…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.