Corruption is the major vice militating against good governance and societal development in Nigeria. Several solutions have been advanced in the fight against corruption in Nigeria but none have been able to nip in the bud or even remotely check the menace of corruption and its resulting consequences. The fight against corruption in Nigeria have taken different forms from the forming of anti graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) down to waging massive campaigns against corruption by other governmental agencies and nongovernmental outfits like the churches and mosques. Despite these measures by government, the virus of corruption keeps spreading like bush fire in the public and private sectors. At some points, e-governance was introduced to heighten transparency in conduct of government businesses.
Implementation of E-governance in Nigerian was made possible with ICT revolution. The entire process started like a pilot scheme by some ministries and parastatals at the federal level. In a nick of time other tiers of governments joined the bandwagon. Through this process multiple fraudulent avenues of siphoning public resources by public servants like double payment of contracts and crowding of pay vouchers with ghost workers were blocked. Much resource has been saved by the three tiers of government through implementation of e-governance. The entire philosophy is still at its tender age and facing operational difficulties due to lack of expertise and equipments desirable for its successful implementation. With the rapid growing of ICT across the country and increasing expertise, there is light at the end of the tunnel and the country will sooner than later reap dividend of e-governance in running government businesses and on its war against corruption.
For a long time local and international anti corruption crusaders ranked Nigeria one of the most corrupt nations in the world. There is no tacit agreement between analysts on when the deadly virus set into the soul of the nation. Some piqued corruption rolled in immediately after the lowering of the Union Jack on 1st October 1960 while a horde of others believed it started when the military crossed the borderline of their constitutionally and traditionally given responsibility of defence of territorial integrity of the nation into politics. In the whole attempts of discussing the issue of corruption in Nigeria, there is always an attempt to scale regimes based on perceptions not necessarily judgements of reputable global and local anti graft agencies.
The two military regimes of Gens. Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha were seen as the most corrupt in the history of the nation yet during their combined 14 years reign bodies like Transparency International did not rank them the most corrupt nations in the world (www.tranparency.org 1999-2007). Ironically the regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that resolved onset to make war against corruption a major agenda got the worst ranking in the history of the nation. Throughout his 8 years reign from 1999-2007 Nigeria was atop the chat and never left the first five most corrupt nations in the world. One impeccable realism and feature of Nigeria is that, the more the revenue a regime has at its disposal the more the scale of corruption. It is on record that the revenue that accrued to the nation’s coffers between 29th May 1999 to 29th May 2007 surpasses what accrued to Nigeria from 1st October 1960 to the day Chief Obasanjo took over.
From 1st October to date Nigeria had civilians and military regimes, and virtually all their coup speeches and inaugural addresses, the fight against corruption was promised as a cardinal principle or advanced as a reason for toppling a regime. The tough talk against corruption is followed by setting up of special committees or bodies to combat or investigate corruption charges. In 1975 Gen. Murtala regime set up an investigative panel which indicted all the twelve military governors that served under Gen. Yakubu Gowon (Akinola, 2002). Gen. Muhammadu Buhari toppled the regime of Alh. Shehu Shagari and set up special tribunals that investigated political office holders in the Second Republic. The kleptocratic regime of Gen. Sani Abacha that was viewed one of the most corrupt in the history of the nation as not left out in attempts to cleansing the system of corruption by establishing the Failed Banks Tribunal that investigated unethical practices in the country’s banking sector.
The regime of Chief Obasanjo stretched the war on corruption farther than predecessors. He established two bodies, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to purge the system of corruption. These bodies were given broad powers to arrest and prosecute suspects and partner with foreign bodies in hunting down trans-national fraudsters. These bodies were showered with local and international supports bordering financial assistance, training of personnel in modern crime detection and fighting, prosecution knowhow etc. Despite much ado and great expectations the virus of corruption kept spreading like bush fire and the nation recorded one of the worse scenarios where public official were caught in foreign countries on money laundering and other related offences (EFCC ACT 2004/ICPC ACT2000)
E-Governance of Nigeria
According to UN e-government survey of 2004, 2005, and 2008 e-government is the use of internet technology as a means of exchanging information, providing services and transacting with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government. Akunyili, (2010), defined e-government as the use of information and communication technology to enhance access to, and delivery of government services for the benefit of all. It is also said that e-governance is a process whereby the use of information and communication technology and service is deployed and employed by the government in the delivery of services to members of the public and the use of same in the internal running and linkages among different government department and agencies. It’s the art of using tools offered by information technology in various aspects of the process of governance with objective of achieving efficiency, transparency, accountability and user friendliness in all the transactions that the citizens and business conduct with the government.
