When President Olusegun Obasanjo, declared Corruption as Nigeria ‘s public enemy Number One, he certainly hit the nail on the head. From a relatively mild manifestation at the country’s independence, corruption mushroomed at an alarming rate through the Second Republic . During the several years of military misrule, it became institutionalized and assaulted every facet of the country’s political and socio-economic fibre. It caused the distortion and diversion of government welfare programmes and undermined the goals of development.
The World Bank’s Federal Public Expenditure Review published in 1995 claimed that approximately US$ 200 billion was invested in Nigeria , between 1973 and 1993, with very little development to show for it. Thus by the time the President assumed the mantle of leadership in 1999, the country indeed had become deeply entrenched in a deep morass of moral turpitude and economic privation.
That corruption has done incalculable damage to the Nigerian nation is stating the obvious. Morally it has debased the time-honoured ethical values of uprightness, selflessness, contentment, industry; and enthroned duplicity, crass selfishness, avarice, and indolence. Everyone, it appears, became seized by a frenzy to take the short cut to achievement, from students to teachers; employees to employers; congregation to clergy. Politically, it provided an unfortunate excuse for the military incursion into the arena of power which brought about years of agonizing assault on the collective psyche of Nigerians. Economically, corruption rendered Nigeria a classic study in the paradox of grinding poverty in the midst of God-given abundant resources. The economy became comatose as investors, both local and foreign, lost confidence in the system and existing infrastructure went into severe rot. Massive brain drain resulted as professionals trained with the country’s resources, trooped abroad in their large numbers to greener pastures benefiting other societies with Nigeria ‘s investments and intellectual resources while the country groaned under a dearth of crucial expertise.
Before the democratic dispensation of President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007), preceding administrations had successively instituted legal instruments, measures and policies designed to combat corruption in the country. Paradoxically, rather than achieve the desired results, there were anomalies in the implementation of these remedial measures that engendered a culture of impunity and rendered the malaise more chronic. Thus to save Nigeria from very imminent collapse, the President declared a total war on corruption. The first bill he sent to the National Assembly was a bill to prohibit and prescribe punishment for corrupt practices. That bill was subsequently passed as the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 and was signed into law by the President on 13th June 2000. The Act 2000 is the enabling legal instrument of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The Commission was inaugurated on 29th September 2000. Its duties as delineated in Section 6 (a-f) of the Act 2000 can be summarized thus:
- To receive and investigate reports of corrupt offences as created by the Act and in appropriate cases prosecute the offender(s) – Enforcement duties.
- To examine, review and enforce the correction of corruption-prone systems and procedures of public bodies, with a view to eliminating or minimizing corruption in public life – prevention duties.
- To Educate and enlighten the public on and against corruption with a view to enlisting and fostering public support for the fight against it – Education and Public Mobilization duties.
Aside from the very obvious challenges of setting up shop, the case filed by the Attorney – General of Ondo State, arising from ICPC’s first corruption case in May 2001, querying the constitutionality of the Act 2000, effectively paralyzed activities of the Commission until June 7, 2002 when the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the legislation.
In 2003, the defunct National Assembly scrapped the Commission by revoking the Act 2000 and promulgating a bogus Act as a replacement. This unpatriotic move was overturned by the Abuja Federal High Court on the grounds that the law was passed without following due procedure.