What about corruption?

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ImageRecently, I was asked whether I thought Nigeria’s problems would be solved if only we managed to fight corruption effectively. I responded that this alone would not be enough. That while important for sure, other problems needed to be tackled as well. The next day a headline in one of the papers read “World Bank says corruption not Nigeria’s Bane.” After I had looked up what "bane" meant, I realized my response had been misunderstood.

Bane, also the name of one of Batman’s nemeses, means 'spoiler' in English." Since corruption essentially entails those who have power stealing from those who don’t, I think it is reasonable to expect that Batman would fight the corrupt. Consequently, corruption must be Nigeria’s Bane. The fact that Nigeria and Batman have other enemies as well does not diminish the importance of fighting this terrible spoiler.

In my previous blog posts (found here and here), I have tried to examine how Nigeria’s revenue structure conditions the country for poor service delivery and, also, how the structural changes in Nigeria today have started bringing some improvement. My analysis in both respects was based on one perspective only: accountability, i.e. people holding their leaders to account for the results they achieve. Accountability cuts across all aspects of governance: it forces leaders to articulate a vision, puts a premium on sound planning, strengthens implementation, and holds those who steal to account. Accountability can be achieved in many ways: through effective elections, tax payers demanding services for their money, greater transparency about results planned for and achieved, citizens monitoring results and reporting on them, and… ending impunity for those who steal. All of these together would start making a system that works; a system that can transform a country like Nigeria.

So if Batman also has to fight the Joker, does that make Bane less of an enemy? Clearly not. In fact, those who are familiar with Batman lore know well that Bane was resposible for breaking Batman’s back. The powerful who steal from the powerless are indeed a terrible adversary; Nigeria, like others, must fight them vigilantly to succeed. At the World Bank, we certainly try to do our part, both in our own programs where we have a policy of zero tolerance for corruption, as well as by working extensively with partners, including Nigeria, to support their fight against this brutal nemesis.


Onno Ruhl

Country Director, World Bank India

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