeria. It is therefore desirable that enforcement of the provisions of the several legal frame works on corruption should be intensified. The champions for the fight should be the law enforcement agents and the judiciary. If law enforcement agents must do a good job in this respect, then the core values of integrity must be upheld by all institutions and agencies in Nigeria in the discharge of their assigned responsibilities under the constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria and other extant laws of the Federation.
INTERGRITY PACT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST CORRUPT PRACTICES
At the National Seminar on Economic Crimes held on 6th and 7th August, 2005 organized by the EFCC at Karu, Abuja, President Olusegun Obasanjo said: “The future of Nigeria and democracy in Nigeria depends on the commitments, dedication and personal sacrifice of all its citizens especially those appointed to protect her integrity.”
By this declaration, Mr President clearly underscored the critical importance of law enforcement in Nigeria’s strategy for development, national rebirth and the fight against corrupt practices. It is therefore apt and relevant to outline the core values contained in the integrity pact adopted by law enforcement agencies at a retreat for all law enforcement agencies in Nigeria organized by EFCC in Abuja from 24th – 26th April 2006. This integrity pact is anchored on the following ten Core values:- exemplary leadership, integrity, honesty, loyalty, objectivity, professionalism, transparency and accountability, fairness and equity, commitment and selflessness. These core values are direct opposite to corruption. Let us now look at the core values.
- EXEMPLARY LEADERSHIP:- As law enforcement agents, we shall promote and support good practices, moral, ethical and professional principles through exemplary leadership and service. We shall manifest appreciable levels of creativity and initiative, and patriotic exercise of discretion in the conduct of our duties. If we do this we are fighting corruption.
- INTEGRITY:- we shall strive to win and sustain the trust, confidence and support of the public by serving with the highest level of integrity and eschewing all forms of behaviour, associations, relationships, activities and appearance that are capable of raising doubts, fear and mistrust in the minds of the public. If we do this then we are corrupt.
- HONESTY:- We shall eschew all indicators of corruption, including dishonesty, slothfulness, nepotism, indiscipline, bitterness, prejudice, brutality and other manifestations of anti-social behavour.
- LOYALTY:- We shall ensure at all times, that our service, duty and official conduct are strictly guided and predicated upon our total loyalty to our leaders and our beloved country, Nigeria, service to humanity and the fear of God. This is the beginning of wisdom and corruption hates wisdom.
- OBJECTIVITY:- We shall serve and protect the public and in doing so, we shall enforce the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in good faith, without fear or favour, but fairly with courage and objectivity to the best of our ability.
- PROFESSIONALISM:- We shall treat citizens and all manners of persons with civility, decorum and fairness; having the regard and respect for every person’s fundamental human rights; diligently observing the rules of law and following due process in the course of our prescribed duties. Due process are hereby emphasized as an enemy to corruption.
- TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY:- Understanding that we hold our law enforcement powers on behalf of the people, we shall through our professional and personal conducts, demonstrate that we respect and remain accountable to them; therefore, we are willing, at all times, to submit ourselves to public scrutiny when necessary or required by law.
- FAIRNESS AND EQUITY:- We shall strive to be fair, just and equitable in the discharge of our duties, ensuring that we do not betray the public by willfully abusing their trust, our powers, authority or knowledge.
- COMMITMENT:- We shall serve with passion, Commitment and absolute dedication to duty while using every opportunity to promote mutual understanding, love, peace, Solidarity and cooperation within the society in the interest of national Security and development. These COMACE conference has offered us the opportunity to promote these core values.
- SELFLESSNESS:- We shall strive at all times to serve with zeal and selflessness, going the extra-mile to protect the innocent, ensure justice for the victim and treat the accused fairly.
Integrity simply means the quality of being honest and transparent and possessing strong moral values and principles. Certainly, this is a great weapon that must be deployed to fight corruption.
