Since the inception of democracy in Nigeria, the fight against corruption has been on the agenda of all elected governments. Corruption is believed to have been responsible for the economic downturn, poor infrastructure, insecurity and massive unemployment. Despite the amount of money generated from crude oil, mining and agriculture, with potentials to rake in more income from internally generated revenue, government has not been able to meet up with its responsibilities of providing infrastructure, security and social services to the people.
The revenue generated is not properly accounted for and most of it is stolen by officials. The fight against corruption started with the Obasanjo administration. He introduced reforms in governance, which were meant to curtail corruption.
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The administration of Goodluck Jonathan also made efforts to fight corruption by establishing structures in the public service to help check it. However, despite these reforms and structures, corruption still holds sway in the public service.
The Buhari administration has tried to implement some of the reforms introduced by the past two administrations such as the use of the Treasury Single Account, BVN, IPPIS but have failed to introduce measures that will address the loopholes in the existing ones.
The current administration’s strategy in fighting corruption has been counter-productive. It has deployed more energy on arrest and prosecution, naming and shaming, imposition of executive orders on targets and restrictive economic policies.
This strategy did not only succeed in inducing apprehension amongst well-meaning investors, it also contributed to the worsening economic fortunes of the nation. It left most people in and outside government to identify other secret ways to perpetrate acts of corruption. It also succeeded in getting more persons into the dragnets of the EFCC and ICPC, which increased governments budget for litigation.
Litigation and prosecution of offenders are the last resorts which are implemented with the help of the enabling structures
For Nigeria to win the war against corruption, the approach must be less combative but more preventive. It must be less vindictive but more systematic. It means that the government of the day must identify the leakages within its systems and deploy structural reforms to make it even more difficult for those working for it to manipulate the systems within the structures. The structures should include information sharing. Government must be ready to share information with its citizens on all its transactions. Information sharing helps build trust and confidence in government.
Accountability and transparency must be mainstreamed in all government transactions and this should cut-across all agencies. To be accountable, government personnel must declare their assets openly before they assume office and after every four years in office.
Finally, the structures should eliminate bureaucratic bottlenecks that arrogate undue power to government officials who have interface with the public.
Victor Emejuiwe wrote from Centre for Social Justice, Abuja