Punishment As An Anti-Corruption Tool In Nigeria

Corruption – a universal phenomenon which dates back many centuries, continues to undermine the overall integrity of countries considered corrupt. Consistently ranked among the most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International, corruption in Nigeria seems to have defied solution, despite the arrays of legislations and the punishment attached to it.

This menace has without doubt become systemic in Nigeria; since her independence in 1960, the socio-economic development of Nigeria has been stuck in the web of corruption. Not only does corruption aggravate unemployment and under development in a country, it also causes poverty and economic melt-down, systemic collapse, total disregard for the rule of law, infrastructural decay, brain drain and unequal distribution of wealth amongst others. It is reasonable to assert that corruption destroys not only the mortar that holds together physical capital but the glue that binds the entire national entity. As such there is an urgent need to forestall its effect, presently brewing in Nigeria.

Efforts have been made over the years in Nigeria to fight political corruption through various laws and policies especially under the Buhari Administration. Despite the fact that lately there have been large recoveries of proceeds of corruption running into billions of naira, it is unfortunate that the punishments attached to the crime has not been effectively utilised while corruption still ravages the country. This menace is presently considered as one of the reasons why Nigeria is currently under-developed and recently witnessed a recession.  Looking generally at the theories of punishment, it exists for either deterrence, punitive, reformative or for retributive purposes; punishment attached to the crime of corruption has not effectively achieved any of these underlining theories. The reality in Nigerian is that despite the probability of being punished, public office holders continue to divert public funds to private pockets; they leave publicly funded projects undone and get away with being prosecuted for corruption. This is a pointer to the fact that punishment as a means of ending corruption has not only failed, the deterrence rational of punishing corruption through the law is not being met.

One key question to be considered is why punishment has not been an effective anti-corruption tool in Nigeria despite its availability and severity.

While you may ponder on the above question, some vital recommendations that will come handy in the anti-corruption fight of the present dispensation include:

It has been established that severity of a punishment does not determine its deterrence effect; as such what is inherent is for the judiciary to impose the maximum sentence prescribed by the enabling law.
A separate court needs to be established with its own judges assigned on a rotational basis for cases bordering on corruption and financial crimes to foster expedited proceedings and sentencing as well as avoid backdating sentences which may result in the accused walking away free without being punished.
It is imperative that all prisoners and persons convicted for corruption be subject to the same discipline and treatment without fear or favour irrespective of their social/political status or standing.


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Yemi Oluwadare, ‘Corruption main cause of Nigeria’s Recession- Magu’ Today’s Newspaper (12 February 2017) < https://www.today.ng/news/topstories/258376/corruption-main-nigerias-recession-magu> accessed 22 May, 2017.

Zhu, Jiangnan. ‘Do Severe Penalties Deter Corruption? A Game-Theoretic Analysis of the Chinese Case.’ (2012) China Review 12, No. 2, 1, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/23462215> accessed 3 May 2017.

This note was contributed by Ifeoluwa Etomilade-Oduola Research Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Lagos. Contact: i.oduola@nials.edu.ng