Fighting Corruption with Technology in Nigeria


Over the last five days, a video of a Nigerian policeman demanding for a bribe of N25,000 ($156) permeated the twittersphere. Such instances of bribery occur daily in Nigeria, but it’s rare that corrupt policemen get caught on video. The steep bribe coupled with the publicity garnered a lot of attention, and the policeman was eventually relieved of duty. Without the video evidence, this avaricious case of bribery would have faded as another commonplace example of police corruption. Technology-1 Corruption-0.

The socioeconomic role of technology cannot be understated. During my 2011 internship with Transparency International, I researched into the use of information technology, particularly crowdsourcing, in fighting corruption. Crowdsourcing In India, ipaidabribe.com is a site that invites people to share their experiences of bribery, the purpose, location and cost of the bribe. After the State Transport Department of Karnataka, India was repeatedly cited in bribe reports; the Commissioner was forced to act. Twenty senior officers were cautioned, and technology was introduced to minimize the opportunities for bribe taking. Similar sites have successfully taken off in Russia, Kenya, Pakistan, and other countries.

However, such technologically fueled fights against corruption remain rare in Nigeria. As of yet, the nation has not completely tapped into the potential of information technology. Public data on incomes earned by Government officials remain offline and hidden. Only as of 2011 did voice or video evidence become inadmissible in court. Fortunately, burgeoning Internet and smartphone adoption creates a greater avenue for information technology: particularly in crowdsourcing against corruption. The #girlnotbride saga demonstrated the power of combined voices: offline and online.

Will video evidence of bribery incidents become the new instrument to deter policemen from bribe? Well, it might temper police willingness to demand for bribes. Nigerians can be frustratingly tolerant of corruption, but are less tolerant when one is caught ‘red-handed’ (ask Honorable Farouk Lawan). Some worry only the small fries were caught and that Nigerian police officers may become more cautious when demanding for bribe. Technology has to target those ‘Ogas at the top’. Without severing the roots of the tree, plucking the leaves offers little solace. For now though, the victory from the video evidence shows that ordinary people can change from being the victims of corruption to becoming part of the solution…when they cry out with one voice.

  • Rightly said, without addressing the top brass in the society, the corruption currently witnessed with the middle and lower class will only continue to thrive. I call it the Ripple Effect, for the attitudes of Ogas at the top would continue to trickle down to their subordinates, ensuring that the menace continues undeterred. A police sergant has been dismissed, Farouk Lawan still sits in the hallowed green chambers, making laws for whom? It’s a travesty of the perceived fight against corruption.

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  • The fight on both sides of the corruption coin will be fought on the platform of technology no doubt. But the worrying trend is that the masses don’t even know the power and leverage they have even with that piece of equipment in their hands called a phone. Nigeria has deployed some technology that work even better that India’s ipaidabribe.com called http://www.egunje.info, but how many people make reports? the site has recorded over 10,000 hits but barely 140 reports and guess what ? The visitors to this site come in with iPads and Blackberry smartphones topping the devices list. Many Nigerians think that corruption will one day work for me so therefore “let me just keep shut cos one day it will be my turn”.

    • Wow. Thanks for the info. There’s certainly a nonchalance that comes from future expectation of their indulgence in corruption. I’m guessing that people would need to see more instances where this crowdsourcing effort works, in order to spur them on to contribute.

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    At all times go after your heart.

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