Measured against four indices of governmental effectiveness (outputs produced, inputs allocated plus debt incurred, time taken to render services and fulfil obligations, and citizen trust in the integrity of public officials), succeeding administrations have performed poorly.
“Corruption in any form poses a clear and present danger to the survival of Nigeria and to its medium- to long-term development. Already, a combination of institution desecration and decay has left Nigeria at the mercy of bandits, kidnappers, and bona fide terrorists. The security deficit has also fueled separatist impulses in different parts of the country“.
“Corruption will remain a formidable opponent unless and until the culture of impunity is replaced with that of accountability”.
“The practice over the years has been to view access to quality service in much the same way as another form of power play, that is, as a favor to be extended to acquaintances or well-connected citizens, rather than a basic citizenship right enshrined in the Constitution. That is how come a police constable may stop, search, and extort a law-abiding citizen but gladly serve as a bona fide criminal’s bodyguard. That is why it is possible for a judge to decide when to appear in court and whether to hear a case or let it wait in line indefinitely.“
“The judiciary, for one, must start to dispense, and stop “administering” justice. That warrants various parties (the bench, the bar, the prosecutors/plaintiffs and the defense) working together to ensure fair and expeditious justice dispensation. Beside simplifying the complex, time-consuming, processes, future reform must place strong emphasis on the demystification of the law and the simplification of its language.“
As argued earlier, it is the individual, not the group, whose choices impact directly on state construction or, as the case may be, disintegration, process. Where the individual is fully engaged and duly motivated, s/he can make positive contributions to inter-group understanding, the growth of the economy, the smooth functioning of government machinery, and the maintenance of public order. Public administration deficits continue to widen mainly because of the rapid decomposition of institutions and processes, the failure to recruit public officials on individual merit, the breakdown of accountability and reporting mechanisms, and the erosion of the “identity value” of the average Nigerian’s citizenship. The agitation for “self-determination” should, however, not be interpreted as evidence of resistance to Nigerian statehood. It is not an expression of resistance to “an imposition”, as argued by Moghalu (2021). What Nigerians are resisting in a system that is perceived as working for some but not for all.
Measured against four indices of governmental effectiveness (outputs produced, inputs allocated plus debt incurred, time taken to render services and fulfil obligations, and citizen trust in the integrity of public officials), succeeding administrations have performed poorly. Unless proactive and determined efforts are made to bridge the public administration deficits, Nigeria risks succumbing to the forces of disintegration. Evidence of the gradual dissolution of society is not far to seek–witness the frequency with which the authority of the state is openly challenged by criminal elements across the country, the growing threat to life and property, the apparent helplessness of state agencies to impose order and restore public confidence in their capabilities, and the growing irredentist and separatist impulses.
Institutional normlessness in a season of anomie
Institutions are unlikely to operate as statutorily mandated where holders of key offices (e.g., Attorney-General, Police Commissioner, circuit Court Judge, police constable, or construction site inspector) are not viewed as autonomous and morally responsible individuals but as appendages or replaceable parts of primordial groups. The prevailing doctrine of excusable disavowal discharges the shackled individual from any obligation to answer for his actions. Anyway, since s/he most probably got his/her job, not on personal merit, but at the pleasure of the rulers and on the recommendation of a powerful intercessor, the literally “erased” individual will sooner act on “instructions from above” than apply rational-synoptic (or at least, incrementally rational, win-win) decision techniques in performing his statutory functions. As a beneficiary of favoritism, an individual now beholden to others will create his own circle of toadies and praise singers. The favors which he bestows on those singing his praises will constantly endanger the esprit de corps of the organization. Finding innovative and results-oriented solutions to the socio-economic challenges flagged in the second article in the series is unlikely to be on the mind of a public functionary that answers, not exclusively to the state, but bears hidden and significant allegiances to interests external to his employing organization.
