In early May 2021, an investigation conducted by BBC Africa Eye on pension corruption in South south state of Nigeria, Cross Rivers State, exposed one of the many ills that corruption brings upon a nation and its people.
According to the investigation, many retired civil servants of the state have been labeled “Ghost Pensioners” by state actors and thus denied their pension. The affected pensioners are forced to depend on friends and relatives to feed, most of them are old and in serious need of Medicare.
They have been declared dead by the government, who thus divert their pension fund jumbo pay of officials who live flamboyantly. Those fortunate enough among the pensioners to receive their pension are forced to pay bribe. This sad situation goes beyond Cross River State, in fact, it has become an aberration accepted as a way of life in Nigeria.
Nigeria has for years been named among most corrupt countries in the world. This means, the appalling situation in the country’s pension cuts across all other sectors, promoting illicit wealth and stymieing economic growth.
A survey conducted by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), estimated that some 117 million bribes are paid in Nigeria on a yearly basis, the equivalent of 1.1 bribes per adult. In 2019, the Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), an anticorruption non-governmental organization, said Nigeria has lost at least $600 billion dollars to corrupt officials since 1960, according to the findings it made following an intensive global research it conducted in collaboration with international partners.
This means that funds meant to provide basic amenities like hospitals, schools, roads etc. for the citizenry have been embezzled, leaving the country in a significant infrastructural deficit that breeds unemployment, insecurity and preventable deaths among other ills.
Nigeria has a median age of 18.1 years with a vibrancy that commands a formidable workforce. Unfortunately, as a result of corruption, which has become a way of life, jeopardizing the country’s economic future, the goal of most of these young people is to leave the country in search of a better life.
In 2019, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said that 2,000 doctors leave Nigeria for developed countries yearly. It is said that out of 75,000 registered doctors in Nigeria, only 35,000 work in Nigeria. That leaves a hallowing gap in the health sector for a country of about 200 million people.
The debilitating effects of corruption cut across many facets but have the same impact on lives and economic growth of most corrupt countries. Poor infrastructure, unemployment that usually results in high crime rate, and illicit wealth in the hands of a few.
What Makes A Country Corrupt?
According to a 2017 survey study, the following factors have been attributed as causes of corruption:
- Greed of money, desires.
Higher levels of market and political monopolization
Low levels of democracy, weak civil participation and low political transparency
Higher levels of bureaucracy and inefficient administrative structures
Low press freedom
Low economic freedom
Large ethnic divisions and high levels of in-group favoritism
Weak property rights
Contagion from corrupt neighboring countries
Low levels of education
Lack of commitment to society
In most corrupt countries, where corruption is a way of life, lack of political will by the government to fight corruption opens a wide room for politicians and public office holders to loot public funds with impunity. Moving from public to private sectors, it contagiously influences individuals, promoting the “if you can’t beat them you join them” lifestyle.
Which country has the highest level of corruption?
According to the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Somalia has the highest level of corruption in the world. Since 2006, the East African country has been ranked at the bottom of CPI, due to increasing corrupt practices that have been fueled by civil conflict and lack of political will by the government to establish an effective anti-graft agency.
Which country is the least corrupt in the world?
The 2020 Corruption Perception Index places Denmark as the least country in the world. The European country scored 88 points to stay top of 180 countries surveyed. It has consistently been in the top-4 since the publication of the first report in 1995.
In Denmark, People don’t consider corruption a problem as there are rarely cases of bribery in the public and private sectors. The business environment regarding the ethical behavior of companies’ interaction with public officials, politicians and other enterprises, as well as the financial auditing and reporting standards among companies, are very strong, according to the Global Competitive Report.
How much does corruption cost the world?
Yearly, the world counts huge losses emanating from corrupt practices. It touches life as well as the economic wellbeing of affected countries. In 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the annual costs of international corruption amount to a staggering $3.6 trillion in the form of bribes and stolen money. This means a significant decline in governments’ revenue as taxes are either not paid or they go into private pockets. In many corrupt countries, unqualified persons bribe their way into critical public and private sectors positions, endangering lives and jeopardizing their nations economic growth.