E-government have four primary delivery tracks namely: Government-to-Citizen or Government-to-Customer (G2C); Government-to-Business (G2B); Government-to-Government (G2G); Government and Government-to-Employee (G2E) (Adeyemo, 2010).
E-governance came as a result of revolution in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which finds expression in digital technologies like personal Computers, the internet, mobile telephony, and different electronic applications. A confluence of these technologies eased the flow of information, its accessibility and delivery. This came with numerous advantages because citizens were connected with government, government became more efficient and robust, cost of governance and transaction were scaled down, and transparency was enhanced.
Nigeria boarded the ship of e-governance like any other developing nation as in the middle of the last decade, and since then, virtually all facet of life has experienced unprecedented transformation. At the initial stage of e-activities in Africa, Nigeria was assessed low compared to countries like Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and the rest. With the deregulation of the sub-sector and direct capital investment by foreign firms, the country experienced a quantum leap and overtook all other countries in the continent principally because of the largeness of the population which is roughly put at about 170 million people and the share wealth of the nation which gave a sizeable number of the citizens and governments at the three tiers of authorities the capacity to buy Personal computers, Smartphone, and other internet related appliances and run internet programmes that integrated governmental ministries and departments (Akunyili,2010). Because of this massive growth in communication and the virginity of the market in Nigeria has become a preferred destination of international telecommunication investors from Asia, Mideast, South Africa and Europe (Adeyemo,2010).
In response to this growing reality and to move along with the global drift the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) adopted a national policy on Information technologies and is prepared to integrate Agriculture, health, education etc. Federal Government of Nigeria launched data and research satellite in 2003. These and other sundry policies rolling in the pipe have indeed set Nigeria on the path of countries exploiting ICT for governance. And more government parastatals, ministries and departments are communicating within and outside their organisations using e-channels of communications.
In the last few years all federal government Ministries, Departments and Parastatals have opened web-sites with full details of their mission, programmes, staff strength, and activities within and outside the country. No single sector is left out in this transformation. The State and Local Governments have since followed suit by linking their ministries, departments and parastatals to the web. This has given them a clear understanding and easy communication channels within and outside their States or Local governments
The private sector also took full advantage of this development to expand their businesses through speedy transaction and delivery of services. The banking sub-sector now operates with ease and transfer monies within and outside the country within seconds. Their integrated data bank of customer’s information is providing convenient means of withdrawals and payments out branches where individuals or governments opened their accounts. This also allowed trading in shares and monitoring prices rise and fall in prices, knowing full exchange rate of currencies in the second tier market, and buying and selling from the public. Organised private sector because that improved their efficiency and expand their profit margin due to the massive cut in cost of administration and conducting of businesses. Physical movement of personnel and messages were reduced to barest minimum, except in extreme instances where all other options fails and it becomes the last option.
E-Governance And War Against Corruption In Nigeria
Introduction of e-governance in the country has/ is played/ playing a vital role(s) in the herculean war against the cancer of corruption in the Nigeria. Through e-governance public and private sectors adopted measures that strangulated corruption to a comatose degree in certain sectors and in some instances annihilated it permanently. It started at the Federal Government level and private sector, State and Local Governments followed suit.
Before the advent of e-governance in Nigeria, understanding the real workforce in the three tiers of authorities (Federal, State, and Local Governments) was a mystery and hard like rocket science. Personnel in Administration in league with their colleagues in Finance inflate the workforce with ghost workers running into hundreds of thousands. And perpetrators of such crime created a system where most staff are not paid in the banks using workers functioning accounts, they pay cash using their ministries cashiers. The amount oozing through this channel into the pockets of these fraudsters surpasses the real salary bills government pay to workers. Successive governments battled with this menace through setting up special staff audit committees and what they called “TABLE PAYMENT” and physical appearance of staff without getting to the root of the matter.
