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Corruption in Nigeria: Judiciary stands out

National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released its first ever crime and corruption survey last Thursday in Abuja rating the police and customs, as well as utility companies such as the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) as the country’s most corrupt institutions. Surprisingly, the nation’s courts were rated as one of the least.

Not many of the businesses turned to the justice system to resolve their disputes – only 20 per cent – but of those who did, 84 per cent were satisfied with their experience.

The businesses were split, however, over their access to information within the legal system. Thirty-eight per cent felt they were adequately informed, while 27 per cent said they were not.

It should be noted that most businesses did not use the legal system at all. Five per cent said their avoidance was deliberate, as the courts were just too lengthy and expensive.

Nigerian entrepreneurs, like their counterparts outside the industry, did not trust their public institutions. Though anti-corruption body, the EFCC, was the most highly rated agency among businesses, it only garnered 51 per cent of their votes. The media fared no better, with 43 per cent. Scores went down even further when the respondents were asked to rate the honesty of institutions.

The EFCC, still the highest, got 38 per cent of the vote, while the media nabbed 25 per cent.

While the popular belief is that corruption helps to ‘grease the wheels’ and move bureaucratic systems along, the report said that the prevalence of corruption in the country’s public institutions was actually hindering development.

For one thing, bribes were often paid for no specific reason and without any particular effect. Many businesses reported that they paid bribes as a matter of course, and often, more than once to the same individuals and institutions.

Bribes also disproportionately fell on small-scale enterprises which reported paying more frequently, though in smaller amounts, than their larger counterparts.

Organizers warned that the actual numbers might be much higher, as many businesses would not even say whether they had been asked for bribes or not. Few businesses reported these incidents to law enforcement, as many felt no action would be taken.

As Goodluck Jonathan’s administration steps up its anti-crime campaign, it would be gratified to know that few businesses saw bribery in a positive light. Most agreed that the country would be better run with its elimination.

Hopes of more to come

The report was conducted in 2007 with funding from the European Union and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and operated in conjunction with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It was released in December last year after donor organisations reviewed the data.

Organisers hope to stage another survey to update the report’s information. However, E. G. Thomas, assistant chief statistician at the NBS, said they had to wait for funds.

“This is the first survey on crime and it will be used as baseline data.” Mr Thomas said. “We know that since the survey, there have been a lot of changes in government and the structure of things. But we have no way of knowing whether there has been any improvement or not. Except we conduct a survey, we cannot know authoritatively.”