Bribery in Nigeria is slightly less prevalent but with unabated frequency

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The survey on bribery in Nigeria is an evidence of the concern major stakeholders express with regard to being a major impediment to the development of the Nation’s economy. The present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has it as one of its main focus; to fight the menace. while there are results and global recognition for the effort, day-to-day experiences shows clearly that the gravity of the phenomenon is beyond the current effort and approach in the war.

The first survey was conducted in 2016 by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and UK Aid. This second survey released this week was conducted between May and June 2019.

The report reveals that, the prevalence of bribery in Nigeria has undergone a moderate, yet statistically significant, decrease to 30.1 percent from 32.3 per cent observed in 2016.  This is still relatively high when weighed against the time span and the pressure it still exert on the growth of the economy.

Although there is a slight decrease in prevalence, frequency did not reduce. According to the report, Nigerian bribe-payers paid an average of 6 bribes in the 12 months prior to the survey, or one bribe every two months, which is virtually the same as the average of 5.8 bribes paid per bribe-payer in 2016. As a result, it is estimated that some 117 million bribes are paid in Nigeria on a yearly basis, the equivalent of 1.1 bribes per adult.

This frequency is traceable to increased contact with public officials which increased from 52 percent in 2016 to 63 percent in 2019.

In perception of Nigerians regarding bribery, around 9 per cent of Nigerians considered corruption to be the most important problem facing their country, a significant decrease from the 14 per cent recorded in the 2016 survey. This is because a lot of Nigerians now shift attention to security and healthcare as more pressing than bribery. Implication of this is that Nigerians are now dangerously accepting corruption as a norm in the society.

More encouraging is the reduction in prevalence of bribery in relation to security personnel and prosecutors. The share of people who paid a bribe to a police officer, out of all those who had at least one contact with a police officer in the 12 months prior to the 2019 survey, decreased from 46 to 33 per cent. The prevalence of bribery in relation to prosecutors decreased from 33 to 23 per cent, judges/magistrates from 31 to 20 per cent, customs and immigration officers from 31 to 17 per cent and embassy/consulate officers from 16 to 8 per cent. The decrease in the prevalence of bribery in relation to customs/immigration officers, judges/magistrates and police officers was particularly significant in rural areas, but less so in urban areas.

What about trend in reporting bribery incidence? The report reveals that in 2019, out of all citizens who had to pay a bribe, only 3.6 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. Although this situation has remained virtually unchanged since 2016, when the bribery reporting rate was 3.7 per cent, a significantly smaller proportion of bribery reports were made to the police in 2019 than in 2016 (out of all bribe-payers who reported the bribery incident to an authority in 2016, 56 per cent reported it to the police, versus 43 per cent in 2019) and, by contrast, reports to anti-corruption agencies increased from 4 to 8 per cent. The low level of bribery reporting is largely explained by the fact 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).

The fight against corruption is majorly directed at the public sector since the management of the nation’s affairs is entrusted to public officials either elected or appointed. Even as much as this fight is being publicized, corruption remain unabated. The findings in this report regarding public sector recruitment confirms the secret information that flies around about spending money to get recruited. The survey findings indicate that the public sector recruitment process requires closer monitoring as almost one third (32.5 per cent) of people who secured a job in the public sector in the last three years admitted that they paid a bribe, either personally (16.4 per cent) or through a member of their household (16.1 per cent), to facilitate their recruitment, more than double the share in 2016, when the combined total reached 16 per cent.

Regarding vote buying, the report revealed that in May/June 2019, 21 per cent of the adult population reported that in the last national or state election they were personally offered money or a favour in exchange for their vote.

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