The palaver lingered until the introduction of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) by the three tiers of governments across the nation. Recently, the Federal Government made further discovery of ghost workers after scrutinising 215 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. About 45,000 ghost workers were uncovered making the Federal government to save 100b in salaries of the said workers alone. Similar scenarios unfolded at state and Local Government levels, many told stories of how the introduction of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System saved them billions in salaries only(www.cnknigeria.com 14/2/2013).
Introduction of e-governance and transaction in financial transactions like e-mail, e-verification of payment, e-transfers etc eliminated corrupt practices bordering following of files and cheques from one desk to the other and from one accounting officer to another. It has been established that the unfortunate culture of physical following of files and other contract papers breeds unholy cum corrupt practices between the contractors, internal monitors, and the banks. E-measures ended some of those practices and cleansed the system to some level of decency. (www.negst.com.php). Public officers were left with working on papers and pushing their assessments without knowing owners or seeing them. The pace of files and assessment papers movement instilled confidence in the heart of owner thereby making them resist temptation of seeking of avenues to bribe their ways through.
The financial sub-sector witnessed extensive cleansing impact of e-governance. Their integrated data system and interconnectivity checkmated fraudulent practices. It also scaled down unnecessary delays associated with clearing of transactions, which take days or weeks before customers get them or services are delivered. With the introduction of e-payments, cheques and other payment orders are ready within minutes or hours (depending on the nature or quantum of the transaction). Before this period papers in form of orders and cheques are physically carried from one branch to headquarters and down to the branch of customers. This snail space shuttle instigates people to break laid down rules just to get services in time. Breaking due process comes with palm greasing of the officers in charge of the process.
Introduction of automatic teller machines helped immensely because people transfer or withdraw cash without necessarily going through the ritual of signing cheques and queuing in long lines in branches where their accounts is. Such long queues often make people corrupt the process by cutting corners using bank staff who are products of the same corrupt system.
Recruitments and examinations in schools, ministries, departments, and parastatals are electronically done. Candidates apply online; write examination online via buying well secured scratch cards and their scripts marked electronically. Within days results of examinations are out and candidates told his fate. The practice wasn’t like that before now; they were slow, esoteric, and manipulatable due to excessive involvement of personnel rather than machines. This process also nips in the bud inconsistencies associated with age and other academic claims by candidates, issues very essential for recruitments. In each recruitment exercise especially into Nigerian Armed Forces, so many candidates are rejected or recruitment offer withdrawn because of phantom claims that contradicted regulations associated with the recruitments which are noticed due to employment of e-governance.
E-governance has helped the country’s most active anti graft body Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in tracking financial fraudsters and international money launderers. EFCC partnered with other global crime fighting bodies and law enforcement agencies of other countries to trace inflow and outflow of monies and the possible sources. Through their eagle eye operations, many top government functionaries and captain of industries were caught in money laundering and other financially related crimes at home and abroad. E-measures like instant sending of alerts messages which includes photos and other claims of customers by banks to EFCC on individual’s withdrawals that are up to Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500,000) and One Million Naira (N1, 000, 000) for cooperate bodies. This measure instigated massive arrests of fraudsters and money launderers even before they left bank premises. And those who succeeded in escaping arrest from banks, proper investigations are carried out and most times clues are gotten that ultimately leads to arrest and prosecution. It is not an easy task for money launderers to head straight banks because of almost 100% risk involved in such acts. Bank staffers abetting fraudulent and subversive practices have developed cold feet or resisting the temptation because of the high risk and possibility of falling into the net of EFCC.
