AN EXAMINATION OF THE IMPACT OF CORRUPTION (JUDICIARY CORRUPTION) ON NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
The history of corruption is as old as the world, because ancient civilizations have traces of widespread ‘illegality and corruption.’ Thus, Lipset and Lenz (2000), note that “corruption has been ubiquitous in complex societies from ancient Egypt, Israel, Rome, and Greece down to the present.” Corruption is also believed to be endemic in modern governments and it is not peculiar to any continent, region, or ethnic group. This does not, however, mean that the incidence and magnitude of corrupt activities are the same in every society. Some countries are obviously more corrupt; yet others have better plans in managing corrupt activities. Obviously, Nigeria is not one of those countries with a better handle on corruption, despite its unending corruption.
The impact of corruption on developing countries cannot be overemphasized. The results are visible in the life style and living conditions of the people affected by this menace (often very disastrous). The occurrence of corruption in large scale reflects in many areas of development and is intrinsically linked to under development. Poor conditions of service as is the case in many developing countries open the door to bribery. Corrupt officials often accept substandard quality of service because of kickbacks thus depriving the country of value added service from contractors and consequently resulting in the implementation of water washed roads or schools. Health care facilities remain inadequate and inaccessible because most times, drugs meant for children and women particularly in provincial clinics and hospitals could be easily seen on the shelves of private pharmacies. One of the greatest impacts of corruption normally arises out of the choices and priorities of governments. This occurs when the real development priorities of a country are often neglected in favour of those that generate the greatest personal gains for the decision makers. Here, it is clearly evident that many projects have become white elephants and easy route for personal enrichment. When loans taken by governments on the pretence of undertaking some projects are diverted to private accounts, the attendant effect is that such loans would have to be paid with interest and at the same time increasing the debt burden of the country.
In Nigeria, the intricacies of corruption have eroded morality, equity, transparency and public accountability which breed insecurity through ethno religious or regional militia to challenge the state power. This conundrum truncates peace, stability, and sanity which would give birth to general underdevelopment and absence for national development. The Nigerian judicial system is another avenue through which corruption thrives in Nigeria. It is said that “the law is no respecter of persons”. This maxim seems to have lost its veracity and essence in Nigeria.
1.1 Background to the Study
Nigeria has not been particularly fortunate in its drive to evolve functional democratic governance since 1999, which could deliver the oft-mentioned but elusive dividends to the people, principally because of the unspeakable greed of its political class, and the attendant impunity accentuated by a seemingly compromised and disabled judiciary. More so, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), for instance, in its 2008 Report on the country, affirmed that “there is virtual agreement among observers that economic and political corruption primarily explains poverty in Nigeria”, which at the last count grips about 70 per cent of the population, noting that “it (corruption) has held back economic growth and development, and frustrated incentives to align budgetary allocations with development priorities” (Adebayo et. al., 2008).
Interestingly, the general expectation has, always, been that the judiciary should function in such a manner as to mitigate, if not eliminate, this depressing corruption poverty conundrum in the country. Unfortunately, this is becoming one huge forlorn hope. Once the moral foundation of society is destroyed, what is left for the righteous? In other words what shall a country with a corrupt judiciary achieve in terms of socio-economic development? The foundation of justice in Nigeria is being irretrievably destroyed by corruption, to the concern of many, was brought to the fore recently when the report of a survey on crime and corruption in the country, conducted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and National Bureau of Statistics with the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, was released. According to this report “Nigerian courts of law receive the biggest bribes from citizens among all institutions in which corruption is rampant”, though it also indicated, for effect, that ‘among public officials, police personnel were most frequently alleged by respondents (58 per cent) to request the payment of bribes followed by employees of PHCN and the Water Board (39 per cent), Revenue officials (26 per cent) as well as Customs (25 per cent)’ (Yahaya, 2012). The executive summary of the survey particularly stressed that “though bribery in the judiciary was less frequent than in many other agencies, it requires the biggest transactions.” Respondents to the survey conducted in 2007, on a sample of 2,775 enterprises randomly selected to represent businesses active in the country, and a response rate of 79.4 per cent representing 2,203 interviews recorded, said they have paid the biggest bribes to the courts, an average of $87 (N13,050) per transaction. More so, UNODC survey reveals that “for more than 70 per cent of Nigerian businesses, crime and corruption constitutes the most serious obstacle to conducting business” in the country.
Now, with a corrupt judiciary to boot, it means things have fallen apart with the resultant effect of the centre no longer been sure of holding itself. Furthermore, endemic corruption in the judiciary, if left unchecked, could sound the death knell for justice administration and delivery in the country with dire consequences for its democratic governance. The activities of election petitions tribunals, involving judges across the country, was mind-shattering.This is because many of the judges are not just millionaires as people believe but billionaires. It is important to know that election tribunals were becoming goldmines for Nigerian judges; most of the judges are using the election tribunals as a source of generating wealth for themselves. A critical look at the judges who had gone through election tribunals are millionaires today. Weak judicial system is a serious cause of corruption. Most often, judicial systems are weak as a result of poor conditions of service. In such situations, it is the poor people that suffer the brunt of injustices as the rich always stand a better chance of getting justice over the poor.
Furthermore, the absence of clear-cut separation of powers between the judiciary and executive arms often results in the latter exercising undue influence over the former. Additionally, deficiencies in the judicial/legal system can exacerbate inequitable political or economic situations. Disparate treatment by authorities can undermine non-dominant groups‘ confidence that the system will redress their grievances, leaving no alternative to violence, for example, where access to and transparency of the judicial system is limited to those who speak an official language (bribery), ethnic groups who speak a different languages are left outside the legal system.
