Wednesday, August 16, 2017 10:00AM / NBS
Almost a third of Nigerian citizens pay bribes when in contact with public officials
Almost a third of Nigerian citizens (32.3 per cent) who had contact with a public official between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay, or were requested to pay, a bribe to that public official. The magnitude of public sector bribery in Nigeria becomes even more palpable when factoring in the frequency of those payments, as the majority of those who paid a bribe to a public official did so more than once over the course of the year. According to the survey, Nigerian bribe-payers pay an average of some six bribes in one year, or roughly one bribe every two months.
On average, almost one bribe is paid by every adult Nigerian per year
By combining the total number of people who paid a bribe to a public official with the frequency of those payments, it is estimated that a total of roughly 82.3 million bribes were paid in Nigeria in the 12 months prior to the survey. This results in an average of 0.93 bribes paid per adult, or almost one bribe paid by every adult Nigerian per year.
NGN 400 billion spent on bribes every year
Taking into account the fact that nine out of every ten bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria are paid in cash and the size of the payments made, it is estimated that the total amount of bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria in the 12 months prior to the survey was around 402 billion Nigerian Naira (NGN), the equivalent of $4.6 billion in purchasing power parity (PPP). This sum is equivalent to 39 per cent of the combined federal and state education budgets in 2016.
Nigerian bribe-payers spend an eighth of their salary on bribes
The average sum paid as a cash bribe in Nigeria is approximately NGN 5,300, which is equivalent to roughly $61-PPP. This means that every time a Nigerian pays a cash bribe, he or she spends an average of about 28.2 per cent of the average monthly salary of approximately NGN 18,900. Since Nigerian bribe-payers pay an average of 5.8 bribes over the course of one year, 91.9 per cent of which are paid in cash, they spend an average of NGN 28,200 annually on cash bribes ― equivalent to 12.5 per cent of the annual average salary.
Prevalence and frequency of bribery at the national level, urban/rural level and by zone, Nigeria, 2016
Nigerians consider bribery the third most important problem facing their country
The above findings could explain why, after the high cost of living and unemployment, Nigerians consider corruption to be the third most important problem facing their country, well ahead of the state of the country’s infrastructure and health service. Public sector bribery is not the only form of corruption affecting Nigeria: the prevalence of bribery in relation to selected employees of private companies is 5.5 per cent, meaning that bribery is also significant in the private sector in Nigeria. However, the payment of bribes to public officials is the most familiar and widespread form of corruption directly experienced by the population and the one that most affects the lives of ordinary citizens.
How bribery works
Public officials in Nigeria show little hesitation in asking for a bribe
The vast majority of bribery episodes in Nigeria are initiated either directly or indirectly by public officials (85.3 per cent), almost 70 per cent of bribes are paid before a service is rendered and, with nine out of every ten bribes paid to public officials being paid in cash, the payment of money is by the far the most dominant form of bribe payment in Nigeria. With such a large portion of public officials initiating bribery episodes it seems that many public officials show little hesitation in asking for a kickback to carry out their duty and that bribery is an established part of the administrative procedure in Nigeria.
While money is by far the most important form of bribe giving in Nigeria, the survey shows that other forms of bribe payments exist, such as the provision of food and drink, handing over valuables or the exchange with another service or favour. Evidence from qualitative research shows that such exchanges may sometimes include sexual services as a form of bribe payment, though the real extent of this particular form of payment is unknown.
Percentage distribution of bribes, by modality of bribe request and timing of payment, Nigeria, 2016
Provision of the most basic amenities can be subject to abuse of power
The survey shows that a large proportion of bribes in Nigeria (42 per cent) are paid to speed up or finalize an administrative procedure that may otherwise be delayed for long periods or even indefinitely, thus making bribery the most effective option for facilitating that service. The second largest proportion of bribes (18 per cent) is paid to avoid the payment of a fine, a frequent request in citizens’ encounters with the police, while 13 per cent of all bribes are paid to avoid the cancellation of public utility services, an indication that the provision of the most basic of amenities, including water and sanitation, can be subject to abuse of power by public officials in Nigeria.
Who takes bribes
Law enforcement and the judiciary are areas of particular concern
Police officers are the type of public official to whom bribes are most commonly paid in Nigeria. Of all adult Nigerians who had direct contact with a police officer in the 12 months prior to the survey, almost half (46.4 per cent) paid that officer at least one bribe, and in many cases more than one since police officers are also among the three types of public official to whom bribes are paid most frequently (5.3 bribes per bribe-payer over the course of 12 months) in Nigeria.
Although fewer people come in contact with judiciary officials than with police officers over the course of the year, when they do, the risk of bribery is considerable: at 33 per cent, the prevalence of bribery in relation to prosecutors is the second highest, closely followed by judges and magistrates, at 31.5 per cent. The experience of corruption in encounters with public officials who should uphold the rule of law can lead to an erosion of trust in public authority.
Prevalence rate of bribery in relation to selected types of public official, Nigeria, 2016
Certain types of public official have a disproportionate impact on the lives of Nigerians
Other public officials with a high risk of bribery include car registration/driving licence officers (28.5 per cent), tax and custom officers (27.3 per cent), road traffic management officials (25.5 per cent), public utilities officers (22.4 per cent) and land registry officers (20.9 per cent). This shows that corruption takes place across a number of different sectors of the public administration and that certain public officials have a disproportionate impact on the daily lives of Nigerians.
