Ethical Dilemmas and Bureaucratic Corruption: Choosing Between Delay and Bribery in Nigeria

Imagine driving to work on a busy Monday morning hoping to beat the early morning Lagos traffic to attend your usual 7.00 a.m. meeting. Your phone rings and you see it is a call from your boss, on picking up the call ,you are stopped by a traffic officer and the following discussion ensues :

Traffic officer : Park, Park , Park!!! (and he jumps into your car)

You: Officer, what did I do?

Traffic officer: You were calling while driving

You: Oh! I forgot to use my hands free

Traffic Officer: That is not my business. You will have to go and pay the fine of N15,000 in our office.

You: But officer, I am rushing for a meeting and I don’t want to be late. Can you just issue me a ticket and I will pay later

Traffic officer: No way, you must go to our office. Ok, how do you think I can help you?

You: I don’t know. Please advise me.

Traffic Officer : Just because I like your face and because we are from the same tribe, bring N10,000

You: (you ponder for a few minutes considering the cost – benefit) Ok, I only have N5,000, abeg* (please) manage it .

Traffic officer: Ok, sha* ( just) bring it. Enjoy your day.

This scenario describes the ethical dilemma of getting delayed or paying a  bribe. The inconvenience of getting delayed is an art bribe extorters have mastered and use regularly to coerce people into parting with money.

This form of contrived bureaucratic corruption is encountered on a daily basis. This makes it hard for well-meaning citizens to “do the right thing”. The more bureaucratic a decision making process, the more likely it is to be attacked by corruption.   

To combat this, there is a need for the government and companies to identify unnecessary red tape or bottlenecks that make simple processes complex and make it difficult to do the right thing.

However, as individuals, there is a need to always endeavour to do the right thing irrespective of the situation and this may involve a little inconvenience in the short term. To support the notion that it is better to be delayed than to pay a bribe, let’s re -frame the dialogue as follows:

You: Ok, I will pay the N15,000, where is your office? Just give me a minute to call my office and inform them that I will be running a little late.

The odds are that he either takes you to the office and you make the payment or realizing that you will not part with any money illegally, he will tell you not to call while driving again and let you go.

In conclusion, the journey to curb corruption in Nigeria, starts with you and I. We must always strive to do the right thing at all times, no matter what.

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