In effect, the non-existent individual’s disconnection from an achievement and accountability culture dictates the choices he makes in his/her workplace. Thus estranged from organized society, the unaccountable individual serving in government is apt to violate his oath of office, convert public office into private gain, sell official secrets to the highest bidder, carry himself as the public’s master rather than its servant, constantly evade responsibility for his actions or attribute own failures to rival tribes’ machinations. The individually non-existent official will likely refuse to provide prompt, courteous, and least costly access to essential services, look for refuge in primordial associations when accused of public misdeeds, and at the slightest sign of trouble, invoke immunity from “persecution” by imaginary enemies.
What is most puzzling is that these alienated individuals are precisely those the state relies on to enforce its writs and fulfil its wide-ranging promises, including the promise to secure life and property, manage the economy properly, create jobs, provide essential services, and improve the people’s living conditions! How the state would accomplish these objectives with ill-motivated and unevenly inspired individuals is a miracle yet to be witnessed.
Restricted access to essential services
Meanwhile, a combination of population growth and resource scarcity has stretched the service delivery capacity of state agencies to breaking point. The agencies are increasingly obliged to accomplish more with less, and while at it, to serve the citizen promptly, courteously, and without discrimination. Unfortunately, public administration deficits continue to widen as bad practices multiply and the ungoverned space expands. By “ungoverned space” is meant the territory and the population over which the state claims nominal jurisdiction but which, thanks to institutional defects and ethical violations, the state cannot properly manage or control.
It is worth noting that, due to the steady atrophy of the culture of individual and agency answerability, government organs at central and local levels have earned the dubious accolade for sub-optimal, nay, shoddy, delivery of essential services. The practice over the years has been to view access to quality service in much the same way as another form of power play, that is, as a favor to be extended to acquaintances or well-connected citizens, rather than a basic constitutional right. That is how come a police constable may stop, search, and extort a law-abiding citizen but gladly serve as a bona fide criminal’s bodyguard. That is why it is possible for a judge to decide whether to hear a case or let it wait in line indefinitely.
Since access is a favor, it is customary for public officials to erect barricades around themselves and to ensure that none gets past except allies and acquaintances. This is how the patron-client arrangement effectively shuts the ordinary citizen out. As a consequence of the allergic reaction to actual or imagined favor-seeking, the clientelist arrangement also blocks the inflow of otherwise innovative and helpful ideas.
In his day-to-day interactions with the MDA or its field agents, the citizen who manages to find his way through the bureaucratic labyrinth is unlikely to scale the obstacle courses awaiting him/her at every turn. Unless s/he knows who is in charge and meets the decision-maker in the right mood, s/he should brace for unpleasant surprises and frustrations. If s/he is looking for information (like a guide on eligibility for a particular service, the procedure to follow to access the service, the number of forms to fill, and the sequence in which to follow up cases with multiple layers of authority), the citizen must make time to attend to business himself or ‘outsource’ the task to ‘expediters’ working on retainer, first-pay-first-served, basis (Balogun, 2013).
Since the average MDA is unlikely to be on the information highway, the citizen can neither contact it by e-mail nor leave a message on Facebook. The only exception is when applying for e-passports outside Nigeria. Even then, the applicant cannot be sure that s/he will easily find the appropriate link or complete the transaction smoothly and on time.
If the citizen decides to send a letter the conventional way, he should not count on his mail being delivered by the postal staff, or if delivered, to be read and acknowledged, as in days gone by, by one of the “obedient servants”.
The citizen should get used to the idea that the MDA would unilaterally decide what services to provide, when, how, and at what cost. The supplier of the services, “big men” (and women) in their own rights, will not consult the citizen-consumer when formulating performance indicators. The service providers will unilaterally set performance standards (including time, cost, and quality standards). In the unlikely event that the MDA decides to promulgate Customer Service Pledges and Charters, it will not seek the beneficiary’s opinion on product quantity, unit cost, and delivery deadlines. Since the citizen’s opinion (on the timeliness, cost-effectiveness, quality and reliability of services, as well as courtesy of delivery agents) does not count, he should not expect to participate in beneficiary feedback surveys any time soon.