Recruitment of public officials in Nigeria is itself subject to abuse of the system
In addition to the propensity of public officials to request/take bribes from citizens, the survey points to the influence of bribery in the process that enables public officials to secure their jobs in the first place. The survey indicates that among those households with a member who applied for a post and was actually recruited into the public administration, more than 15 per cent admitted to the payment of a bribe to facilitate their recruitment. This type of behaviour is likely to have implications on the exercise of their duties throughout their civil service career.
Who pays bribes
Gender and age play a role in the vulnerability of citizens to bribery
In terms of the demographic profile of the Nigerian citizens most vulnerable to bribery, a remarkable disparity in the prevalence of bribery exists between men and women: 37.1 per cent of men who had contact with at least one public official paid a bribe in the preceding 12 months, whereas the proportion among women was 26.6 per cent.
Young adults in Nigeria are more vulnerable to bribery than other age groups, especially those in the 25 to 34-year-old age group (36.4 per cent), after which the prevalence of bribery decreases, particularly after the age of 50. In fact, the highest age-specific prevalence rate of bribery − among 25-34 year olds − is almost twice that of people aged 65 years and older.
It is also noteworthy that citizens in urban areas in Nigeria are slightly more affected by bribery than those living in rural areas, and that the prevalence and frequency of bribery vary across the different zones of Nigeria.
Higher levels of education and income lead to a greater risk of bribery
While higher age groups are associated with lower levels of bribery, the prevalence of bribery increases with the educational attainment of Nigerian citizens, although the result varies greatly according to the type of public official receiving the bribe.
This pattern is paralleled in the distribution of the prevalence of bribery by income level as persons with a higher income have a higher prevalence of bribery than those who are less well remunerated. The disparity in the prevalence of bribery between individuals in the lowest income households and those in the highest income households reaches 15 percentage points (29.4per cent versus 40.0 per cent). In other words, households in the highest income group in Nigeria are 58 per cent more likely to pay bribes than households in the lowest income group when they come into contact with public officials.
How citizens respond to bribery
Inability to refuse bribery may be caused by fear of negative consequences
Nigerian citizens confronted with a bribe request do not always pay it. 5.3 per cent of persons who had contact with a public official in the 12 months prior to the survey turn down the bribery request made by a public official on at least one occasion. This is in contrast with the 27 per cent who always pay when a bribe is requested. Put differently, out of every 100 citizens who paid a bribe every time it was requested, 20 refused to do so on at least one occasion
It should be taken into account, however, that of those 5.3 per cent, only 1.3 per cent never paid a bribe, while the remaining 4.0 per cent refused to pay a bribe at least once but paid a bribe on other occasions. Perhaps these figures are so low because more than half (56 per cent) of those who refused to pay a bribe after a request by a public official suffered negative consequences as a result of that refusal.
Prevalence rate of bribery, by selected types of public official, Nigeria, 2016
Nigerians seem to have little faith in the capacity of authorities to deal with corruption
Very few Nigerian bribe-payers report their experience of bribery to anyone. Of all those who paid bribes in the 12 months prior to the survey, just 3.7 per cent reported the incident to official authorities. Limited trust in a number of state institutions in Nigeria, not least in the law enforcement and criminal justice system, may explain why Nigerians have little faith in the capacity of authorities to deal with corruption.
Apathy, fear and ignorance of authorities may explain limited reporting of bribery
In addition to the poor reputation of official authorities when it comes to corruption, further evidence of why most bribery incidents remain unreported can be found in the experience of those Nigerian citizens who did report a bribery incident: there was no follow up in more than one third of cases (33.7 per cent); one fifth (20.0 per cent) of those who filed a report were advised not to go ahead with the complaint and almost one out of ten citizens (9.1 per cent) who reported a bribery experience suffered negative consequences in connection with reporting the incident. A formal procedure against the concerned public official was only initiated in slightly more than one sixth of cases (17.6 per cent).
Bribe payers who did not report their bribery experience to any authority explained that reporting would be pointless as nobody would care (34.6 percent) or that payment or the giving of gifts are such common practice that reporting would not make a difference (33.4 per cent). In some cases, however, bribe-payers did not report their experience because they did not know to whom to report it (6.5 per cent) while others refrained from reporting because they were afraid of reprisals (5.8 per cent).
Bribery and other corrupt acts may not always be perceived as corruption in Nigeria
While the experience of bribery is widespread, and the refusal and reporting of bribery are still limited, the question arises as to whether bribery is actually a universally accepted practice in the country. On this point, the data are very clear: some two thirds
of Nigerians actually consider most forms of corruption to be completely unacceptable while only a minority of Nigerians find corrupt practices “always acceptable”.
However, even for those who engage in them, certain corrupt acts may not always be perceived as amounting to corruption. For example, almost a third of Nigerians consider the recruitment of public officials on the basis of family ties and friendship networks to be an acceptable practice, despite the fact that the Nigerian civil service professes to base professional recruitment only on merit rather than personal ties.
Moreover, 86 per cent of survey respondents declared that they would report a bribery incident to an official or unofficial authority, a figure in stark contrast to the bribery reporting rate of 3.7 per cent and a clear indication of a disconnect between the perceptions of many citizens as to how they think they would react when encountering corruption and how they actually behave in practice.
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