Written By: Christiana Dan, Research Journalist.
Nigerians paid an estimated NGN 675 billion cash bribes to public officials in 2019, corresponding to 0.52 percent of the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria.
These were revealed in a follow-up survey by the National Bureau of Statistics, (NBS) in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
According to the 2019 survey report titled “Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trend,” more than 93 per cent of all bribes paid in 2019 was paid in cash. It stated “the average cash bribe paid is 5,754 Nigerian Naira (NGN), a sum equivalent to roughly $52 in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). Overall, it is estimated that a total of roughly NGN 675 billion was paid in cash bribes to public officials in Nigeria in 2019, corresponding to 0.52 per cent of the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria.’’
These findings have revealed that bribery and corruption come at a serious economic cost to both the individual involved and the society at large. It is estimated that ‘on average, bribe-payers pay an amount equivalent to 6 per cent of the average annual income of Nigerians. Very few Nigerians will sum up the courage to resist a bribe request when the occasions demand. This is quite disturbing because the fight against bribery should be tackled from both the angles of the giver and taker of the bribe.
Reacting to the report a Professor of Economics, University of Ibadan, Olarenwaju Olaniyan, stated that bribery increases that cost of production which in turn increases the cost of living, and puts a strain on the national economy.
He stated: “Everybody who gives a bribe is adding to the cost of their production. When the actual cost of production is then added to the cost of bribe this results in the increase in the cost of goods and services in the country.”
But, quite often the focus has always been on officials who demand a bribe and little attention given to the t individuals who would always comply with this bribery demand. It was revealed that “when faced with a bribe request, only one in five Nigerian citizens (19 per cent) asked to pay a bribe, refused to do so.” This implies that “ refusals continue to be rare and that Nigerians perceive a benefit in paying a bribe, or risk in refusing to pay a bribe when requested to do so.”
According to Prof. Olarenwaju when people give bribes it is either because there is an incentive attached to it or because of uneven power dynamics that exists between a public official and a citizen.
He added that lack of transparency and accountability plays a major role in fuelling the bribe culture.
“Bribery is an illegal transfer from both the part of the giver and the receiver. Bribery thrives where there is no transparency and accountability. This is because people are more inclined to give or demand bribe where the probability of being caught or punished is low.” he added.
It was reported in the survey that “48 per cent of adult Nigerians who refused to pay a bribe in the 12 months before the 2019 survey reported suffering negative consequences because of that refusal”.
Of course, there are instances when the coin flips and it is the individual that offers the money or gift without a demand for it. Some of these offers often come as a token of appreciation or incentive. For a continent like Africa and a nation like Nigeria that holds a strong culture of incentives and monetary appreciation for a service rendered it becomes rather dicey for an individual to clearly draw the line between a bribe and a gift.
A gift or cash gift that is not publicly offered, cannot be declared, and was not made available to all are often bribes in disguise. Such gifts or outright bribes are meant to be rejected when offered and reported when demanded.
However, findings have shown that reporting of bribery remains lows. According to the NBS survey “In 2019, out of all citizens who had to pay a bribe, only 3.6 y per cent reported their latest bribe payment to an official institution capable of conducting an investigation or otherwise following up and acting on that report.”
Several factors are responsible for the low level of bribery reporting ranging from inaction on the part of authorities, victimization, and acceptance of bribery as a common practice.
It revealed that “51 per cent of those who reported a bribery incident experienced either no follow-up, were discouraged from reporting or suffered negative consequences.”
“Furthermore, the main reasons for not reporting a bribe, among those who experienced a bribe, were that paying a bribe is such a common practice in Nigeria that it is not worth reporting it (35 per cent of all bribe-payers who did not report the incident) and that filing a report would be pointless as nobody would care (28 per cent).”
It is unfortunate that most reported cases of bribery are never followed-up, and the resultant effect of this is a gradual acceptance of these corrupt acts as a norm. The practice of giving tips to public officials has become so acceptable that most citizens would readily give it even when it is not demanded. While this may appear as an innocent act of appreciation it, however, puts the next citizen in an unfavourable position if he or she fails to give some tips too.
The fact that it takes two to tangle in bribery should not be undermined. While the party that demands a bribe may be at a greater fault, the party that gives in or gladly offers one even when it is not demanded should not be exonerated either. If the war against corruption would be won then the actions, opinions, and perceptions of the Nigerian population about corruption are important.
Citizens’ attitudes about the acceptance or refusal of bribes can influence the behaviour of others. When faced with bribe requests, citizens’ willingness to resist and report the cases would go a long way in discouraging the practice.
Hence, the fight against bribery and corruption must not be tilted towards the side of the demander but must equally focus on the end of the one who always offers without resistance and particularly on the one who always offers even when it is not demanded.
CREDIT: This research/investigation/story was supported by the US embassy via the ATUPA fellowship by Civic Hive.