Former president of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Engr. Otis Anyaeji, has identified corruption as a major challenge militating against electricity supplies in Nigeria.
This, he said, if not tackled headlong, it will continue to affect private businesses negatively.
Anyaeji, who is the traditional Head of Ubahu-Okija in Anambra state, made these remarks in Abuja on Wednesday while delivering a lecture titled: Managing Business Risks In Volatile Business Environment: Survival Strategies For Private Businesses, during the Honourary Fellowship Conferment on Lady Josephine Nwaeze in Abuja.
The monarch, who is also the chairman and chief executive officer of O.T Otis Engineering Ltd, said the money involved in the grand larceny in the electricity sector is substantial, but what is even more damaging is the acceptance of corruption as a way of doing business.
According to him, when high-profile politicians and government functionaries routinely engage in corrupt practices, the stigma begins to wear away.
“Gradually what is a misdemeanor in the higher echelons becomes an entitlement to the levels below. At the grassroots level, utility employees find nothing wrong supplementing their modest pay by what they have come to consider the perquisites of office. The day-to-day petty corruption faced by the public breeds cynicism steadily erodes faith in the system, and eventually gnaws away the very moral foundations of the society.
“If corruption is pervasive, as happens in some countries, combating corruption in the sector requires mutually reinforcing improvements in public governance. Eminently desirable though this may be, it is a long-term process requiring sustained political commitment, changes in the incentives of stakeholders, and new standards of transparency and accountability-in short, a paradigm shift in public governance and management of the sector.
“To make a positive impact on the fight against corruption in the short and medium term, it is more useful to focus on those vulnerable points that, if addressed, can have a relatively large effect.
“The starting point for combating corruption could range from introducing transparency in the procurement process to seeking expert consultation in investment decisions and enforcing accountability of public officials and utility managers, to fighting petty corruption to build public support,” he said.
He said in some countries, corruption in procurement and contracting may be a larger problem than electricity theft, in which case an anticorruption strategy should focus on transparency and competition in procurement and contracting by externalizing accountability of public officials through public participation and independent regulatory institutions.
“Petty corruption in the electricity sector has not received much attention from the media, civil society, and organisations, which have tended to focus more on corruption in large contracts. Because of the sheer magnitude in terms of money involved and the number of people affected, combating petty corruption at the consumer interface of the electricity supply utility importance in some cases may assume more,” he said.
The managing director/ chief executive officer of News Engineering Nigeria Limited, Lady Josephine Nwaeze, after her honourary fellowship conferment, reaffirmed her commitment to work more assiduously in promoting excellence in the engineering field and contributing to the progress of Nigeria.