In Nigeria for instance, state actors collude with contractors to inflate the cost of projects, and contractors are made to pay huge sums in bribes to secure contracts. All these drain the scarce funds in the government’s purse, enriching the corrupt who rake in millions of dollars in kickbacks.
In most corrupt countries where there are relative anti-graft agencies, politically exposed persons rely on money laundering to save their ill-gotten wealth. This they do by usually moving stolen public funds to other countries.
A notorious example is James Ibori, the governor of Delta State, Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. Ibori was arrested in 2012 and imprisoned in London for stealing and laundering $250 million belonging to the Delta State Government.
A 2015 survey published in ResearchGate rated Delta State among the most infrastructure disadvantaged states in Nigeria. According to the report, there were varying degrees of infrastructural deficiencies. 34.22 per cent of the Primary Health Care system (PHCs) had no access to safe water; 51.33 per cent were not connected to the national electricity grid; and 34.22 per cent of the available beds and 40.89 percent had no means of communication whatsoever.
The major cause of the infrastructural deficiencies was insufficient funding, lopsided allocation of resources and official corruption.
By stealing the funds meant for public services and infrastructural development, corrupt public office holders leave needed infrastructural projects dilapidated, exposing citizens to preventable harm. Cletus, one of the victims in the BBC Africa Eye Pension investigation died sadly not long after, because he couldn’t afford adequate healthcare due to his stolen pension.
Here is the list of 10 most corrupt countries in the world according to CPI.
The Sub-Saharan African country is bedridden with corruption that is ravaging every aspect of its existence. Compounded by conflict and civil war, which resulted in destabilization of government for long, Somalia has been reeling at the mercy of corruption. Currently, it is weakening its state-building efforts, undermining democracy, human rights, and rule of law. In addition, it is raising rates of crimes and terrorism. To make things worse, state actors do not show enough commitment to quell corruption.
- South Sudan
In 2012, President Salva Kirr made an appeal to government officials, whom he said had stolen $4 billion from government coffers to return the money. He said most of the fund had been hidden in foreign accounts when the new born country is in dire need of money to fund development.
Kirr’s lamentation highlighted the level of corruption that’s followed the North African country since its creation from Sudan in 2011, has witnessed havoc-wreaking corruption that has limited its economic development to the barest minimum.
“Corruption permeates all sectors of the economy and all levels of the state apparatus and manifests itself through various forms, including grand corruption and clientelistic networks along tribal lines,” Amnesty Intl. said of corruption in South Sudan.
The war-torn Middle Eastern country has three major aspects of corruption. 1. Bribery, which is widespread in all sectors of Syria. 2. Abuse of power is considered to be another type of corruption, according to the Penal Law in Syria. Abusers of power exploit their connections with decision makers (real or virtual connections) to trap their victims into financial or moral payoffs. 3. Embezzlement of public fund.
The major cause of widespread corruption in Syria is dictatorship. A system of government that does not allow adequate freedom for checks and balances as it stifles press freedom, thereby creating protection for those in power to loot public fund.
Yemen is another country whose case of corruption is characterized by conflict. The Middle Eastern country has been in a war that has claimed over 233,000 lives for more than six years now. The situation exposed the poorest Arab country to severe corruption. The UN said the warring factions, the Iran-aligned Houthi militias and the “legitimate” government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi are both accused of money laundering and diverting funds meant for humanitarian purposes. This has exposed the country to widespread extortion, racketeering and bribery.
Most sectors of the Venezuelan economy suffer from endemic corruption, due to the highly politicized and ineffective judiciary that is inefficient in cracking down on corruption and impunity. The Venezuelan legal framework criminalizes several corruption offenses, including extortion, passive and active bribery and abuse of office. However, the legal framework does not include the bribery of foreign officials.
