Nigeria seems to be descending deeper into corruption as President Muhammadu Buhari is pushing hard with the war on graft. Last week, the government anti corruption fight achieved a major mark with the conviction of another ex governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia state.

However, the landmark victory was vitiated the next day with a new report jointly issued by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS and the United Nations Drug and Corruption Agency which exposed growing rate of corruption in the public service with the police topping the list.

According to a new survey by the National Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an estimated N675bn was paid in cash bribes to Nigerian public officials this year.

The latest NBS report has revealed the level of corruption in the civil service. It is also an indicator that the fight against corruption by the Buhari -led administration is not holistic.

This report which was released on Friday, stated that in the 12 months prior to the 2019 survey, 30.2 per cent of all Nigerians who had at least one contact with a public official paid a bribe to, or were asked by a public official to pay a bribe.

“This means that, although still relatively high, the prevalence of bribery in Nigeria has undergone a moderate, yet statistically significant, decrease since 2016, when it stood at 32.3 per cent,” it added.

The survey states clearly that of all forms of bribe, cash continues to be the dominant type of bribe.

It said, “More than 93 per cent of all bribes paid in 2019 were paid in cash, a slightly larger share than in 2016. According to the 2019 survey, the average cash bribe paid is N5, 754, a sum equivalent to roughly $52 in purchasing power parity.

“Overall, it is estimated that a total of roughly N675bn was paid in cash bribes to public officials in Nigeria in 2019, corresponding to 0.52 per cent of the entire Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria.”

The economic cost of bribery according to this report has become even more intense when considering that, on average, bribe-payers pay an amount that is equivalent to six per cent of the average annual income of Nigerians.

It said differently from actual trends of bribery experience, more than half of Nigerians believed that corruption increased in the two years prior to the 2019 survey.

The report said the analysis of the list of the most pressing problems afflicting the country, as reported by Nigerian citizens in 2019, showed that corruption has moved from 3rd to 5th position, as there had been a sharp increase in the level of public concern about security and health issues.

“Around nine per cent of Nigerians considered corruption to be the most important problem facing their country, a significant decrease from the 14 per cent recorded in the 2016 survey.” it added.

The survey found that although a smaller percentage of Nigerians that had contact with public officials paid bribes, or were asked to pay bribes, those who did pay bribes continued to do so quite frequently.

It said, “In 2019, Nigerian bribe-payers paid an average of six bribes in the 12 months prior to the survey, or one bribe every two months, which is virtually the same as the average of 5.8 bribes paid per bribe-payer in 2016.

“As a result, it is estimated that some 117 million bribes are paid in Nigeria on a yearly basis, the equivalent of 1.1 bribes per adult.”

It would be recalled that some senators on Thursday complained about the numerous highways on federal roads in Nigeria. This, they said, has not only caused hardship for commuters on the roads but serves as a means of extortion by the security personnel.

This deliberation was borne from a point of order by Enugu senator, Chukwuka Utazi.

Leading the debate, Mr Utazi said the entire security strength of the country has been stretched and as a consequence, insurgency, religious extremism, cattle rustling, kidnapping and armed robbery have put untold pressure on the national security architecture.

He noted that “While roadblocks are necessary, the Senate will not ignore Nigerians who complain that government policies made to protect them have turned into oppressive conduct by those concerned and which the Inspector General of Police may not be aware of,” he said.

He said the Lagos-Onitsha road has about 60 checkpoints within short intervals – proof of abuse of road checkpoints. A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and a former Kogi East senatorial aspirant, Alhaji Yakubu Mamuda in a phone chat with Business Hallmark said.

“The fight against corruption should go deeper than prosecuting politicians of the opposition party. This report by the NBS exposes the rot in the civil service. In fact, corruption is almost like a norm for the average civil servant. They expect you to pay them for doing their job.”