Temie Giwa: Nothing will happen if we do not change the governance system (YNaija FrontPage)

 …the vast majority of the people, 98%, will be dishonest and will cheat if they can get away with it

There are two concepts I must introduce to explain today’s hypothesis, which is that Nigeria must simplify anti-corruption efforts extensively before we can break the corruption cycle that is directly and indirectly responsible for all of Nigeria’s ills.

First, the most efficient way of driving behavioural change is through incentives. Give people the right incentive to do whatever it is you want and they will. Racism, sexism, kindness, saving the earth, and corruption all have prices and all a policy maker needs to do is to find the right price and viola, behavior change. I call this the “Incentive Rule”. All humans respond to incentives.

Most people are inherently untrustworthy if you make it easy for them to be so. A recent study by Dan Ariely, an economist at Duke University, recently theorized that 1% of all people are dishonest and another 1% is honest. However, the vast majority of the people, 98%, will be dishonest and will cheat if they can get away with it. This second concept, I will call “the Lock Rule”. 1% of people will always pick a lock, another 1% will never steal even if there is a sign that says, “please steal”, but 98% will steal if the door is open but will not pick a lock. Thus, the lock on your door is an incentive to dissuade 98% of your neighbors from stealing your properties.

Recently the “Fuel Subsidy” saga highlighted the ferocious hold that corruption has on our country. Nobody is immune. The powerful do it and the less powerful bribe their way into a better life. Corruption is a rule in Nigeria and if one were to ask a market woman, a barber, a banker, or a terrorist, what the problem with Nigeria is, the uniformity of their answers (which will be “corruption”) chills. Corruption has cost Nigeria so much money and lives that it will be almost impossible to quantify the loss. We need to do something to rapidly change the status quo. However, I believe the traditional strategy of trials and law enforcement agents, corruption agencies, and tribunals, are not working. What is the likelihood that a corrupt Nigerian minister that stole millions of naira in public money or a corrupt policeman that takes bribes on the side of the road will go to jail? I am willing to bet that this chance is largely miniscule. The fact that Ibori had to be tried and convicted out of Nigeria in spite of how much Nuru Ribadu’s EFCC attempted to convict him shows how ineffectual our strategy is and has been.

So what works?

Non-Conviction Assert Forfeiture Law (NCAFL) is a law that allows the courts to confiscate any property of a citizen whose legal income does not match the price of the said property. In short, a representative who just bought a brand new mansion and drives a Lamborghini is probably corrupt. As such, all the government needs to do is to present a petition to a court to confiscate said properties. A proper NCAFL also shifts the burden of proof from the prosecution to the accused.

This law does two fantastic things at once. It gives 98% of the population an overwhelming incentive to choose not to be corrupt since the fruit of said corruption can be taken away without much effort from the government and the burden of proving you are not corrupt is now yours. An Assert Forfeiture law is a lock on the door to the government coffers. The other promising result of this law is that it frees the Nigerian Anti-Corruption agencies to focus on the 1% who are truly corrupt. A NCAFL law has been sitting and collecting dust at the NASS for years and its time we restart a conversation about this possible game changer.

A caveat: Nothing I have written will happen if we do not change the governance system. No leader, no representative nor senator will pass this useful law until the people rise. The best way to do this is to fight for the transfer of all public resources to the people.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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Comments (9)

  1. Temie, l agree with you on the citizenry putting pressure on the Legislature to pass the NCAFL into law. That was exactly how FOI bill was birthed. However, l refuse to believe that the MIF is useless in Nigeria. Can you for one moment visualize the scenario where you have a Nigerian President who is willing to fight corruption with all the extant powers of his office? It would naturally cascade down the hierarchy, trust me!

  2. A well written article by a very cerebral lady. However, l would like to differ just a teeny-weeny bit.
    First of,the issue of incentives is quite tricky since its difficult from my perspective, to see how well it’d work. In Africa, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for good governance is about the biggest incentive we have in this regard. However, that hasn’t stopped the plethora of bad governance challenges all across the continent. Infact, two years back, no winner emerged!!
    Realistically, if the spoils of my corruptive actions in terms of value, far outweigh whatever incentive there is, l wouldn’t give a hoot.
    On the part of the NCAFL, l want to ask (as a lay-man) if the plea bargain ish we operate isn’t an off-shoot of that law. Over and above the points you have made, members of the NASS have to show the political will that they truly desire CHANGE. So far, it seems far fetched. We all know how they’ve treated bills which are somewhat game changers like the PIB and FOI. It would surely take the grace of God for the NCAFL to see the light of day. Even then, we still have the Judiciary to contend with in upholding it WHEN and IF it becomes law!!!

    1. Thanks 9jaBloke. I appreciate your comment.
      I think the MIF’s incentive is useless in Nigeria. Corruption is diffused in the country and Mo Ibrahim’s strategy focuses only on the president and not his thousands of Aides, Ministers, Special Assistants who all want to eat. Asset Forfeiture targets everyone and its a fear tactic rather than a reward. An immediate stick is more efficient in preventing corruption than a small carrot in 10 years.

      Getting NCAFL passed is a matter of pressure. Our role here (citizens) is to build pressure on NASS and the government to get them to pass this law. It is imperative that we get out there and protest! protest! protest! This is in our power.

      It doesn’t take God, my friend, it takes pressure.

  3. Absolutely fantastic. Never knew such bill exist in NASS. A call for such bill can bring about building our institutions rather than focus of individual.

    1. Bayo,

      You will be surprised at how many potentially useful bills the NASS sits on! Everyone knows that institutional change is the only path to development in Nigeria but the issue, as it always is, is who will bell the cat? No one that currently has a leadership position in that country is willing to cut off the hand that feeds.

      Again, we have to get out there again and demand that our oil money be sent to us soon as possible. It is the only way to drive complete institutional change.


  4. Finally someone gets it. These are the conversations we should be having…..instead of GEJ is a thief, Buhari is a hero etc

    1. Thank you Bayo! I am glad you agree.

  5. My wife is a socialist :).

    1. Tsk Tsk! This is not about socialism Sir, but about giving people incentives not to cheat the system. Prevention is better than cure.

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