Nigeria’s electoral body Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) boarded the e-governance plane by introducing biometric registration of voters and compilation of results (www.nigeriaintel.com ). Before this era, electoral register are compiled manually which was open to various forms of manipulations in terms of double registrations in the same centre and in other centres. There was also the problem of results compilation and delay in doing so. But today election results are transferred through their well organised site from either the Local Government or Zonal collation centres to their state offices or national headquarters in Abuja. This stopped the menace of election officials changing figures on transit. Elections results now reach headquarters within seconds. This has reduced to the minimum corrupt practices of politicians of violating electoral laws that promotes credible electoral contests. INEC has a well functioning website with information of their electoral calendars, results of previous elections, and everything that has to do with them.
With the transfer of the country’s capital from the coastal city of Lagos to the Abuja land became an issues. Black marketers and other racketeers started trading in none existing lands or selling same plots of land to various people. Another level of corruption perpetrated by public officers in the lands department of Federal Capital Authority is selling of green zones and other strategic locations not earmarked for residential or commercial purposes. Criminals involved in this unholy business of lands buying and selling became super rich and their heinous business running into a multi-billion Naira empire. The former minister of FCT took a bold step of establishing Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) in 2003. AGIS was to: provide a comprehensive, all-inclusive, state-of-the Art, foolproof, computerized, Geospatial data infrastructure for the FCT; and computerize the cadastral and land registry for the FCC (Federal Capital City), the Area councils and the satellite Towns of the Federal Capital Territory.
Integrating the entire lands of Federal Capital Territory into a single data bank sent the illegal land cartel involved in duping people and causing monumental legal tussles in various FCT courts between individuals and between government and citizens. AGIS was able to tell buyers whether such lands exist for sale and what each piece of land stands for. Cases of developing lands outside the original master plan stopped in a nick of time.
Many State’s Boards of Internal Revenue have developed functional data base of monitoring individuals and cooperate taxes by knowing when they are due for payment. Corrupt ways of declaring profit and loss at the end of each financial year just to evade taxes or get complete tax holidays have been drastically reduced. Recklessness associated with revenue collectors whose trademark was siphoning of public monies because of improper records has made way for a more transparent collection and remittance procedure. States Chief Accounting officers now tied most of the revenue accounts with alerts showing payments and withdrawals from such accounts. And they can with a simple pressing of a computer key stop illegal withdrawals or query unauthorized withdrawals from key signatories to such accounts. Apart from boosting the revenue base of governments, this has scaled down the level of corruption in the system.
Some State’s Governors developed a syndicate accounting system that linked accounts of all states ministries and parastatals to single alarm system that tell them withdrawals and deposit of monies. This trap has made fraudsters within the civil service especially men and women in the Account Department deter from the usual style of open robbery of the treasury in league with top brass of the civil service. Fraudsters now have to think twice before attempting to dip their thieving fingers into the common treasure. The North East State of Gombe is a classical example of where this integration of all accounts within the State to a single alert in the governor’s handset is working. Governor Dankwambo’s style is replicated in many States now and the system has checkmated fraud from public servants.
Challenges Of E-Governance In Fighting Corruption In Nigeria
There is no contesting the fact that introduction of e-governance have massively downsized the level of corruption in the public and private sectors. The indices show that there is improvement in the cleansing processes in the system. Local and international anti graft watch dogs gave introduction of e-governance much of the credit in the war. Through this remarkable improvement confidence is gradually returning and local and international investors are taking the risk of investing in the country and donors are once more reconsidering making their facilities available to government and businessmen in the country. This is by no means piquing that the cancer of corruption has been cut off or successfully healed through the introduction of e-governance.
Despite the tremendous boom in ICT in the country a commanding sizeable number of people are not in the world of ICT. Those outside the ICT curve are not only those without Western education, we have highly placed government functionaries without a simple knowledge of operating a PC, the best they can do is handle a small cell phone. This low level of knowledge of is still giving criminals some room to wangle through their heinous schemes due to the gullibility of the people. Many are still falling on the booby trap of fraudsters because of lack of knowledge to simply verify bogus claims of criminals.