A functioning judicial/legal system is important for sustained democracy. According to United State Institute of Peace (USIP), (1996); “in some conflict situations, such as those in Rwanda and Burundi, dealing effectively with the injustices of the past is critical to breaking the culture of impunity that provides incentives for violence”. With this development society will come to a complete standstill and development will not begin to take place if an effective legal system or legal framework of laws which will govern the conduct of people to ensure they behave in a particular manner, is not established. Furthermore, all experts who have examined this concept of development have found that economic prosperity takes place in a country where there is a functional legal system. All the economic superpowers in the world are there for many reasons and one of the fundamental reasons for attaining that level of success is because they have a legal system that is functional. For instance, USAID (1994) pointed out that poorly functional or biased judicial/legal systems contribute to conflict when they support the arbitrary use of political and economic power and help maintain the status quo by denying citizens legal recourse against the state or against privileged non-state actors for wrongs against individuals or groups, including genocide, torture, expulsion, persecution, or other political violence. More so, political violence thrives where there is insufficient legal protection, failure of judicial/legal procedure, and a lack of professionalism among judicial/legal system personnel. In the same analysis Wheatley (2005) maintains that Brazil‘s dysfunctional judiciary … is increasingly seen as an obstacle to national development. It is a system that allows debtors of all kinds to abscond at will, knowing that none but the most determined of creditors will pursue them through the courts. It forces banks to lend at astronomical rates of interest because they cannot foreclose on debts. More worryingly, it means that vital infrastructure projects are stalled because investors cannot be sure the judiciary will uphold their rights.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
The consequences of corruption in Nigeria economy are unquantifiable. Corruption is one of the greatest challenges of the contemporary world. It undermines good government, fundamentally distorts development, and particularly hurts the poor. More so, a lot of people saw the opportunity to share from the National Cake and as such, ‘Mushroom‘-companies sprang up all over the country, competing for contract award. Such contracts were awarded, not the companies with reasonable quotation, but to those who were able to settle government officials with ‘Kick-Back’. In many respect, ones’ qualification would not guarantee one’s admission or a job in some institutions, the criteria is particularly determined by a connected few. Therefore, the issue of meritocracy in either seeking for admission in any institutions or seeking for employment in any organisation or for promotion in an organisation has then turned upside down due to the institutionalisation of corruption in Nigeria. In this regard, Ogundiya (2009), opines that “pathological effects of corruption-democratic instability, low level of governmental legitimacy, voracious poverty, infrastructural decay, electoral crisis, contract killing, political assassination, insecurity and generally, developmental problems-have been very devastating in the Nigerian society”.
Under a weak and corrupt judicial system it is difficult for a lawyer to predict the likely outcome of a case based on the merit, facts, the law and the brilliance of the lawyers who handle the case. However, politicians would text the outcome of the judgement to their party men before the judgement is delivered and prepare for their supporters ahead of time for celebration. One of the side effects of a corrupt judiciary is that it becomes inevitably too weak and increasingly incapable of discharging its critical responsibilities to the society, especially to the poor and vulnerable. Incidentally, this is one of the indicators of a “failed state”, according to the Failed States Index.
The judiciary in Nigeria seems not to exercise the expected independence. This is because, key judicial officers are appointed by the executive, and the ruling party usually lobbies for the party sympathizers or their political allies to be appointed to sensitive judicial positions. As it is said that “he who pays the pipers detects the tune”, so the Nigerian judicial systems appears to be controlled by the ruling party, thus its ability to fight corruption is very weak; consequently, in many instances, baronial corruption cases often die off with no convictions. The near-inability of the judiciary to execute judgement on grand corruption cases (which involve mostly politicians) in the country has given vent to more corrupt acts, especially by the leadership to which the judiciary seems to have succumbed.
In a society in which the judiciary system is weak, and the process of electing leaders (electoral process) is corrupt, the leadership will likely be corrupt. Consequently, corruption will unavoidably become an integral part of the general system. Despite the establishment of anti-graft agencies, such as Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in 2000, and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003 after the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) named Nigeria amongst the twenty three non-cooperative countries frustrating the effort of international community to fight money laundering(EFCC(Establishment) Act, 2002), corruption has continued to weaken institutions, discourages investment and retards economic development.
Nigeria’s unremitting rule of law deficit is an objective function of judicial corruption. The lack of capacity to redress corruption in the Nigerian Judiciary and enhance its integrity is an integral element of the pervasive corruption problematic in Nigeria. Judicial corruption erodes the integrity and capacity of the justice system; it results in the general lack of efficiency and effectiveness in the Nigerian Judiciary to redress complex and time-consuming proceedings.
Corruption has also led to diversion of developmental resources of the society to private or personal use. This has contributed to the leakage of capital from Nigeria for illegal deposits abroad.
1.3 Research Questions
The following research questions were drawn to help address the research problems:
- What are the dimensions of corrupt practices in the judiciary system in Nigeria?
- What are the causes of corruption in the Nigerian Judiciary?
- How is the impact of corruption in the Judiciary, on national development in Nigeria?
- What are the sustainable ways of curbing corrupt practices in the judiciary to foster national development?
1.4Objectives of the Research Study
The main objective of this research study is to examine the impact of corruption (Judiciary corruption) on national development in Nigeria. More specifically, the objectives of this research study are to:
- Identify the dimensions of corrupt practices in the judiciary system in Nigeria.
- Ascertain the causes of corruption in the Nigerian Judiciary.
- Evaluate the impact of corruption in the Judiciary, on national development in Nigeria.
- Suggest sustainable ways of curbing corrupt practices in the judiciary to foster national development.