By Okey Ifeacho
It is no longer news that Nigeria is a corrupt country. Corruption in Nigeria pervades almost every facet of our national life. The level of financial corruption is so alarming and hope of curbing it is fast waning. Civil servants and politicians both at the local, state and federal levels are neck deep in looting of public till. Government contractors are also in league.
Despite efforts made to punish and curb financial corruption, it appears that the country is losing corruption war. Recent revelations of how those entrusted with public funds desecrated public coffers does not give any hope of success in the war against corruption. Many of those in positions of trust look out for ways to enrich themselves and share from national cake.
The ripples effect of such brazen corruption is that national infrastructure suffers. It is no surprise that despite government talks to give us constant electricity that will boost industrial development we are more in the dark. It is corruption that has militated against our having motorable roads. It is corruption that made Nigerians to unduly pay more for petroleum products. It is corruption that made pensioners not to receive they pension after serving fatherland with the blood and sweat of their youth.
All those deepening corruption in Nigeria are not from outer space. They are our brothers and sisters; our friends and relatives; our compatriots. They are men and women who believe in God. They are professed Christians and Muslims, who go to church on Sundays and Mosque on Fridays. They are men and women who know what the Holy Books say about such evil yet they engage in it unashamedly. They are also aware of the position of the Nigerian constitution and extant laws of the land on corruption. In spite of such knowledge, they are still propelled by inordinate crave to be corrupt.
Many of those who have corruptly enriched themselves in the country escaped the long arms of the law. Many who were caught by the long arms of the law did not pay commensurate price. All those in these categories know themselves. Nigerians know them too. They may seem outwardly happy but certainly pricked and sad in the inner recesses of their being. Such burden of quilt has to be lifted off them.
In this regard, there is the need to establish Nigerian National Restitution Fund (NNRF). All those who have corruptly enriched themselves financially in one way or the other should pay 10% of such loot so illegally acquired to the Fund as restitution of their sin against fatherland. All those who have participated in public affairs since Nigeria’s independence and are still alive but acquired wealth in corrupt ways should as a matter of purging their conscience of guilty take part in the national restitution.
The Fund account number should be made public in churches, mosques, offices, newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and other public places so that none of those who are supposed to refund part of their loot will have any excuse of not doing so. The Fund should be managed by the clergy and Muslim clerics and civil society representatives of unquestionable character.
The money that will accrue to the Fund should be invested in specific projects that meet due process standards and must be completed at specified period. Such projects should not be bugged by the virus of inefficiency and business as usual. The coming on stream of the Nigerian National Restitution Fund is one way of having some amount of public money in private hands returned for the benefit of Nigerians. One hopes that the government and National assembly will do the needful and allow the Fund to be established.