Nigeria corruption with a small ‘c’

I often protest vehemently when Nigeria is characterised as corrupt. I still insist that there are many who are but there are much more that are not. Yet on a daily basis, I see and receive reports that shame my protestation. Simple matters seem to cost money to the people who desire the services, obtaining a JAMB form is a major headache; despite the computerisation of the system. Indeed the computerisation merely created new bottlenecks which become centres of corruption. The small c refers to everyday corruption at common places.

Isobu was a student who attempted to take the Jamb examination. He writes: “I paid for profile N1, 000, then print out N500 which is N1, 500 altogether. I later went to Sterling Bank where I paid the gateman N1, 000 in order to allow me enter and take my pin. When I entered inside to collect my pin, I paid the initial amount that we were told to pay by JAMB which is N5, 500.

Now I went to the accreditation centre to buy and process my form, when I went there, the crowd was too huge, many people were paying money in order to gain access to process their forms, and the money we paid was N3, 000 to the accreditation officer who was to process my form. We were asked to come very early the following day so that we can enter. When we went there the next day, the woman who had taken N3, 000 from me and a lot of others to process my form was nowhere to be found. We kept on trying day after day with no result. Some Police men were there and they permitted higher personalities to come in with their children, while others were still stranded outside which led to a serious fight and beatings from the police and gatemen at the accreditation office. I met another accreditation officer outside who charged me a further N1, 500. But the problem persisted since I still could not pass through the gate. Eventually, I went to my uncle who introduced me to a senior civil servant, who gave me an officer to escort me into the accreditation office where I processed my form.”

I am sure that this experience was repeated thousands of time during the Jamb application process as well as during UTME process. University students tell horror stories about matriculation but especially about final clearance before graduation. Library clearance, health clearance, Jamb verification fees, etc. students have to go from desk to desk for these clearances and are charged for the privilege. They pay as much as N35, 000 to N40, 000 for the privilege. They need to have their marks verified from lecturer to lecturer, faculty to faculty. Each stop is a potential corruption point. Some universities, like Unilag are computerised and post the examination results on the internet, thus avoiding a lot of the hustle for graduation clearance.

Passport and visa officers afford ample opportunities for corruption. How often has one been told that visa papers are being worked on for some hapless boy or girl who wishes to go overseas especially to study or work? These sweet tongued charlatans are all over the place and there is nothing they cannot arrange for you for a fee. They could get you a visa, a passport etc. for several thousand naira or US dollars. Young people are the victims of these crooks who gladly part with several thousand Naira to these men for visa and passports which never come.They start by snaring you into a system (not unlike blackmail) and you pay the first request, only to be told how nearly, ready your papers are if you paid a little more before their contact is posted out. Once in the trap, the squeeze is on and you are a victim until your money is exhausted and you cannot locate your fixer. Sometime they even arrange fake visas.

Clearing agents operate on the same principle. They promise to clear your goods and then begin gradually to milk you – they usually are ex-immigration or customs officials. Their nefarious practice is encouraged by officialdom which has put in place a long series of checkpoints as your documents move from table to table. In fact, at the ports, I challenge anybody to be able to clear their goods without using these clearing agents who are in cohorts with the officials in customs or Nigerian Ports Authority or Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The system is so complex that perhaps you are grateful that someone should take the burden to clear the goods – at a price. Anyone who has been to the ports and experiences the dizzying bureaucracy in the Long Room would appreciate this.

Police, military, customs officials tell everybody that they have to pay for their uniforms and shoes. The conventional wisdom is that any new Chief of Armed Forces, Inspector General of Police, head of Customs, etc. are paid for these uniforms which change constantly. It would take a very clever mathematician to work out how many different uniforms our military, Police and allied services have. Each is paid for by the officers and, it is alleged that the money goes to the brass.

The police are the butt jokes for corruption in Nigeria. But it is a serious matter. The Police, apart from everything else, are seriously underpaid, underfunded and inefficient. A police officer transferred from Jos to Minna would have to travel to Jos every month to collect his salary until his transfer papers finally arrive in Minna. The officer is often subject to levies from the DPO, whenever the Asst. Commissioner, the AIG, and even the Inspector General (IG) himself pay a visit. Many stations have no vehicles, not even paper. The DPO in one of Lagos’ prestigious suburbs gets N25, 000 per quarter to run his office – vehicle maintenance, petrol, payment for his staff to travel or move around his prescient. There is a culture of gifts to the Commissioner, AIG, DIG, and IG ever so often. The DPO has no choice but to levy his constables and officers to meet those commitments. In Lagos, the Police are lucky that the Lagos State Government has taken up a lot of the slack in police funding – buying hundreds of vehicles for the police, fueling the vehicles, topping up their pay etc. Even so, they are woefully inadequate for the job they are called upon to do. They require frequent levies and this means money has to be collected from the public.

If a person is arrested anywhere in Nigeria he has to provide his own food, usually through friends or relatives otherwise he would die of hunger while awaiting trial. The Police communication equipment is inadequate and antic.

The Police have really been short-changed in Nigeria. It is the original source of about 11 different agencies now in Nigeria – the State Security Service (SSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Civil Defence; it lost its Criminal Investigation Division and so on. It is inefficiently centralised where it should ideally be a local institution with ties to the State and Federal levels. The system now set up is specially made for corruption.

“Dear customer central bank has blocked your Account and ATM Card due to incomplete BVN registration.To re-activate kindly call the customer service 08154899641.” This was an SMS sent to me by some scam artists. My phone told me that over 3000 of such calls have been reported as scam or spam. The point is that the GSM providers now have evidence as to who these scammers are and who use their service to perpetrate and prepare for crime. No bank would ever send that kind of message. The GSM companies have on record the owners of the two telephone numbers – 08109548227 and 0815499641. They should be identified to the Police and they cannot deny as there should be a biometric record of their owners. NCC should take immediate action. The GSM providers should be warned to report all such SMS as they would be accomplices who have let their system to be used in perpetrating a crime.

The Jamb examination took place on May 15. Akande was assigned to an exam centre at Aba, regardless of the fact that he lived in Port Harcourt. Another candidate shares his experience and said this: “Before the commencement of the exam, we were asked to pay the sum of N1, 000 before we could get our seat. We paid. Thereafter, the invigilator/principal came again asking each of us to pay another N20, 000 for a “package” to pass the exams i.e. answers to the examination. We bargained and I gave him N9, 000 and he asked me for my seat number which I told him. But he never came back with the chips (answers) he promised. After the exams, I went to meet him to find out why he did not keep his promise and he gave some explanation which did not go down well with me. The issue led to an argument that almost ended in a fight but for the intervention of the security officers the matter was resolved and my money was refunded back to me.” This principal and invigilators were hoping to make over N3 million in one day.

Why should Nigeria have a systemic corruption ritual in all aspects of life? Our children are forced to pay to get examination forms, to pay to get a seat in the examination hall and someone is doing a brisk trade for several hundred naira giving answers to examination questions. It was reported that in one state alone JAMB reported 10,000 examination malpractices. Principals, it seems, do not believe in the integrity of the qualifications needed to pass examinations and proceed to university. They undermine the system.

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