Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The head of Nigeria's anti-corruption agency, Farida Waziri , recently voiced her frustration with the slow progress her agency is making in its quest to reduce fraud and corruption in the country. Waziri opined that Chinese-style capital punishment for corruption convicts,

"is the only thing that will save the country, truly. Because corruption is much and the people are not concerned. If someone steals public funds, they will honour him without condemning the person. With this, our country will continue to be backward."[sic]
The real question is, would the death penalty be an apt deterrent to those considering ro already participating in corruption?
Nigerians are known to be very happy people who love life. There is even a common joke that Nigerians like life too much to die or do anything to quicken death's door. However, that mentality has not stopped Nigerians from committing crimes that have the death penalty as the final repercussion. Consequently, there is little reason to believe that the death penaly will be a true deterrent to those who practice corruption.

The same Waziri who would want the death penalty for the corrupt, once argued that the legal system delayed the ability of her agency to bring more individuals to justice. So, would it be this same legal system that Waziri believes will issue death penalties for the many individuals her organization is yet to charge or even take to court? Particularly the big fish who wantonly steal from the people to finance their expensive lifestyles. The very issues Waziri allegedly faces in trying the corrupt, particularly those with the money to hire very efficient counsel, will be present whether or not the death penalty is the punishment of choice for corruption convictions. As such, the death penalty will not deter the powerful, many of whom reportedly hire young touts to carry out online scams, from engaging in fraudulent activties.

Unfortunately, the only thing a death penalty for corruption convictions will do is skew the number of poorer people who are arrested and judged as corrupt, thus increasing conviction rates, executions and statistics for Waziri to claim success. As is typically the case, the disadvantaged usually suffer the negatively overwhelming effects of such punishment schemes.

While it is understandable why Waziri or others might consider the Chinese execution-for-corruption style as enviable, it must not be forgotten that China's legal system, while swift does not provide much room for accused to actually get a fair day in court. The Chinese system is known to favor the objectives of the Communist party which uses individuals as examples to retain an image of control and stability not just for citizens but for foreign observers. If Nigeria is to be a democracy, it cannot aspire for Chinese-justice, no matter how delectable it might initially appear.

The EFCC would do better to work harder, and get more funding so as to hire better lawyers with more resources so as to successfully tackle the corrupt in court. Doing that will improve the agency's reputation and possibly create more goodwill and trust of its actions and intentions. Most importantly, whether or not the death penalty ever becomes the punishment for those convicted of corruption, the hard work needed to reduce corrupt practices in the country will still need to be done. No amount of executions will ever reduce that burden.

Related Articles of Interest:
- Nigeria's Persisting Punishment Problem
- Nigeria's Punishment Problem
- Crime & Punishment: The Nigerian Edition
- Nigeria is Not The Home Of Cyber Crime
- Microsoft, Nigeria & Cyber Crime
- Greed, Scammers & A Recession

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Sugabelly said...

I can't wait until Farida Waziri is found to be embezzling money through the EFCC. Wasn't she just recently embroiled in the questionable EFCC practice of taking 10% off the spoils of their Debtor recovery efforts?

I hope she'll go willingly to the firing squad or whatever it is they use in executions these days.
Talk is cheap.

webround said...

Waziri should show us someone who has been effecitvely prosecuted and given the current maximum penalty, and in addition forfeited the recovered funds. You should only be thinking about stiffer penalties if you can proove that people have suffered the current penalties but are still not deterred from committing the same offence.

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