The police provides a good illustration of the precipitate decline in service delivery standards. Victim perception surveys and eye-witness accounts reveal that Nigerians are likely to be more dissatisfied than nationals of other countries with the quality and timeliness of police response to crime alerts. In contrast to the 45 percent dissatisfaction rate reported for other African countries, 51 percent of the Nigerians surveyed in 2008 had no confidence in the ability of the police to come to their rescue when victimized (van der Spuy and Rontsch, 2008). Another survey carried out in 2014 indicates that 42.0 percent of the respondents disagreed with the view that the Police always treat all ethnic groups fairly, while 46.5 percent maintained that the Police lacks crime prevention capacity. Still, these figures are not as troubling as the 53.9 percent who felt that the Police could not be relied on to respond to crime alerts, the 72.9 percent who maintained that the Nigeria Police applies excessive force; or the 71.7 percent that accuse the police of arresting innocent, law-abiding citizens (Osude, et al, 2014).
Corrupt police constables routinely mount roadblocks on the highways to remind the road users that “your boys are here”, and if the road users still do not get the message, to apply innovative, sometimes, violent, bribe-extorting methods. Corrupt police constables routinely mount roadblocks on the highways to remind the road users that “your boys are here”, and if the road users still do not get the message, to apply innovative, sometimes, violent, bribe-extorting methods. Crooked cops have been known to supply arms and munitions to armed robbers, to finger informants, to provide criminals safe passage, to serve as sleepers/moles in police commands, and to leak vital intelligence on the commands’ crime control plans. Officers and men who got their jobs at the behest of godfathers and other powerful patrons frequently compromise their official positions by serving as their sponsors’ agents within the police command or as informers on other interested parties’ payroll.
Inadequate investment in equipment and supplies is, apart from corruption, a plausible explanation for the growing security lapses and policing failures. Police units are chronically short of detective, investigative, information and communication, and inter-agency intelligence sharing capacities. The force is short of experts in community policing, intelligence gathering and analysis, finger printing and forensic analysis, cyber crime investigation, and criminal profiling. Even paying for stationery is a headache at police stations, a headache that the police gladly pass on to their “customers”, mostly complainants. Where criminals roam the streets brandishing sophisticated weapons and terrorizing citizens, the police lacks the wherewithal to respond fire for fire.
The judiciary is another arm of the “justice administration” system that has performed poorly. Instead of dispensing justice, it “administers” it. What is the difference between the two? Unlike justice dispensation which places emphasis on fairness and timeliness, “justice administration” erects sundry barriers to access, notably, the adoption of a language too verbose, and too convoluted for the ordinary citizen to understand; the leaning towards rituals, and time-consuming procedures; the practice requiring parties to a case (the actual “owners” of the case) to surrender completely to the dictates of technicality-inclined legal professionals; and the back channel that “big men” and “legal consultants” explore to frustrate the cause of justice.
According to an insider (Omole, 2019), favorable verdicts can be purchased by a party whose claim cannot be upheld by facts or under the provisions of the applicable law. All the party needs to do is look for a back channel of communication with unscrupulous court registry staff and crooked judges. It is also estimated that roughly 60 percent of judges belong to secret cults and are therefore likely to give judgement in favor of their fellow members. Among the methods frequently applied to obstruct justice are routine abuse of judicial discretion, especially, the discretion to admit or toss out a piece of evidence deemed material to a case or to admit evidence without any probative value, endless adjournments of proceedings, and willful misinterpretation of the law. Justice Omole might as well add opportunistic invocation of questionable obiter dicta to the list of tactics applied to prop up outlandish decisions and judicial favoritism. Undoubtedly, there are a few judges that refuse to be unduly influenced or “bought”. However, as Omole observes, this minority of upright judges risks falling prey to occult practices set in motion by desperate litigants and by accused persons awaiting trial (Omole, 2019).
Available data further underscores the alarming state of justice dispensation in Nigeria. Between January and December 2016, courts operating at federal and state levels handled a total of 13,438 cases. Less than 50 percent of the caseload (6,417) had been disposed of as at the end of the reporting cycle, leaving 7,023 pending (Table 5). The number of civil cases appearing on the court calendar in 2016 was 4,105. Out of this number, 2,488 were completed, while 1,617 were still pending (Table 6).
