OPINION: Stealing Is Really Not Corruption

President Goodluck Jonathan has been heavily criticized for his tolerance for corruption and massive stealing in ‘high places’. In a chat with the media a couple of months ago, he stated clearly “stealing is not corruption”, this was an attempt to quote Justice Dahiru Musdapher who said most cases being prosecuted by anti-graft agencies are common cases of stealing and not corruption and should be handled by the police at the lower courts. Mr. President seemed to have misunderstood the statement; however, he may be saved by being technically correct, but next time Sir, if you cannot copy accurately then don’t paste. Recently, President Jonathan also made it clear in his first campaign rally that he has perpetually tackled corruption by tightening organizational systems but is not interested in displaying culprits on national TV. I am not a fan of President Jonathan’s style of governance, he is a nice man as a person, it is his policies I have issues with. The issue of whether stealing is corruption or not is a mere play of semantics, it seems wrong prima facie but when considered objectively, they are two different contexts. First of all, what is stealing? To steal is a deliberate act of taking something without permission or legal right and without the mens rea (intention) to return it. People who work for agencies who take government funds are stealing but this act is being done because of corruption in the system; that is the difference. When there are leakages in an organization or where there is no close monitoring, auditing etc then such organization is corrupt. To make it more lucid, if a person picks your laptop without your permission for instance, then he has stolen it but when a virus gets into your computer’s system and makes it less efficient (drains your battery, destroys your documents etc) then you say your computer has been corrupted. Public institutions in Nigeria are truly and equally less efficient today because of similar corruption. Therefore, corruption is a systematic problem and not a corporeal one and it is much wider in context than stealing just as Justice Musdapher insinuated. Anyone can steal but corruption is an institutional problem, stealing is a financial crime as a result of a corrupt system. A person cannot just steal in UK for instance because the system in place would either block them or catch them, their system is not corrupt. President Jonathan has proven his assertion by making the revamp of the agricultural sector a prototype. Prior to this time, fertilizers meant for local farmers were being stolen by middlemen for personal use and being sold at higher prices but the federal government successfully curbed this by improving the system, the e-wallet was created first by creating a farmers database, establishing a distribution system by putting farmers first in groups and cutting-off middlemen thereby allowing farmers to get fertilizers directly and on time, this improvement of the system in turn saved the country 776 Billion Naira in one year. People could no longer steal because the agricultural system was no longer corrupt, the virus were the middlemen and they were removed. To make stealing impossible, tackle the corruption in the system. Anti-graft agencies are meant to be the antivirus of the Nigerian system but when the President corrupts the anti-graft agencies by making them witch-hunting tools then who will cure the curer? This is the challenge befalling Nigeria at the moment and the responsibility lies in the hands of the President, that is why I don’t support his government because he has institutionalized corruption and has not extended anti-corruption efforts to other important sectors. As a matter of fact, Nigerians owe the development of the agricultural sector mainly to the Minister, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina from Ogun State for his commitment, innovativeness and insight. Stealing in the Nigerian system can be tackled if the President is committed to it, unfortunately he is not, I don’t know why Alamieyesigha was pardoned and what the likes of Diezani Allison-Madueke and Chinedu Nebo are still doing in office. Curbing corruption is all about removing questionable people and convicting them, putting the right people in the right places, developing ideas, improving technology, making good laws and changing the mode of work by proper restructuring; it is that simple. Mr. President, I hope this helps.

***This is an opinion of which the bearer is entitled to and must not be judged, any other legal person is equally entitled to hold one in accordance to the fundamental right of freedom of expression.

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