Taming parallel system of corruption in Nigeria, - THE BUSINESS PACKAGE


Monday, December 16, 2019

Taming parallel system of corruption in Nigeria,

,By:Waheed Ogunjobi 

Corruption has nearly ran the nation aground. This much was echoed and re-echoed both at home and abroad by President Muhammodu Buhari, the new man at the helm of affairs though he is being cautioned not to engage in act that will be tantamount to de-marketing the country. Yet, truth has no shade or colouration.

Perhaps the most daunting challenge of nationhood in the Nigerian polity from time immemorial has been the most ashamedly cankerworm of corruption, which permeates every sphere of our national life. Corruption is everywhere the world over and it will be a disservice to assume or reach the hurried conclusion that Nigeria is the whole essence of corruption. Far from it! What is however worrisome is the rate at which it has strategically positioned itself as a parallel system of government threatening to overshadow, if it had not already subsumed, the legitimate system of government.
Corruption has nearly ran the nation aground. This much was echoed and re-echoed both at home and abroad by President Muhammodu Buhari, the new man at the helm of affairs though he is being cautioned not to engage in act that will be tantamount to de-marketing the country. Yet, truth has no shade or colouration..
It was the same Buhari who remarked recently that corruption is so endemic in Nigeria that it has constituted a parallel system in the country. Buhari stated this in a goodwill message delivered on his behalf by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), to the second plenary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.President Buhari also said corruption was responsible for poor policy choices, prevalence of poverty and waste of resources in the country, noting that his administration’s anti-graft war was not just a moral battle for virtue and righteousness in Nigeria, but a fight for the soul and substance of the nation.
I have also over the years observed the rot in our national life. Be it in the health, education, energy, power, transportation and what have you, which stinks like an unkempt septic, to the point of concluding that taming the parallel system of corruption in Nigeria might be a tall dream for anyone in position of leadership. There are just too many rows to hoe when it comes to corruption (apologies to Kola Adesina).
Of a fact, the Nigerian petroleum industry is arguably the most corrupt of the nation’s public enterprise, if not the world over. But due to the complexity of the industry, one may not be able to fully dissect the incidence of corruption when it comes to this entity except to rely on the startling revelation of underhand dealings emanating from the sector recently. This, no doubt, explains why the President himself has decided to oversee the petroleum industry by himself, seeing that no one could actually be trusted with the sector owing to the gargantuan corrupt tendency therein.
The irony of it all is that most of the issues one considers as corrupt practices in this piece had long been with us and we all have seen them as the norms which had become somewhat normal and entrenched, yet they are parallel system making mockery of government machineries. The most disturbing aspect is the fact that those officials of government being paid with tax payers money to render those services are the same officials holding all of us into ransom, constituting themselves as private agents, running a parallel system or government as it were. A few examples will suffice here.
Have you been to the passport office recently under the Nigerian Immigration Service either to obtain or renew a passport? The reality on ground will make an incorrigible anti-corruption apostle green with anger. From my check, the official price for obtaining a Nigerian Passport is in the neighbourhood of N9,000 to N10,000. Woe betide you if you are the bookish who will insist on rather following due process by paying the official price.  This in effect means that you may not get your passport in the next one year or thereabout as the process will be completely frustrated and sabotaged. On the contrary,  if you are ready to play the ball by parting with a sum of N30,000 to the private hands or account of the same government officials put in charge who now constitute themselves as agents and passport racketeers, you are sure of getting your passport in maximum of four hours. You can run a check if in doubt. That is the level which the Nigerian Immigration Service has degenerated and everyone seems to have accepted it as the norm by looking the other way. What a nation.
If that of the Nigerian Immigration Service seems to be a fallacy, have you equally tried to obtain a drivers’ licence lately? From what I gather, the official price for obtaining a fresh drivers’ licence is N6,500 or thereabout. But I bet you, unless you deal with the agent provocateurs who are plying their illicit trade of Drivers’ Licence agents unchecked, you will not make any headway. In the process, Nigerians were made to part with between N15,000 and N20,000 to obtain a Drivers’ Licence, which ordinarily should go for N6,500.  The question that readily comes to mind seeing this scenario manifest is: Are we cursed or are we the cause?
As I was wondering if this issue is limited to these two government agencies, I was confronted with yet another disturbing one. I had tried unend to acquire a farmland under the farm settlers programme with the Ministry of Agriculture in my dear state. My application, submitted long ago, had not received any attention, I guess, since I was never invited for discussion whatsoever. I was then taken aback recently when a senior colleague who had applied for the same parcel of land through the so-called parallel system, parting with a sum of N60,000, informed me that land has been allocated to him, pronto!
Again, ordinarily, from my findings, prospective applicants are not expected to make any payment for the land except the yearly rental to be paid to government coffers after allocation, which should be between N1000 and N2,000 yearly. Seeing the drama that played out, I concluded within myself that I may never get a parcel of land allocated to me under this process unless I’m ready to jump on the bandwagon by paying through the back door, thus subscribing to the system of parallel government all over. What a situation.
In the nation’s health sector, the story is pretty much similar. We have heard stories of  how consultants refer patients meant to be treated in government hospitals to their private wards. One had blatantly told a friend recently after watching him lose a vital medical specimen that: Would he not have cried foul were he to have referred him to his private clinic? Are we saying it was a deliberate ploy to ground government medical facilities in order for their own to fester? What a system! The other time I had paid what my kith and kin would refer to as Owo Mugun before a Consultant friend confided in me that such test prescribed for me in the first instance was not necessary. In his words: “Is that not the extent of corruption this country has degenerated into, when young Doctors will send a patient for unnecessary laboratory test just because they had a deal with the lab owners to send as many patient as possible to their lab for a commission.” Pronto! The lab test obtained elsewhere at the rate of N3,000 eventually cost N5,000.
I have cast a look at the rot in the Nigerian system and I’m sick and worried about the level of decadence without any hope of remedying the situation. That is how it is done! You cannot do anything about it! Are you new in the system? Are you a stranger in this clime? These are some of the posers thrown at you each time you express disgust about the lawlessness that pervades the society, even from the same set of people who are the victims. Then again, I asked the rhetorical question: Are we cursed or are we the cause?
The decadence of corruption in Nigeria has no doubt made  the telecommunication giant, MTN, which is has had a running battle with the Nigerian Communications Commission over a back breaking fine imposed on it recently to be taking advantage of the intense corruption in the system for a long time before getting caught in the cross-fire of the change mantra.
At present, there is what one can describe as catalytic effect on the probe of the former National Security Adviser, retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki, over the sharing of late General Sani Abacha’s loot purportedly in the name of purchasing ammunition to fight insurgents. The probe has opened a cantankerous can of worms that seem to be infecting everyone in sight. Just as you think some people are immune to corruption, you turn around to see their self-righteousness convention on their involvement in the messy deal, which has inadvertently turned the office of the National Security Adviser to another national till where everyone in need drew from. Then, I stop to think: Who is not corrupt?  Someone had jokingly said the Dasukigate may just be a tip of the iceberg, adding that by the time the searchlight is beamed on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the power sector, railway and other public sectors, we may find out that Dasuki should even be rewarded for managing our scarce resources prudently, compares perhaps to others!  The question then to ask perhaps in view of the startling revelation will no longer be: Who is not corrupt, but who is more corrupt? Who will save this mountain from imminent collapse? Help, corruption is killing us!
. Ogunjobi, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, and can be reached viawaheedogunjobi@gmail.com, 08035004741.

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