ACT OF CORRUPT PRACTICES BY PUBLIC OFFICERS
The situation in Nigeria today has become so embarrassing that corruption has taken the center place while integrity, Social Justice and respect for dignity of labour have been thrown overboard. Sadly, we find public servants who are interested in making quick and easy money by diverting public funds to their pockets. It shocked every human reason to hear from the chairman of the EFCC that the sum of =N=18 billion Naira was recovered from the former Inspector General of Police Mr. Tafa Balogun.
It is also on record that the Chairman of Abeokuta North Local Government Area in Ogun State Alhaji Morouf Ajisegiri was convicted on Monday 30th October, 2006 by Justice Ogundipe for lavishing the sum of =N=260,000 meant for the printing of exercise books in the Local Government Area. Furthermore, the Chairman of Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State Hon. Dele Fagoriola and two Principal officials of the council were remanded in prison custody for corrupt practices. Hon. Fagoriola was charged to court on eight count charge for using his position to collect the sum of =N=155,000,00 =N=129,000, =N=134,950.00,=N=145,000 and =N=124,500 consecutively in the pretence of attending seminars and workshops at different times and intervals. He also conferred corrupt advantages upon his wife by approving and paying the sum of =N=95,500, =N=95,000, =N=11,500, =N=97,000 and =N=15,000 to attend seminars and workshops at different dates of which she was not entitled to. What do you say?
The Vice Chairman Mr. Ojo and the Director of personnel of Akure North Local Government Area Mr. Adejumoye were also charged to court for making false statements in respect of the visit of the executive governor of Ondo State, that the sum of =N=70,000 was disbursed to security agents of the government during his visit for fueling whereas no such disbursements was made. In addition, the Vice Chairman and the Director Personnel collected =N=1.3million from the council and claimed that =N=90,000 was used out of it to buy Ankra at Mama Boutique when no such purchase were made from Mama Boutique. What do you say?
We are also aware of the comments of Mr President “that the number two man of the country is presently fighting the fight of his life time due to corruption”. He also stated that some Ministers have lost their job as a result of corrupt practices, while a Senate President lost his seat. What do we say?
We are aware of Public Officers inflating contracts and diverting Public funds by various means and tricks conferring on themselves corrupt advantages. This anomalies are just a tip of the iceberg of an unchanging corrupt dealings that has continued to question the integrity of Nigeria. Only few men and women have summoned courage to ask moral questions as to why the executive, the legislative and the judicial excesses should be allowed to continue. Do you know why, it is because we are all involved.
The absence of transparency, probity, justice and fair play are the greatest obstacles to the fight against corrupt practices in the public service. The absence of these principles lay at the root of the integrity question in Nigeria, the back lash being the drift of the nation along the stream of all forms of corrupt practices. Public officers can not fight corruption by seeking to occupy offices at all cost and by acquiescing to callous and corrupt demands of their god fathers and their superiors. The fight against corrupt practices can come about successfully through the promptings of leaders who are ready to embrace and transmit honest habits, create equal opportunities to all citizens through open career to talents, reward honesty and integrity while sanctioning what is wrong.
Divorcing the polity from the syndrome of Ghana-must-go bags even in the face of impeachment threats, appointment of investigation panel by Judges for the removal of Governors, loss of seats in the legislature for change of parties etc would be a plus for the fight against corrupt practices and integrity while exposing and prosecuting all corrupt personnel would be a minus for lack of integrity.
Enthroning transparency in Nigeria in our life time can only be achieved when we are ready to be our brothers keeper by giving every officer his due, by treating every officer equally and by addressing the twin issues of greed and poverty. Benevolence and tolerance of each other should guide and colour our relationships, not greediness, animosity, hatred, and exploitative tendencies.
Government alone can not fight corruption in the public service, it must be seen to be collective responsibility. We all know our acts of corrupt practices and the prevailing social injustice in the society. We can right the wrongs if we make conscious efforts to completely spare a thought for Nigeria, thinking and acting for the common good, re-enacting our traditional moral values. There and then can our fight against corruption yield the desired results and enthrone national integrity system.