There is something strange afoot in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. Animals have been making away with huge sums of money. No, this is not a euphemism.
When a team of auditors recently tried to check the accounts of the Nigerian exam board for public universities, â‚¦36m (naira) (about US$100,000) could not be accounted for. A clerk reported that the money had been stolen from the vault by a “snake”, which swallowed it. Then, in February, a senator, defending a colleague accused of misappropriating funds, suggested that a missing â‚¦70m (about US$194,600) was carted away by monkeys on the other senator’s farm.
The stories are not a reflection of strange evolutionary behaviour. They highlight the profound corruption problems that exist in Nigeria.
The bane of corruption
Corruption is the bane of many societies. Usually involving public officials abusing their position for the sake of personal gain, corruption damages the legitimacy of government in the eyes of citizens and weakens the social fabric of society. Not to mention the fact that public money does not go towards much needed facilities like education and healthcare.
Research also shows that corruption increases the cost of doing business and reduces investment. It leads to less satisfaction with the government, lower levels of social and institutional trust, and a greater willingness to break rules. This might, in turn, create a vicious circle of even more corruption, inefficiency and lower economic growth.
Corruption is seen as a particular problem in Africa and emerging economies in general. In Nigeria, it has been highlighted that many problems, including the Boko Haram insurgency, feed off corruption. When he ran for the presidency in 2015, Muhammadu Buhari promised to prioritise the fight against corruption.
Yet things seem to only be getting worse. Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog, revealed in late February that corruption in Nigeria actually worsened between 2016 and 2017. Out of 180 countries assessed in 2017 as part of the annual Corruption Perception Index, Nigeria ranked 148 – a fall from 136 in 2016.
It is important to note that even Transparency International acknowledges that no country is completely clean. And, when considering Buhari’s record on fighting corruption, it’s worth remembering that he has recently sacked the head of the country’s anti-corruption agency over allegations that US$5 billion had gone missing, allegations the agency head has denied.