I am speaking with an executive of a multi-national company with offices in Nigeria and I bring up the fact that Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s informally exiled anti-corruption czar has returned to his position as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. He all but responded, “Nu, who?” and he wasn’t alone. I spoke with other similarly positioned executives whose responses likewise echoed a lack of enthusiasm.
Anti-corruption campaigners around the world could not stop talking about Nuhu’s return. It was considered a victory, albeit it a small one, in the global war against corruption: one of its famed foot soldiers was being allowed to return to the battlefield, the narrative went. The fact that it perhaps did not send equally thunderous applause through the business community is telling. Are corruption czars ineffective in tackling corruption? Or does the anti-corruption movement expect too much of them whereas private actors rightly curb their enthusiasm?
The answers is: a little bit of both. Corruption czars do not effectively tackle corruption because they only target half of the corruption problem. In all corruption transactions there exists a supply side and a demand side. The private side is said to be the ‘supplier’ of the bribe and the public side is the ‘demander’ of the bribe. The majority of anti-corruption efforts for the past 20 years, has focused mainly on the ‘demand’ side, i.e. going after corrupt government officials with police powers of investigation and prosecution. Read more here