For the first time, Africans have identified the private sector as a highly corrupt group according to the Global Corruption Barometer report. Corrupt practices involving business executives are often classified as “grand corruption.” Unlike petty corruption were low- and mid-level public officials abuse entrusted power in dealing with citizens, grand corruption favours private interest over national interest and can alter the functioning of the government.
“Grand Corruption occurs when a public official or other person deprives a particular social group or substantial part of the population of a State of a fundamental right; or causes the State or any of its people a loss greater than 100 times the annual minimum subsistence income of its people; as a result of bribery, embezzlement or other corruption offence.”
~ Transparency International
Nigeria is not new to grand corruption, although in recent times there has been a spate of corruption allegations. Usually, the alleged offenders are faced with legal enforcement undermined by weak institutions. But apart from poor law enforcement, our cultural norms as a people strongly determines corruption levels as found by a study conducted by Fisman and Miguel. The researchers examined the conduct of United Nations (UN) diplomats from 149 countries while on official duty in New York, America. Fisman and Miguel found that, although miles away from their home country, UN diplomats from low-corrupt countries like Norway committed significantly fewer parking offences than diplomats from high-corrupt countries like Nigeria.
Nigeria’s tax revenue is reportedly 6% of its GDP, relatively lower than the sub-Saharan African average of 16%. Money laundering, tax abuse and other manifestations of grand corruption deplete public finance, robbing the country of revenue which could have been used to provide infrastructures like hospitals and schools. With a population of 182 million, fewer hospitals and schools suggest a decline in the human capital stock. Corruption reinforces income inequality and low standard of living while feeding an elite class. On the international front, it signals uncertainty which reduces foreign direct investment.
Generally speaking, corruption affects the poorest in society particularly in urban areas but only two out of five Africans feel they can end this impunity. With the rise in open data initiatives and the Federal Ministry of Finance’s whistleblowing programme, bottom-up monitoring has improved. However, top-down monitoring is seemingly stalled as four out of five Nigerians think that the government is doing a bad job in curbing corruption.
2030 is not so far off. If we are to meet Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, the government will need to make more investments in effective corruption prevention systems and create a safer space for civil society to thrive.