Why corruption is the worst violation of human rights

When Nigerians came out en-masse to vote Buhari into power during the March 2015 elections, it was solely for his ‘change’ campaign, and his promise to rid the country of corruption. Eradicating corruption has always been the mantra of every Nigerian leader, but none had successfully tackled it. It is also important to note that none had approached the issue with such urgency as President Buhari has in the past few months.

Recently, it appears that Nigerians do not fully understand the implication of corruption. The president has come under fire for his fight against corruption. Barely two weeks ago, following a statement made by prominent Nigerian clergy, Bishop Kukah, twitter Nigeria served as a debate platform for whether or not the president’s anti-corruption fight was a distraction to good governance. Shockingly, a number of Nigerians were in support of the statement, calling President Buhari’s continuous call for probes a distraction.

At the opening of the 55th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja on Sunday, 23rd August, President Buhari in his speech, described corruption as the greatest human rights violation ever. He called for the support of Nigerian lawyers in his administration’s war against corruption.

As often as the word corruption is used, it is still vague to many. Quite a number of Nigerians are yet to fully understand it; this explains why anyone would dare say corruption is a distraction to good governance. To many, corruption is simply high level theft or the looting of public funds by government official. This means little to the average Nigerian since looting of funds is common practice.

However, the president’s latest statement on corruption gives a more comprehensive definition to the word. President Buhari has provided a new way for Nigerians to see corruption as a violation of human rights.

How is corruption a violation of human rights?

The effects of corruption is manifest in the suffering, deprivation and death of citizens. The diversion of public funds into the pockets of a few has a domino effect. When funds meant for the development and maintenance of certain infrastructures are abused, the citizens bear the brunt.

As President Buhari rightly stated in his speech at the conference, “For the masses of our people, the millions still wallowing in want and diseases, corruption is a major reason why they cannot go to school; why they cannot be gainfully employed; and why there are few doctors, nurses and drugs in their hospitals and health centres. It is the reason why pensioners are not paid and portable water is scarce.”

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), close to $400 billion was stolen between 1960 and 1999. It is also estimated that Sani Abacha solely stole the equivalent of 2 to 3 percent of the country’s GDP for every year that he was President. All that money could have translated into concrete infrastructures like good roads, hospitals, schools, and water facilities. Clearly, Nigeria still suffer the implication of all that siphoned money.

Since lawyers are always at the forefront of human right battles, Buhari urged them to see corruption as a gross violation of human rights. If they see corruption this way, they can fully understand it’s grave effect on present and future Nigeria. “This should rouse us to fight it with the same zeal and doggedness as we deploy in the defense of fundamental rights.”

Though President Buhari’s speech was addressed to lawyers, it is not for lawyers alone to have that perspective on corruption. Every Nigerian needs to see corruption from the perspective of the violation of their fundamental rights. That way, people will better understand and fully appreciate the President’s fight against this menace, and subsequently, lend their support.

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