Nigerian Media and Curbing Corruption

 Corruption remains a symptom of a poorly functioning state as witnessed in most developing countries such as Nigeria. Indeed, those who give and receive bribes can expropriate a nation’s wealth, leaving little for its poorest citizens. Highly corrupt countries often face particular challenges even when controlled by reform-minded rulers.

Reforming public institutions and government policies is essential but poverty limits available options. Policymakers, however, can arrive at plausible solutions only after understanding corruption’s effect on the efficiency and equity of an economic system.

The culture of corruption through what Nigerians has come to know, as settlement syndrome has become part of the country’s political culture. All the positive values for development have been jettisoned. Governmental agencies that are the pilots of socioeconomic developments were decimated. The past and present civilian governments have their own share of corruption in Nigeria.

A critical element of a country’s anticorruption programme is an effective media. The media have a dual role to play; it not only raises public awareness about corruption, its causes, consequences and possible remedies but also investigates and reports incidences of corruption aiding other oversight (and prosecutorial) bodies. The persistence of Transparency International (2002) in setting Nigeria among the bottom five nations in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) since 1995 is an indication that media has not performed this role effectively.

In broad terms, corruption can be described as “socially impermissible deviance from some public duties or more generally some ideal standard of underdevelopment and cyclical failure of democracy to take root in Africa. Corruption is indeed worse than terrorism.

We need to pay attention to corruption because of its devastating effect on the economy. The cost of corruption exceeds by far the damages caused by any other single crime. “Corruption worsens the investment climate, and undermines competitiveness of national economics. Corruption’s impact on foreign investment is considered to be particularly harmful for a developing economy. Corruption not only raises the initial costs of investment but also by increasing risks and uncertainty, can reduce the incentive to invest. Foreign direct investment is vital to a developing country and it is crucial to produce a climate for investments. Corruption makes it difficult for a low-income country to establish and maintain trustworthy and consistent economic conditions. Corruption also reduces economic growth, enhances inequalities, and reduces the government’s capacity to respond to society. Corruption distorts economic and social development by engendering wrong choices and by encouraging competition in bribery rather than in the quality and price of goods and services and, all too often, it means that the quality and price of goods and services and, all too often, it means that the world’s poorest must pay for the corruption of their own officials and of multinationals’ agents.

Corruption leads to a growing gap between the rich and the poor and deepens poverty by enriching a few at the expense of fellow citizens. Under a corrupt system, there is a concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny minority of the population. Consequently income distribution becomes highly skewed. Closely associated with the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, a distorted consumption pattern, aimed at meeting the luxurious lifestyle of the urban elite, emerges.

Successive governments in Nigeria have put in place several anticorruption measures and strategies such as Ethical Reorientation Campaign of Shagari’s Second Republic, War Against Indiscipline (WAI) of the Buhari/Idiagbon regime, Babangida’s Committee on Corruption and other Economic Crimes and War Against Corruption.

Other efforts include setting up of probe panels, commission of enquiries and tribunals (e.g. Failed Bank Tribunal) to try corrupt individuals. By laws such as Money Laundering Act 2003, Advance Free Fraud and Fraud Related Offences Act of 1995, Foreign Exchange Act of 1995, Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act of 2000 were also enacted to back probe panels and tribunals.

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established in 2003 to complement the zero tolerance for corruption crusade of Obasanjo’s administration and to combat financial and economic crimes. The Commission is empowered to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalize economic and financial crimes and is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes.The involvement of  the media in anti-corruption crusade cut across the public and private sector of the economy either directly or indirectly.

Generally, the media in Nigeria as in every other country has continued to inform the populace on government programmes and policies, on erring institutions and members of the public (private or government employee). Government projects that involve huge sums of money are not only reported to the public but also monitored and reported in both print and broadcast media. Any noticeable mismanagement of resources during or after the completion of such projects is also widely reported. They also ensure that such a misdemeanor is not only reported but it is also given necessary follow – up. For instance, the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Nigeria usually end with government approving multi-billion  naira projects that will impact positively on the life of the populace; such as rehabilitation of railway, construction of roads, power generation, among others. The following day, the media will be flooded with the news on these projects – the location, the amount involved as well as the contractor engaged.

The role of the media is critical in efforts against corruption. As a result, there must be careful structuring of the relationship between anti-corruption officials and, in many cases, there must also be efforts to develop or enhance the capabilities of the media to ensure that they can function effectively as recipients of information about corruption, who would appraise such information in an independent manner, use it meaningfully as the basis of further communication and disseminate it to the general public.

In addition to independence and credibility, critical functions of the journalistic media include their ability to digest, render detailed technical materials accessible to the general population. This is essential to general awareness raising and public education, and also entails a high degree of responsibility and the exercise of discretion, since it necessarily involves editorial or “gatekeeping” exercises, in which the media must decide which information to report and which to leave out. Some of the critical issues that will enhance the role of media in curbing corruption are as follows: The autonomy of the media is essential to enable it to assess government information critically and objectively and to ensure its reports are credible to the population as a whole. Thus, Government contacts with the media must be transparent, and they must not compromise the essential autonomy of the media, either in practice or in public perceptions. For the media to assess anti-corruption efforts critically and independently they must possess adequate technical, legal, economic and other expertise. In many cases, other sources, such as retained professional or academic experts, can supplement the knowledge of general media reporters. Training, awareness-raising and technical briefing of media personnel in anti-corruption efforts may also be useful.

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