OPINION: CONNECTIONS BETWEEN PEACE AND CORRUPTION 

“When discussing corruption, the nexus of its relationship with peace should also take center stage.”  Between 21st-24th November 2017, Kent Law School, Kent University in partnership with several other organizations such as MacArthur Foundation, Global Witness, Human and Environmental Development Agenda and others held an anti corruption program here in Nigeria. The event was split into two and they both took place in Lagos and Abuja respectively. In the Abuja program, which took place on 23rd November 2017 at Rock View Hotel, I represented our organization, Foundation for Peace Professionals, Co-Convener at the Citizens Action To Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN).

The conference, themed Tracking Noxious Funds was basically aimed at educating participants, not just about how financial crimes are being perpetrated by public officers and looted out of the country, it is also aimed at unraveling how illicit funds are being laundered through hitherto legitimate organizations, most especially multinational companies. The event is therefore attempted to prepare media practitioners and civil society organizations on how to track these noxious funds and facilitate the return of those already looted out of the country.

One of the facilitators, who is also the Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye said the citizens had the responsibility to ensure that governments acted rightly, while also reporting crimes. In his presentation, he stated that citizens have responsibility to hold government accountable and to put pressure on government officials so that they will always do the right things.

He went further to state that, corruption is the cause of many of the social and economic challenges Nigeria is currently facing. Hence, he opined that the people must join the government in fighting corruption because the government cannot combat it alone.

Truly, corruption is the bane of most African countries. According to the report of AU/ECA High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows 2014, more than $1 trillion in illicit financial flows (IFFs) is said to have been lost in Africa within the past 50 years and these funds typically originate from three main sources. Firstly, commercial tax evasion, trade mis-invoicing and abusive transfer pricing by multi national companies. The second aspect involves criminal activities, including the drug trade, human trafficking, illegal arms dealing, and the smuggling of contraband etc. The third component comprises corruption, bribery and theft by corrupt government officials.

While the facilitators, particularly Barrister Femi Falana (SAN) properly linked corruption to economic underdevelopment and explained how to track and return these noxious funds, nothing was said of the effect of corruption on peace.

Globally, corruption has been increasingly identified as a major threat to stability and peace. This was further acknowledged in a report by transparency international (2014), which found out that corruption increases the risk of conflict and conflict increases the risk of corruption.  However, it has been observed that in Nigeria, hardly do people talk about peace when discussing corruption. It is as if they often assume issues of corruption and peace is exclusive.

Probably this is also why peace perspective is not factored in when discussing anti corruption. But we must ask, does corruption not have effect on peace?  In a 2015 Peace and Corruption Index done by the Institute for Economic Peace (IEP) which is themed lowering corruption-a transformative factor for peace, it was discovered that there is a statistically significant relationship between peace and corruption.

The most striking aspect of this relationship is said to be the presence of a ‘tipping point’

If a country has low level of corruption, then increase in corruption will have little effect on peace. However, once a certain threshold is reached, small increases in corruption can result in large decreases in peace.

The study also finds that, changes in corruption drive changes in peace, whereas changes in peace do not appear to influence corruption.

Further analysis highlights that corruption within the police, judiciary and government are the most statistically significant forms of corruption associated with falling levels of peace. The relationship between the ‘tipping point’ and peace can be explained by high levels of corruption in these institutions.

Just recently, the 2016 National Corruption Survey by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) found out that the police and judiciary are the most corrupt sectors in Nigeria. According to the report, 46.4 per cent of Nigerians have had “bribery contact” with police officers.

That is the worst case, compared to 33 per cent with prosecutors and 31.5 per cent with Judges/magistrates. This shows a significant connection between corruption in Nigeria and the lack of peace.

IEP also maintained that, increases in police and judicial corruption directly undermine the rule of law, thereby increasing political instability and can lead to the collapse of those institutions which were designed to prevent violence and conflict. This occurs in many fragile and low capacity contexts whereby once corruption reaches a certain point, police forces no longer perform a useful function in controlling crime, but rather become part of the problem. This situation is said common in contexts where the police are synonymous with criminal gangs, can act with impunity or are completely ineffective at solving crime unless bribed to do so.

It was further discovered that, corruption fuel conflict and instability in three different ways. Firstly, it fuel social and political grievances, in particular a sense of inequality and injustice, as corruption distorts government decisions and undermines the provision of public services. Secondly, the rents seeking opportunities that come with corruption can provide incentives for violent conflict as those excluded from power use violence to seek access and control over these opportunities. And thirdly, corruption can undermine both the capacity and legitimacy of the state. By depriving state of resources and by misallocating them, corruption weakens the ability of the state to provide key public services, including security. It is therefore imperative that when discussing corruption, the nexus of its relationship with peace should also take center stage.

Written by Abdulrazaq O. Hamzat, a Human Rights Ambassador and Executive Director of Foundation for Peace Professionals.
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