Mr Raymond Okeke, a business and communication consultant, expresses his views on the frauds and underhand dealings in the country and the possible solutions.
VIEWS on large scale frauds in Nigeria
Though the recent revelations about stealing of public funds are quite shocking, stealing by public officials has become almost like a norm in the country. The recent ones are shocking because of the magnitude as well as the method of concealment. Somebody stealing the equivalent of N3billion is outrageous to many Nigerians. But it will surprise you to note that Nigerians are not really averse to public officials helping themselves to the till. What they probably do not want is going into excess. I say that because almost every Nigerian looks forward to stealing from the government. So, it is a national problem.
Why people steal so much
It is a societal expectation. You are looked at as stupid if you do not steal. How much does a director in a federal parastatal earn? What he earns cannot secure him accommodation within Abuja, not to talk of him building a house in the FCT. But if a director says he does not own a property in Abuja how do the rest of us look at him? We talk about him as being stupid. So, those who steal are motivated by the societal expectation. If you have a friend in public office, you make outrageous demand on him even when you know that he cannot meet such demands from his salary. So, where do you expect him to get the money from if not the public till? Can you imagine the kind of demands that would be made on the GMD of NNPC?
Then, there is no safety net in this country; pensions are not paid regularly, the elderly are not taken care of. So, everyone who has the opportunity to occupy public office seizes the chance to protect themselves against the uncertainties of the future. This is by no means a justification for the larceny that they commit, but it is a reality that we have to address if we want to change the situation.
Effects of these frauds on the country
These are obvious. Any country where corruption is permitted can never witness real progress. If anyone steals N1million, that is some cartons of medication that could have saved the lives of young children gone into somebody’s pockets. If somebody steals N10million; that is maybe a kilometer of road that has gone into somebody’s account. If N100million is stolen, that is probably two hospitals that have gone into somebody’s pocket. It goes on and on. Corruption cripples nations. We have to free ourselves from its stranglehold to experience real development.
What can we do?
Principally, value re-orientation. We need to reassess our values. People are products of values. We have to, as a people, frown against every act of corruption. We should not encourage those who are even suspected of corrupt enrichment at all with our comments or actions. Yet, you see people organizing rallies in support of those on trial for corruption.
We have to put systems in place that do not allow people to make away with public funds. It is usually not easy to have unfettered access to public funds in many other countries. But that is not the case in Nigeria. We should put a system in place that does not allow that.
Then, we have to institutionalise the fight against corruption. It should not be something that we do when we feel like it. It should not be an agenda of a particular administration; it should be something that we fight at all times. If we do these, we may be able to put large-scale corruption in the dustbin of history.