The figures in Tables 5 and 6 do not tell the whole story. They certainly do not show that among the cases mentioned were those which might have been instituted decades earlier. Surprisingly, those controlling Nigeria’s justice administration system have never asked themselves one serious question: if a case takes ten to fifteen years to decide, when do the parties have time for worthwhile pursuits, as in, time to fulfill their pre-ordained missions on earth? The Ministries of Justice, in particular, have yet to act proactively to commission diagnostic studies into the root causes of the delays. They have so far failed to explore process simplification and acceleration opportunities, and to develop templates to weed out frivolous cases that clog the justice administration system. Examples of causes of action that ought to be deemed incompetent and non-receivable are those brought by heartless, fortune-seeking, litigants against dead persons, that is, against persons who can neither sue nor be sued. Yet, Nigerian courts and lawyers are glad to be kept busy by such absurd litigations.
The egregious delays in rendering court judgements in Nigeria compare unfavorably with the expeditious manner in which such cases are handled elsewhere. The total number of cases brought before the entire Nigerian judiciary in 2014 (13,440) is negligible compared to the 328,028 cases that were completed in Canada’s adult criminal courts alone in 2014-2015 (Maxwell, 2014). As it so happens, access to expeditious and fair dispensation of justice is one of the statutory rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As understood in R. v Askov (1990) and R. v Morin (1992), trial in a “timely manner” means completion of proceedings and rendition of judgement within ten months. Of course, complex cases, like homicide, usually take longer to dispose of (Maxwell, 2014).
Civil cases are also likely to be completed in Canadian courts within one to two years, a relatively short time. For instance, between October 2017 and September 2018, Family Courts in Ontario Province received a total 17,554 case, disposed of 17,125, and listed 8,189 as pending (Ontario Court of Justice, www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/files/stats/fam/2018/2018-Family-RDP.pdf)
Table 5: Total Number of Cases handled by Nigerian Courts, as at December 2016
Total No. of applications received 13,440
Total No. of applications granted 13,438
Total No. of applications rejected 2
Total No. of cases completed 6,417
Total No. of cases pending 7,023
Source: Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, 2016
Table 6: Nigeria’s Civil Case Statistics (as at December 2016)
No. of applications received 4,105
No. of applications granted 4,105
No. of applications rejected 0
No. of cases completed 2,488
No. of cases pending 1,617
Source: Legal Aid Council of Nigeria.
As to be expected, public perception of the Nigerian judiciary is far from favorable. More than half of the respondents surveyed by Osude et al in 2014 (52.1 percent) railed against the delays in the delivery of court judgements. 42.3 percent of the respondents held the application of outmoded technology responsible for the excruciating delays. Another 42.3 percent found court processes too arcane and cumbersome for the average citizen to understand. Beside simplifying the complex, time-consuming, processes, future reform must place strong emphasis on the demystification of the law and the simplification of its language. As things currently stand, the law which the courts are required to interpret, and which the lawyers are to submit briefs on, is not only alien and outdated but couched in a language that is beyond the comprehension of the average litigant.
Unfortunately, when law enforcement and adjudication institutions are too incapacitated to assure the citizen unimpaired access to their services, self-help and vigilante justice take over. The citizen is likely to distrust the law where he is constantly betrayed by those expected to uphold it, notably, the police and the judiciary. Ineffective law enforcement and adjudication arrangements send wrong signals to rights violators and law breakers. System malfunctions in the judiciary and in law enforcement agencies leave one distinct impression, the impression that lawlessness faces no consequence or attracts no penalty. This spells danger for citizen trust in government, for quality of life, for internal security, and for Nigeria’s corporate existence. Already, a combination of institution decay and corruption has left Nigeria at the mercy of bandits, kidnappers, and bona fide terrorists. The ensuing security deficit has also fueled separatist impulses in different parts of Nigeria.
