President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

Between corruption and insecurity in Nigeria

NEWS DIGEST–Despite her potential for greatness, a large population with great human capital (i.e. a dynamic workforce), enormous natural resources, growing economy, raw materials and great reservoir of oil deposits which presents her as the largest exporter of crude oil in the entire African region, Nigeria, as a nation, has absolutely no excuse for being a society that would allow its systems to deteriorate to such an extent where corrupt practices become the norm and insecurity the order of the day. Nigeria should not fit such a case study! Although societies vary in terms of approach, methodology and policy implementation vis-à-vis curbing corrupt practices as well as establishing adequate and effective security systems, there is a universal rating standard against which every society is assessed in order to determine quality, progress and improvement. In this regard, Nigeria’s resume has not been so impressive. According to the Expat Insider Survey of 2019 by InterNations, Nigeria has been adjudged the third most dangerous country in the world. And why is this? It is simple; poor governance, mismanagement of resources, widespread corruption and insecurity. These factors immensely contributed to the sustained proliferation of terrorist activities, poverty, infrastructural deficits, militancy, religious unrest, insurgency, kidnapping etc. with no apparent or visible and convincing indices to show or prove that these negative narratives could change any moment soon or in the nearest future.

Nigeria also featured on the Global Terrorism Index due to incessant activities of Fulani militant group which was tagged the fourth deadliest terror group in the world. When a country’s institutions are weak, impunity becomes widespread, its security forces are not trusted and its entire security architecture becomes feeble, creating a breeding ground for all manner of criminal activities and social ills; terrorist organisations (have room to flourish), armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping, human trafficking, police brutality, child harvesting (taking place in baby factories) etc, could all be traced to weak institutions. Corruption continues to pose a challenge to development in Nigeria by fuelling insecurity.

The pseudo solution by the aid-seeking ideology which has become a culture exhibited by successive governments in Nigeria, has not helped to ameliorate the deplorable state of affairs- the idea of always seeking financial help and military hardware from foreign nations is not likely to halt the endemic problems of corruption that fuels insecurity. This is not to invalidate the importance of foreign aid and the invaluable effects it should birth into Nigeria’s economy. However, this is obviously making an ‘independent country’ dependent. The idea of aid is often regarded by policymakers as regular income, thus they are not creative enough to make excellent policies and informed decisions that will enable the country to independently finance its economic growth and development:

The debts Nigeria has incurred as a result of incessant borrowing are quite enormous; in the recent time, the Federal Government made public its intention to borrow $29.96bn, despite caution by the International Monetary Fund on the disturbing current debt profile. When money is injected into a corruption-infested system without clear-cut plans on how to ‘exterminate’ insecurity, the ultimate impact of such liquidity is hardly felt by the citizens who continue to suffer the impact of corruption through diversion, mismanagement or outright looting. For example, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), recently registered his dissatisfaction on the age-long infrastructural deficiency in the country despite huge (yearly) budgets for infrastructural development (i.e. the disproportion of the actual budgets and the current deplorable state of affairs vis-à-vis infrastructure in the country). So, the question is; where did all the money go? Moreover, the country has yet to heave a sigh of relief where security is concerned. Despite the yearly humongous budgets on security, crime rate is on the rise by the day. Nigeria is deemed unsafe and rated as one of the most dangerous countries by the World Economic Forum 2019 report. The security agencies are poorly funded; the police, for example, need a total reform, the army on the other hand, is in dire need of modern military hardware and so on:

One serious issue of great concern is the scandal surrounding the security vote by state governors for which there is no accountability. A security vote is a monthly allowance that is allocated to the 36 states within the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the sole purpose of funding security services within such states. This monthly fund runs into billions of naira and varies based on the level of security required by the individual state. However, security votes have not been so generally accepted by the citizens for there is no regulatory or monitoring agency to which the leaders are accountable as regards spending; the state governors are at liberty to exercise discretion on how the funds are spent. Hence, politicians appropriate billions of naira to themselves all in the name of “national security”; it is as though the problem of insecurity in Nigeria is becoming an avenue for certain individuals in government to gain unrestricted access to national treasury with which they enrich themselves and their cronies.

Another good example is the late military dictator, General Sani Abacha, who was estimated to have allegedly siphoned more than $1.1bn using about 60 “security votes”, leaving the military extremely under-resourced. All these and many more are due to accountability issues in government which is a major attraction for the politicians who often see politics as their meal tickets, hence the desperation to grab power by all means or scheme to perpetrate themselves in power, causing mayhem and heating up the polity especially during elections. There is no doubt that security will be compromised when there is no unity of purpose vis-a-vis transparency and accountability as to how security votes allocation to each of the 36 states in Nigeria must be utilised.

The effects of corruption and insecurity on a buoyant economy can be extremely unpleasant; food security, good management of natural resources, foreign investment inflows, resident investments, job opportunities etc. are threatened by corruption and insecurity. In fact, foreign investors are reluctant to bring their investments into Nigeria because of fear of losing money! Even the resident investors are wary of the current economic uncertainties, hence capital flight experience becomes a sad reality.

Inasmuch as the government is unrelenting in its efforts to stabilise the economy, the recent policy on the closure of land borders seems to be doing more harm than good; the government admitted that the recent rising inflation in the country is traceable to the land border closure. Therefore, certain harsh economic policies such as border closure would emerge as a result of government’s desperation to contain the failing economic state.

Politically, corruption undermines democracy, good governance and the rule of law. Corruption undermines the legitimacy of government and democratic values such as trust and tolerance; lack of legitimacy creates the breeding grounds for insecurity to thrive in society. People lose confidence in the government’s ability to protect them, and therefore would rather seek self-protection than depend on government apparatus. Even the military has had its fair share of this unpalatable development. For example, it was once reported that Boko Haram engaged the Nigerian Army with more superior weapons; some soldiers who engaged the terror group around the Cameroonian border were reported to have fled into Cameroon due to the superiority of power coming from Boko Haram. The question that comes to mind is this; how is a terrorist group able to acquire such sophisticated hi-tech weaponry despite the humongous budgets on security? There is no doubt that illegal funding of terrorism may have come from the proceeds of corruption within the system.

Corruption remains a major cause of insecurity in Nigeria because those factors that give rise to insecurity are the products of corruption. The government must give top priority to the eradication of corruption in its transformation agenda.

Adeparusi, a PhD fellow and member of the British Society of Criminology, wrote in via [email protected]