The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of contemporary English Language defines corruption simply as ‘’ dishonest or illegal behaviour, especially of people in authority’’ . That is, corruption is using ones official power dishonestly and illegally for personal aggrandizement and undue advantage over others. When the law empowers an individual to make use of his statutory position for the welfare of the generality of members of the society, but he decides to turn around, using such entrusted power to defraud the society for his personal gains, such an individual is said to be corrupt.
However, one form of corrosive corruption that is ravaging the country is when a government establishment or institution uses the law establishing it to rip off members of the public in the name of revenue generation, and sometimes for the purpose of forceful protection of the interest of the citizens; unsolicited protection that keeps the protected economically depraved. Laws, from the Mosaic days till date, are primarily made for the smooth coordination of human affairs and relationship in the society. Even the Orwellian animals knew the importance of law; although the more clever ones among them like some Nigerians saw to the falsification of the generally accepted made laws to safeguard their personal livelihood against the welfare of the majority other animals
Contemporary Nigeria is replete with many institutions applying the laws establishing them in a corrupt propensity so much so that but for the fearlessness and commitment of a few elite Nigerians in confronting them legally and frontally, the masses would have been suffering serious disadvantages in the name of enforcement. The Nigerian Police ‘’force’’, the Army, Customs, National Drug Laws Enforcement Agency(NDLEA), NAFDAC, EFCC, FRSC and other traffic regulatory establishments, Code of Conduct Bureau, National Pension Commission, INEC, and even the law making institutions, to mention just a few, are enmeshed in institutional corruption.
For example, sometime ago, the Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC), the statutory role of which is primarily to ensure safe monitoring on the highways felt that its role was not enormous enough and had gone ahead through the national law making organs for greater statutory strength to enforce the replacement of old vehicle plate numbers in the country. Desirable as that move could have been if the new plate numbers were not simply a recodification and designing of same features of the old ones in a reversed mode, owners of such vehicles were to pay for fresh registration of their vehicles before their old plate numbers were to be replaced. But for the general outcry and the spirited effort of a Lagos-based lawyer, such a rip off would have been entrenched in the country.
Only recently, the National Pension Commission, published yet another horrifying threat to employers of labour, particularly concerning the civil service. The core message is that employers henceforth must deduct forcefully certain premium from the latter’s monthly salaries, adding in a note of finally that the troubled contributory Pension scheme already on ground is now incomplete without the present insurance scheme. To a cursory observer this move is quite laudable, but a critical inward analysis of pension administration in the country would further send the jitters down the spines of the already financially crawling civil servants in the country.
The fear of pension days is becoming depressing for even the regular civil servants, who are still in service in the country. There have been reports of some pensioners dying owing to non-payment of their pensions many years after their retirement; there have been reports of some very elderly retired civil servants being subjected to very rigorous verification exercises after which nothing is forthcoming for years as pensions for them; reports abound of some state governments’ failure to remit the deducted percentage of money from the salaries of their workers as part of the latter’s contribution in the new pension scheme to their pension administrators, talk less of the contribution of such state governments, and it is still hazy as to whether retired civil servants are still entitled to the erstwhile bulk payment, called gratuity, upon retirement from active service. In the face of all these worrisome atmosphere and uncertainties, why worsen the plight of workers, nay, civil servants, through a further depletion of their low income which is constantly being pummeled by rising inflation and cost of living?.That explains why the Nigerian Police and Army have forcefully but cleverly opted out of the new contributory pension scheme with its ambivalence connotations; knowing fully well that nothing good comes out of the house of Judah.
Then comes the issue of the Code of Conduct Bureau. Declaiming one’s assets to stem the tide of corrupt acquisition of assets in the country is commendable, but surely not desirable for most civil servants whose salaries can barely feed their families. Besides, the exercise is quite stressful, particularly concerning the financial aspect. Why, for example, should a civil servant with a monthly salary of less than N18, 000 after several deductions and taxation be made to pay N1000 at the court of law before his or her asset declaration form is stamped officially?
There is a litany of other manipulative corrupt moves of some institutions in the country, all draining the meagre earnings of the civil servants. Is it the National Housing Funds to which every civil servant must subscribe every month throughout his working days to own a house, and yet has no easy access to the funds thereafter, or the erstwhile, defunct National Providence Funds (NPF) to which every worker was forced to part with N4.00 monthly, and yet not reimbursed after leaving employment of the company he or she worked before the late 1990s?
Corruption is also rife in the civil service as an institution in the use of official positions to victimize supposedly, perceived rivals and radical subordinates. It is corruption of highest order for a superior officer to subjugate any of his or her subordinates to constant intimidation, victimization, constant vexatious posting to drab offices, and habouring unrepentant propensity for profligacy and rapacity. The story has it of a military officer who got a subordinate detained in the barracks, just to make use of the short absence of the subordinate to seize his beautiful girl friend, who had strongly rebuffed the debauchery advances of the said morally corrupt officer.
It is against this backdrop, therefore, that efforts should be geared at all times and cost to put necessary monitoring mechanism(whistle blowing inclusive) in place towards checkmating not only the excessive inclination of some institutions in the country to abuse the laws establishing them, but to ensure that the ultimate organs from which they derive their statutory mandates do not encourage corruption in the country through enactment of porous laws with yawning lacunas, through which the masses could be hoodwinked or arm-twisted into forfeiting their fundamental rights .
*Johnson Ebigide, a journalist writes from Asaba, Delta State.
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