Of equal significance is the link between public order, on the one hand, and “ease of doing business”, economic growth, and job creation, on the other. There is no disincentive to domestic and foreign investment greater than a combination of rampant insecurity, catastrophic policing failures, and a capricious dispute adjudication regime. If for no other reason, any government should spare no effort to record noticeable changes in the efficient delivery of intelligence gathering, crime control, and justice dispensation services.
Corruption poses a clear and present danger to the survival of Nigeria and to its medium- to long-term development. As earlier noted, corruption is at the root of the sub-optimal performance of the police, and of the security challenge facing Nigeria. It (corruption) has also impacted negatively on the prompt delivery of other types of service. Registering a business, obtaining a building permit, or making simple payments into government treasuries are among the tasks rendered almost impossible by cumbersome procedures deliberately created by individually non-existent, obligation-exempt, responsibility-evading, citizen-contemptuous, yet bribe-taking, officials. Anyway, the allegiance of a corruptly recruited official is never to the state as the employer but to powerful individuals that got the official his/her job, and/or to favor-seeking and financially generous clients.
The Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index is not an accurate measure of the scale and depth of corruption at any time or place. For what it is worth, the Index places Nigeria squarely in the top ranks of the world’s corrupt nations. Based on the Index, Nigeria was ranked 121st least corrupt country among the 175 surveyed in 2008. The low ranking continued till 2011 (when Nigeria became the 143rd least corrupt among 180 countries). The CPI improved slightly in 2012 (presenting Nigeria as the 139th least corrupt among 180 countries), only to resume the nosedive in 2013 (144th). As at 2017, Nigeria’s CPI ranking fell to 148th among 180 countries (Transparency International, Corruption Perception Index, various years).
Waging a relentless war on corruption was one of the promises that the All Progressives Congress made to the electorate in the runup to the 2015 elections. Its flagbearer, Muhammadu Buhari, was projected as a leader with zero tolerance for corruption. Six years after coming to power, neither the APC nor its electorally victorious candidate has recorded any significant progress in the anti-corruption campaign. To be sure, the President added a plethora of anti-graft bodies to those he inherited. Thus, apart from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the President established an Advisory Committee on Corruption, and another on Assets Recovery. Have these measures helped tame the beast? Not by a long shot! Corruption remains Nigeria’s Number One enemy, an enemy that seems to wax stronger by the minute.
President Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts have proved ineffective due largely to the failure to adopt innovative strategies in confronting the challenge. The President and his lieutenants believe that corruption will go away if the war on it is plotted and executed from a central command post. This has turned out to be pure wishful thinking. The EFFC and its sister agencies may run from pillar to post making high-profile arrests; they are unlikely to vanquish the forces and the vested interests against clean government. Corruption will remain a formidable opponent unless and until the culture of impunity is replaced with that of accountability. Progress in the anti-corruption war is possible only when ethics and values are mainstreamed across all sectors, and the agency heads are held directly accountable for the shenanigans that happen on their watch. The Performance and Ethical Accountability/PEA contracts drawn up with the MDAs must, at the very least, go beyond the intent to produce concrete goods or to deliver specific services. The contracts must additionally incorporate commitments to the entrenchment of sound public service ethics, and the gradual elimination of the moral hazards facing each MDA. Tracking progress attained in delivering services and combatting corruption will thereafter entail commissioning agency governance diagnostic studies and aggressively following up the findings and recommendations.
If the preceding measures are to yield the intended benefits, the government should stop the creeping politicization of the fight against corruption. Giving the corrupt “soft-landing” will achieve nothing except defeat the underlying purpose. As a matter of fact, corruption keeps thriving because the APC Government has not departed from its predecessor’s template, that is, the template that confers immunity from prosecution on sacred cows within the “ruling” party’s fold. Like the People’s Democratic Party/PDP, the APC seems willing to forgive and forget the transgressions that might have been committed by defectors from the opposition. This cynical attitude cannot but turn the anti-corruption campaign into one huge joke.