Enforcement of anti-corruption legislation in the country is very weak, and government officials do engage in corrupt practices with impunity. Bribery and facilitation payments are widespread. Gifts given in return for an undue advantage are illegal under Venezuelan law; however, the practice is recurrent in most sectors.
Corruption is present in all sectors and across all branches and levels of government in Sudan. The Sub-Saharan African country scored 16/100 and ranked 174/180 in CPI. In Sudan, public servants are known to demand bribes for services that individuals or companies are legally entitled to; government officials hold direct and indirect stakes in many enterprises, which distorts the market through patronage and cronyism; and the head of state and government is believed to have embezzled up to $9 billion from oil revenues.
- Equatorial Guinea
Political corruption in Equatorial Guinea is high by world standards and considered among the worst of any country on earth. It has been described as “an almost perfect kleptocracy” in which the scale of systemic corruption and the rulers’ indifference towards the people’s welfare place it at the bottom of every major governance indicator or ranking, below nations with similar per capita GDPs. The CPI ranked the West African country 174/180 countries. The government is controlled by a limited group of powerful individuals who divert most of the country’s revenues into their own clandestine bank accounts in other nations. The high level of corruption in Equatorial Guinea has left the majority of its citizens poor even though it is a rich country.
According to Gan Integrity, all sectors in the Libyan economy suffer from widespread corruption; however, the public procurement sector and the oil industry are among the most affected. Bribery and favoritism are common practice in all sectors, and companies may struggle with unfair competition from state-owned businesses, which also dominate the local market. Corruption was rampant under Gaddafi’s rule, and the situation has only worsened in the post-revolution period.
The institutional framework to combat corruption is weak, and the rule of law is undermined by political instability and violence. The Libyan Constitution Drafting Assembly is still in the process of writing the constitution, resulting in all laws being derived from the Constitutional Declaration that came into force after the ousting of Gaddafi. Nonetheless, the judiciary and the security apparatus are ineffective, rendering the enforcement of the law as very weak. Libya scored 17/100 to rank 173/180 in the 2020 Corruption Perception Index, and has been in the rank of most corrupt countries in the world since 2012.
- North Korea
There is an endemic system of corruption which pervades all aspects of life in North Korea. The brutal dictatorship keeps announcing rigid rules that prohibit freedom and the right to expression. A 2019 UN report asserts that the State-run public distribution system collapsed in the mid-1990s, forcing people to work in informal markets, where they have no choice but to bribe officials to avoid arrest. The result is a high level of hunger that affects around 10.9 million people – more than 43 per cent of the population. North Korea ranked 170/180 after scoring 18/100 in the CPI 2020.
- Democratic Republic of Congo
Corruption permeates all levels of society from petty bribery and grand corruption to illicit financial flows. Characterized by clientelism, rent-seeking, and patronage. The situation has been aggravated by prolonged civil conflict and lax anticorruption fight. State actors practice corruption with impunity. DRC thus becomes one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The ruling elite has a direct stake in the country’s economy, and often steer economic activities in accordance with their own personal opportunities. The country’s economic future is thus marred, becoming the least competitive in the world. DRC scored 18/100 rank 170/180 in the 2020 CPI, and has been ranked among the most corrupt countries since 2012.
Although every country in the world faces the challenge to protect itself from corruption, African countries are the most affected. The resulting consequence have been poor economic growth which opens opportunities for crime, civil unrest and mass migration and abject poverty. However, while Africa leads in the 10 corrupt countries index, other continents have also been proportionately plagued, making corruption a global pandemic that needs to be contained for economic sustainability.
The UN said taming corruption requires the involvement of strong anti-corruption bodies, better oversight, more open and transparent public procurement and enhanced anti-corruption compliance by the private sector. In addition, countries also need to ensure support to and protection for whistleblowers and journalists uncovering corruption.