Content management by government and organisation is another cog in the wheel of progress. Ministries and parastatals web sites are sometimes dead zones with outdated information to satisfy the need of the moment. The problem is not only associated with lack of latest equipments or gadgets but the knowledge of simple information management by officers in charge of such units. And since they can’t manage theirs, they can’t also help out in answering questions forwarded to them by either law enforcement officers or other anti graft bodies. This is also affecting the inter-agency connectivity in synergising effort is so hard like rocket science. There are cases where criminals manipulate sites or break into control systems of government sites and manipulate information for heinous reasons. Many a times people received messages from official government sites or addresses just to later realise that such message though coming from them are not genuine.
Nigeria is a very large country with a three different physical geography. Till today, most parts are yet to be connected to the Global system for mobile communications and other ICT facilities. Even some Local Government Areas which are headquarters of the lowest layer of administration are not connected. By this a large part of the country is not incorporated into e-governance, making those corrupt practices concomitant in the system glow. Manual means of verification and transmission of messages that encourages corruption is still the standing order. People still follow files and lobby for their speedy movement from one desk to the other and files are still shuttled by messengers within and outside their areas of administrative jurisdictions. At this level of authority government clients that is contractors are still in the usual game of corrupting public officials and getting things don’t outside laid down set rules and procedures.
Power supply is one of Nigeria’s serious problems next to corruption, though corruption created the problem of power supply. Solving this problem is still a far cry and affecting effectiveness of its contribution on the war on corruption. Shortage of power supply is so chronic that most States spend days without seeing power. The federal capital territory is not left out of the problem. E-governance can’t be effective because it is a process that uses power round the clock. And once there is no power for a second, much is lost and the system’s capacity to perform is given complicated fractures. Instances abound where banks were forced to halt because of lack of power, business were put on slow motion, and delivery of services delayed all because of lack of power. Consequent upon these CCTV cameras that supposed to pick pictures of criminals on streets and within business premises are rendered useless and ineffectual. And other sundry means of gathering information are suffering thus sometimes making corrupt practices flow with impunity.
Another problem associated with this is weak financial muscle of government at all layers of authority and the private sectors. There is no doubt Nigeria is one of Africa’s strongest economy and the continent’s largest market due to its population. However, protracted corruption in the public and private sectors, policy vacillations, and misplaced priorities has rendered the country financially week. This has denied the country the needed capacity to install all equipment needed for a robust e-governance, training of personnel to man the equipment and the political will to implement laws enacted by the parliament in response to e-governance in the country. Much of the problem now does not know what to do but having the strength to do what is needful.
There is not stretching the fact that introduction of e-governance in public and private sectors in Nigeria has enhanced the capacity of government and other anti grafts agencies in fighting corruption. Measure like speedy dissemination of information and files through e-mails, inter-agencies and banks connectivity, CCTV cameras, e-payment, e-examination, e-banking have helped nip in the bud corruption in public and government quarters. The country is winning some battles but the war is not yet over. The situation is like that of birds and hunters, which the bird have learnt to fly without perching and hunter have learnt to shoot without mistake. According to Malam Nuhu Ribadu the former EFCC boss “when you fight corruption, corruption fights back”, this is a true statement going by the avalanche of how fraudsters are fighting back, inventing novel ways and exploiting weaknesses in the system to continue with their crimes.
What is needed most in Nigeria is the political will to execute the war on corruption not minding whose ox is gored. The usual ways of providing soft landing to political cronies through influencing sentences delivered by the judiciary must end for the good of the country and its citizenry. Those caught in the act must be made to face the full wrath of the law which will serve as a deterrent to others aspiring to steal from the public treasury or abet looters through subverting the system for personal economic aggrandisement.
In this war the judiciary must live up to its billing by shedding off technicalities that often set criminals free due to some simple procedures not observed by the prosecuting teams. Substances of cases before them should form pillars of their consideration and judgment not technicalities. By doing this they will help in the overall war on corruption. The judiciary is also another branch of government that e-procedures are not enshrined in court or tribunal proceedings. Judges are still taking minutes like secretaries instead of using modern recorders that will transcribe spoken words into hard papers in a matter of seconds. This procedure is defeating one of their very adages that “justice delayed is justice denied”. Their anachronistic style is delaying and denying justice for the accused and prosecutors.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters