From the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has come a revelation that about N400 billion is spent on bribes each year in Nigeria.This was contained in a report presented to the public yesterday at the stakeholders meeting to mark the end of the agency's five-year project on corruption in the country.
Although there is still a controversy over this report, it has highlighted the problem corruption poses to development and the need for the government to do more to tackle it. According to the report, which covers between June 2015 and May 2016, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary are the highest receivers of bribes.
The survey titled, "Corruption in Nigeria - Bribery: Public Experience and Response" was presented in partnership with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). It was conducted in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
"Police officers are the type of public officials to whom bribes are most commonly paid in Nigeria. Of all adult Nigerians, who had direct contact with a police officer in 12 months prior to the survey, about 46.4 per cent paid that officer at least one bribe.
"Although fewer people come in contact with judiciary officials than with police officers over the course of the year, when they do, the risk of bribery is considerable. The prevalence of bribery in relation to prosecutors is the second highest, closely followed by judges and magistrates.
"The experience of corruption in encounters with public officials whose duty it is to uphold the rule of law can lead to the erosion of trust in public authority", the report held.
In her remarks, the country representative of UNODC, Cristina Albertin, said that the fight against corruption in the country must be in line with the rule of law, human rights and evidence-based policies.
According to her, until offenders are punished accordingly by necessary authorities, and leaders begin to walk their talk, Nigerians might not see the change they eagerly await.Her words: "What matters at this point when the project comes to an end is where we stand now and what needs to be done next. Let me be very clear; while we share all pride and happiness about the result achieved, Nigerian citizens expect eagerly, changes - that offenders be punished properly, that public systems work for them, and that we walk the talk."
Also, Special Assistance to the President on Prosecution and chairman of the recently inaugurated Public Property Recovery Committee, Okoi Obno-Obla, blamed increase in corrupt practices on successive governments' lack of political will to address the menace with the urgency it deserved.
According to him, past governments could not implement existing anti-corruption acts because they stipulate life jail and various degrees of punishment for defaulting public officials.He stressed that in spite of the report findings, which observed that about N400 billion is given as bribes each year, the current administration has done so much in the fight against corruption.
Obno-Obla said the committee on recovery of public property would resume work soon and that it had the power to fight corruption.In a reaction to the report, the Secretary General of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Isiaka Olagunju said it could not be correct. He described it as a careless statement.
"How did they know that it was N400billion? That is an assumption and highly speculative. I consider that there are some bad eggs in the judiciary but notwithstanding, we still have some brilliant minds, who are men and women of integrity.
"For them now to say the judiciary is the highest bribe-taker is very unfortunate and actually insulting. It is not true. We are not saying that every thing is perfect, everybody is doing the best to ensure that all is well. For them now to say the judiciary is the highest bribe-taker, how many lawyers have they seen or arrested or convicted on corruption?" he said.
Also, a source within the Nigerian Judicial Commission (NJC), who would not want to be quoted, described the claim as a figment of UNODC's imagination. The source, who cautioned against unsubstantiated allegations, asked what facts and figures were before the UN agency to prove its claims.
According to the source, a formal statement might be made by the NJC, when it gets a copy of the report."I know it was based on the raid of judges last year but what is the number of judges that are corrupt when compared to the number of judges in the country?" the source queried.