It is no longer news that corruption have increased astronomically in recent years in Nigeria. A skeletal scan through the pages of several newspapers now depict cases of persons fraudulently diverting public funds, former public holders standing trials in different courts for one case of economic crime or the other. Some suspected persons are allegedly said to be returning part of the looted funds back to the coffers on the government. Assuming, this is true, I’d give kudos to the government for the laudable efforts, which is also giving a signal to the international community that it isn’t business as usual anymore.
As someone who thinks most times in monetary terms, I think returning looted funds are not enough. What happens to the humongous interest foregone on such amount? We are no longer in the stone age where monies were buried in the ground for safe keeping. These monies would have been kept in a bank, either foreign or local. Some suspected persons may even use those funds to acquire properties and later decide to crystallize it to cash when they notice the heat is getting too much. It seems no one is talking about that aspect. This can also be likened to a businessman who borrows money from a bank but decides to pay only the principal thereby leaving the interest element unpaid. This then brings us to the issue of the cost of corruption to Nigeria as a country
The cost of corruption on the Nigerian economy is now unknowingly at a staggering height. This is because of the stance of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration in the war against corruption. There is no tangible compensation for the social and infrastructural damage done to the economy by this criminal act. Not to mention the inestimable costs such as the loss of lives due to accidents on our bad roads and poor health system delivery, just to mention a few, which funds were initially embarked to cater for. Since it would be high impracticable to ascribe a definite figure to the total cost of corruption, it is, however, necessary to call our consciousness to some of the cost elements involved in the fight against corruption.
An important element is law enforcement which encompasses the cost of maintaining the Nigerian police, its support staff, cost of training and development, equipment, buildings and so on. The cost of effectively operating court system which involves the judges, court reporters, clerks and other workers should also be taken into consideration. This cost may even go up as some pressure groups, and legal practitioners are clamouring for special courts for corruption related cases.
The world is now a global village; there is the need for more investments in technology and other sophisticated methods of tracking and investigating corrupt practices. Since no one is an island of knowledge, it is highly imperative to also increase the capacity and capability of the staffs of the enforcement agencies such as the EFCC and ICPC. They should be sent on more exchange programmes and refresher courses. This will allow and aid some forms of cross fertilisation of knowledge amongst them and their counterparts in other climes. We can’t afford to operate in isolation if we want to be ahead and apprehend corrupt persons who are constantly researching on how to get their activities unnoticed, uncovered and earthed for life.
There’s also the need to invest financial resources on the sensitization of the general public on the negative effects of corruption and how it has plagued the fortune and development for our great nation. The cost of the billboard, radio and TV jingles should also be factored. In line with the Ghanaian byword, “Catch them young, and they shall be yours forever”. Monies should also be spent on recruiting school instructors who will lecture kids on why being incorruptible is desirable. The local communities shouldn’t be left behind. All these lofty initiatives will cost a huge amount of money.
Finally, I call this the incarceration cost which consists of monies to house, train, and feed, supervise and provide medical care for inmates after those charged for corruption have been successfully sentenced to jail. In as much as we want our looted funds recovered, it would be a thing of joy to see them turn a new leaf and live a life of integrity. It is of no benefit to Nigeria to see inmates die in prison due to lack of proper care.
With the pace at which the government is moving, I hope all these costs will be taken into consideration. The war against is not insurmountable, we will surely win it.
Adeniyi Bamgboye focuses on accounting, audit, tax and business advisory.