Unknown to many, Corruption and policies of marginalisation which in its most malevolent form such as the Nigerian variant, denies people the most basic infrastructure and opportunity to thrive, constitute a subtle form of genocide which not only dehumanises the people but quietly kills millions annually.
It is thus my considered opinions that just like genocide and other crimes against humanity, corruption –marginalisation being subtle forms of genocide should come under the United Nations jurisdiction as a crime against humanity.
Corruption in Nigeria has a long history from the days of colonial rule when various forms of misconduct bordering on corruption were recorded. From independence, the pace of corruption accelerated culminating in the January 1966 coup which amongst other reasons was necessitated by high levels of corruption in the system. The coup itself was quickly subsumed by Nigeria’s ethnic contradictions and its aftermath heralded yet more corruption. In the General Yakubu Gowon era, permanent secretaries were notorious for corruption and import licence scams were common place. By the 2nd republic corruption continued to be a cankerworm as Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s interregnum yielded significant levels of corruption by principal officers of the regime.
The Babangidization of Nigeria:
Yet in spite of the long years of the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria, it remained relatively under control and never radically affected the provision of modest social services until the coming of General Ibrahim Babangida from which point corruption became institutionalised and was woven into the fabric of every Nigerian. It was from the Babangida era that Nigeria broke world records and notoriously became the most corrupt nation in the world. Babangida’s regime had the ignoble legacy of legitimising corruption. From a crime that was once committed with utmost secrecy, Babangida brought corruption into the open and infused it into every aspect of Nigerian life. The practice and culture of “settlement” which literarily meant financial inducement to buy off critics or opponents of his regime was an open policy pursued by Babangida’s regime as a strategy to stave off opponents.
From Babangida’s era the peculiar culture of brown envelopes were loads of cash wrapped into an envelope and given to individuals and groups as settlement was born. Government officials were assigned to ministries, states or federal boards and parastatals as settlement were they are given a free hand to legitimately loot the coffers of their offices. Governors, ministers, directors and all other government appointees had a field day looting their various offices under the Babangida “settlement scheme.” Contractors openly traded contracts for cash and percentage kick backs. It was also during Babangida’s infamous regime that members of the police force who had hitherto collected bribes discreetly started mounting road blocks solely for the purpose of extorting road users publicly without any fear, sometimes killing victims who refuse to part with their money. 419 finance houses, banks and mortgages that scammed people of their deposits and closed shop was a by-product of the Babangida era.
By the time General Babangida left power, practically all the hitherto strong conservative values and norms had collapsed and corruption had become a cultural norm and a cancer in the bloodstream of every Nigerian. The return from prison and celebration of Bode George must thus be seen in the context of a Babangidized Nigeria. Members of the misruling elite who thronged the occasion were only engaging in a traditional festival of corruption that has since become a cultural norm since the Babangidization of Nigeria.
Corruption-marginalisation As Genocide and crime Against Humanity:
As I said in the opening, corruption and marginalisation are forms of genocide which kills more people annually than most conflicts in the world. Corruption denies people basic services such as hospitals, schools, pipe borne water, housing and infrastructure such as roads amongst others. It also leads to conflicts, inequalities, excruciating poverty and violent crime. The cumulative effects of the absence of such basic services leads to the annual deaths of millions from inadequate, poor quality, unaffordable or non-existent medical care, diseases from dirty water as a result of absence of pipe borne water, ghastly road accidents as a result of bad roads and conflicts, violent crime as a result of inequality, pervasive poverty and lack of employment. All together, it is estimated that more than one million people die each year in Nigeria as a direct result of corruption induced subtle genocide.
Marginalisation also leads to subtle genocide. In nations like Nigeria where such policies are targeted against some regions, it makes a situation that is already nationally bad worse in the marginalised regions by denying such regions basic infrastructure at an increased level. This quite naturally leads to conflicts, mass migration and displacement of persons and deaths of millions of persons annually as a result of the effects of marginalisation. Indeed the failed states index in recognition of the genocide and destabilising factors associated with marginalisation prescribed “uneven economic development along group lines” as one of the criteria to qualify as a failed state which attests to the genocidal impact of such targeted policies.
It is not only regimes that sponsors conflicts and kills its citizens that are guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. Corruption and marginalisation kills more people annually than most conflicts and constitutes worst forms of abuse by corrupt leaders around the world, but has so far escaped the scrutiny of the United Nations because of its subtle form of genocide. Life expectancy in Nigeria at 46 years is one of the lowest in the world and represents a typical example of corruption induced genocide. Even by African standards, countries like Egypt and Tunisia have life expectancies in excess of 70 years. Millions die in Nigeria before they are 46 years of age from treatable diseases and other preventable causes.
Whole generations and millions of Nigerians are separated by almost 30 years in life expectancy to citizens of more accountable and better governed nations as a result of corruption. It is clear that genocide is ongoing in nations ravaged by corruption and it has become obvious that the fight against corruption and apartheid policies of marginalisation has to be taken beyond the scope of states. The United Nations should therefore bring corruption and marginalisation under their jurisdiction the same way war crimes and other crimes against humanity are effectively tackled under the United Nations organization. Under this new order, past and present leaders of nations such as Nigeria where clear cases of massive and sustained corruption and policies of marginalization have been established which has crippled public services and led to the direct and indirect deaths of millions annually should be indicted for crimes against humanity to face trial in the international criminal court in the Hague.
Evidence of massive corruption, marginalisation and its effects abounds abundantly in nations where such corrupt system thrives. It will thus be easy for evidence to be gathered for United Nations prosecutors against the leadership of such nations. Ultimately, designating corruption and marginalisation crimes against humanity will signal a new order and force leaders to be more responsible and responsive to the needs of their people. It will also help to drastically reduce corruption- marginalisation, genocide and the increasing armada of failed states around the globe with its security implications. Corruption and marginalisation designated as crimes against humanity will indeed be one of the most significant gains of the 21st century in the fight against poverty, inequality, human rights violations and its attendant genocide in line with the millennium development goals.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu