Corruption and the Death Penalty By Olu W. Onemola
Published:17 Nov, 2012
?Scoring an abysmal 2.4 on Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), a 0 to 10 point scale (with 0 being “highly corrupt” and 10 being “very clean”) that analyses public-sector corruption around the world, Nigeria currently ranks as the 143rd least corrupt country in the world – among the 183 countries profiled in the 2011 CPI. In other words, this means is that we are the 40th most corrupt country in the world. Our 2011 ranking in the CPI drops us by nine places from where we were in 2010, when we sat comfortably (with the same score of 2.4) as the 134th least corrupt country among the 178 countries that were profiled that year. Our 2011 ranking also drops us by thirteen places compared to where we were in 2009, when we had a score of 2.5 on the CPI, and placed 130 out of the 180 countries profiled that year – which made us the 50th most corrupt country in the world. As you can see, we are not improving – at least as far as Transparency International’s well-thought-of CPI is concerned.
With conservative estimates as of 2010 speculating that since our return to democracy, corruption has cost Nigeria over $380billion, it does not come as a surprise to anyone in the country today that everywhere you go, corruption is seen as both public enemy number one, and the most easily realizable means to accumulating wealth today. Corruption, or ‘the Big C’ (as I like to call it), has also become so widespread in our public sector, that one of my former professors, commenting on the state of “institutionalized corruption” in Nigeria earlier this year, alluded to “not being corrupt” in Nigeria’s public sector as a “blatant abnormality.”
With the aforementioned as a guide, let’s play the Devil’s Advocate:
In a country like ours, where the Big C has become not only pervasive, but virtually intrinsic to the current state of our affairs, the November 14th, 2012 calls by the Arewa Consultative Forum – a prominent northern Nigerian ‘think tank’ – for the establishment of a law that makes capital punishment the disciplinary action for corruption, is a development that should not just be taken with a grain of salt and forgotten, or approved without public discussion in the constitutional review exercise.
What this means is that: Yes, corruption has become an epidemic in Nigeria, and it is no longer a crime that perpetrators commit in secrecy, but one that everyone – from the policeman on the street, to the politician in his unnecessarily-extravagant convoy – commits in the open. Yes, corruption has also cost us many lives directly or indirectly – from the hospitals stocked with subpar or non-existent equipment, to the narrow interstate expressways with bumps and curves that kill people everyday, because somebody in a decision-making capacity “took a cut” before the contract was finally awarded. Yes, corruption kills, but should we kill because of corruption?
?In our quest to find honest solutions to the single most prevalent problem in our society today, should we adopt the ultimate punitive action as society’s retribution for being ‘corrupt’, and as a deterrent to others that may want to commit such crimes? Should we also establish a measure, or a gauge to determine the point of no return – the extent to which an individual’s corrupt acts will warrant the death penalty – or should we just call a spade a spade and say: “Giving a squeezed N100 note to a police officer to escape a traffic violation, is as much of a ‘bribe’ as giving a Ghana-must-go filled with $15million to the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to squash an investigation.”
?If a capital punishment law is established to punish corruption today, noting the number of public-servants that have come, seen, conquered, and squandered the public pot of our national wealth since the 1960s – with many of them still alive and enjoying fruits for which they did not labour – should we make such a law ex post facto? In other words, if we do enact this law, should it be carried out with retroactive force, or should its provisions take effect after it is enacted – which would basically result in a sort of blanket pardon for all corrupt acts committed before it is adopted (if it will be adopted)?
?Should the law also be a “one strike” law? Meaning, should corruption be seen as a one-time-only do-and-die affair, or should there be a tally system that penalizes perpetrators maybe once, or twice, with the third time resulting in the death penalty?
?It is clear that even though there are merits to the Arewa Consultative Forum’s calls for the death penalty to curb corruption in Nigeria today, seeing capital punishment as the answer to our current predicament, leaves us with many more questions. Even though utilizing capital punishment against corruption has (in recent history) worked for countries like China, and our next door neighbor, Ghana (under Jerry Rawlings), setting the procedural considerations aside, we must examine the moral implications and ask ourselves: “What kind of society do we want to become?” Should we be the kind of society that punishes future cases of corruption severely, when we all know that in some way, shape or form, we are all guilty – whether intentionally or accidentally? Should we be the society that accuses our neighbors of taking bribes, when we too have bribed our way out of tough spots before?
?Honestly, I do not have the answers to many of these questions. However, one thing I do believe is that: if we are ever to go down the road of capital punishment, only those without sin should be allowed to cast the first stone.
As always, thank you for your time. Let’s continue this conversation on Twitter: I am @OluOne.