The issue of corruption has been a bane to Africa’s development. From the head to the tail, corruption continues to starve the continent of the resources needed to marathon her into development. Despite the clamoring, campaigns and statutes to prevent it, corruption still continues to be perpetuated as if it were as acceptable as the green light in our daily lives.
It would take [no more than] few hours, after arriving in most African Countries, to feel the pinch of corruption. At airports, you would meet Immigration officers as beggars with premeditated intention to trade state security for money. On the streets, you would see a traffic policeman whose sole aim is to extort as much money as he could possibly count, not seeing any danger in his breaking the law.
In government institutions, you would come to find a morally weak civil servant whose primary concern is augmenting his pittance of a salary. In Market and business places; you will find citizens who are preoccupied with the burdens of daily survival that everything becomes blurred as right and normal even when wrong. These are the common settings of unscrupulous pursuits in many countries that grossly undermine the moral panache required to fight corruption!
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In Africa’s big cities it is easy to locate conspicuous bill boards which denounce corruption, these advertisements have become symbols of perception and hope. Whilst our billboards will say ‘’NO TO CORRUPTION’’, the reality differs as people become more engulfed in the act than never before. One would therefore come to ask what have the countless statutes, campaigns and advocacies about corruption come to yield?
African Countries have different but similar Anti-graft laws. If you take a circular perusal of Anti graft statutes in Africa, they are basically the same and all geared towards punishment but not necessarily rehabilitation of the convict. In actual fact, the legal pattern of these statutes, to some extent, makes Corruption thrive. I might seem cynical but let me zoom in on one empirical fact of pervasive corruption in the continent. The renowned global watchdog, Transparency International, says about Africa in their 2016 Corruption Perception Report that:
“Overall, 40 of the 46 countries covered on the continent showed a serious corruption problem. Indicators for rule of law and justice scored particularly badly, while improvements were witnessed with regard to transparency in financial management. Of the African countries covered in the index, only eight countries improved their overall scores in the latest index, while scores in 20 countries deteriorated.”
This should vibrate some consciousness in African Leaders to rise up against Corruption like never before. The main capture here to reinforce my stance is how the indicators on Justice tend to score low - the Justice Indicators include statutes against Corruption, their effectiveness and functionality in serving as a deterrent to preventing the recurrence of Corruption.
Of the many statutes against corruption that is easily violated but sometimes difficult to prove in court; the Misappropriation of Public Funds is common. I will ignore the prosecutorial aspect and focus on the conviction. In a given situation, where a public Officer who misappropriates a whooping sum of $50,000 is found guilty and upon conviction gets fined, as an option, a fraction of that sum, would you think such a person can feel and regret the weight of his/her misdeeds?, the answer is certainly NO. Such are the very reasons why corruption continues to pervade the corridors of Africa.
The statutes against corruption are not a deterrence to baulk people from engaging in corruption but rather to allow them to give it a “TEST’’. Have you wondered why China is far from Corruption, The Supreme People’s Court Of China recently raised the corruption threshold to death penalty! Meaning that officials found guilty of bloated and serious corruption could now face the firing squad!
I am not in any way insinuating that African Countries must adopt similar statutes for corruption but we must raise the penalty threshold to such a level that makes Corruption a high risk and low profit venture. We must make laws that far outweigh the benefits of corruption. Statutes that give you no second chance in life for gross corruption offenses - this is what we mean by deterrence. We should strive to ensure that a man is punished to the degree of the crime committed so that others would see and detest doing same.
About The Author
Sulaiman is an International Panelist at Ignite The Youth and is one of the longest serving members of the society. He has worked extensively with anti-corruption agencies in Sierra Leone and continues to be fully engaged with movements spearheading the fight against corruption throughout Africa.