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OPINION: Britain Is Nigeria’s ‘Bad’ Teacher

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By Lasisi Olagunju

Number 10, Downing Street has been home to Britain’s prime ministers since 1735 AD. Why would a hugely popular new prime minister move into a 289-year-old mansion without spending good pounds on it to buff it up to today’s taste? Keir Starmer, the new British prime minister, moved into that official residence soon after he was appointed last Friday. There was neither a renovation of the building nor a sanctification of the rooms by clerics and priests. Red candles, white tapers were not lit; neither was turari (incense) assigned a role.

“I’ll teach you differences,” Shakespeare wrote in King Lear. He also wrote about “sweet fool” and “bitter fool” and how they are not the same. Britain used the last election to teach us the difference between good and bad; sanity and madness. The British held their elections on Thursday, declaring neither a public holiday nor a restriction of movements. Schools opened, businesses flourished, votes were cast and counted, results were announced without shots fired and machetes wielded. There was no election tribunal, no lawyer to hire and no judge to bribe. Those who lost simply agreed they lost, offered thanks for past favours and apologies for failing their people. Wearing regrets as lapels, the defeated went quietly into the night counting their loss under the dim light of their mourning moon.

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You would think that the British who always hailed the way we elected our leaders would copy our ways. This past weekend, the teacher didn’t do the nonsense they taught their students. Their dog refused to follow our monkey to do what locusts do to grain farms. They chose those they wanted as leaders without our usual fireworks and water cannons. For the winner, it was straight from the polling booth to the Government House; there was no interlude, no respite, no recess. There was even no transition committee; neither was there a budget for new furniture and new cars for the prime minister’s family. The Prime Minister took over almost immediately after the sun set for the man whose party lost in spectacular detail. Ministers were appointed the same day and portfolios assigned them on the spot, leaving us to wonder why the haste. We didn’t hear of the parliament grilling the appointees and asking them to sing ‘God save the King’ – their national anthem. Was the head of government even sworn in? Who did?

There is nothing they do in the husband’s bedroom that does not happen in the concubine’s bedchamber. We have rats here that eat vital documents and get presidents sick. The British have over there too. But the PM’s residence in London has a simple solution to the problem: a mouser, a celebrity cat is in firm control of the rodent issues there. The cat’s name is Larry; for the past 13 years, it has been helping heads of government in that country to fix what our cowardly presidents run away from here. We’ve not heard that Labour’s Starmer aims at sacking the cat from the residence because the conservatives took it there.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Let Kenyans Enjoy Their Kenya

Since his appointment on Friday last week, Starmer, with his family, has settled in properly in 10 Downing Street.

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Our own President Muhammadu Buhari moved into our Presidential Villa late in June 2015 – three weeks after he was sworn in. The old man needed to be sure that the residence was properly fumigated of the sacked party and be rid of rodents and cockroaches – visible and invisible. Despite all his carefulness, impudent rats still ran the ramrod General out of the building and out of the country. He was away in London for months suffering from what could be anything. He came back and, again, got run out of the office part of the building by the same rats. We forget things here. Seven years ago (August 2017), one of Buhari’s spokespersons announced (with uncommon sensation) that rodents had damaged furniture and air conditioning fittings in the president’s “official” office while he was in London receiving treatment. The gentleman said our leader wouldn’t, therefore, be seen working in the president’s office until the damage was undone. And that was it. The big boss stayed off work until the rats accepted his sacrifice and said he should come in.

In his own case, President Bola Tinubu has been more attentive to details. The Yoruba man is well acquainted with the functional relationship between the rolling eyes of the crab and its delicate head. He was sworn in on May 29, 2023, made a rash of careless policy pronouncements but was careful about where he would be accommodated. Unlike Starmer who rushed into the PM’s mansion like a hungry cat, Tinubu rushed nothing and overlooked nothing. Sixty-three days after he took over power, a reluctant Tinubu gingerly detoured into a villa building called the Glass House on Sunday, July 31, 2023. It was there he hibernated until the main residence begged him to come and occupy it. Perhaps because he is the Capone, we have not heard stories about ratty encounters in the nation’s most secure edifice.

In his inaugural speech, Starmer spoke of “the gap between the sacrifices made by the people” and “the service they receive from politicians.” He said when this grew “big,” the heart of the nation became infested with “weariness”. He spoke about that and about the “draining away of the hope, the spirit, the belief in a better future.” That is today’s Nigeria. To hope here is to be stupid – if not downright silly. Starmer could be speaking about this Nigeria where those who preach sacrifice overeat and belch, and the people hunger and yawn.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Kings And Imams In Yorubaland

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‘Equal distribution of pain’ is the title of a piece written by good old Nosa Igiebor in the January 13, 1986 issue of Newswatch magazine. It was his panting analysis of the 1986 budget of this country which required “Nigerians to live with less of everything.” Today is a degeneration of what was bad with us yesterday. Here, now, we not only roll in the mud of a regime of unequal distribution of pain; we are daily left to live with less of nothing.

A very senior professor sent to me a text two weeks ago: “Olagunju, I was granted permanent residency in the US in 2017. I have not taken it up. Most of my friends and colleagues believe I’m stupid. I keep hoping against hope that things cannot get worse here. I had my first offer of appointment after PhD in the UK in 1988. I declined because I didn’t apply. My supervisor was asked to source for a good candidate. He called me and told me of the offer. It was a guaranteed position. Instead, I chose to return to Nigeria. My friend, an Englishman who is now a professor at … University told me I was making a mistake returning to Nigeria. I said he was wrong. I did not realise he is the grandson of Nostradamus.” My prof is not the only one who now agrees that things can always get worse here.

The parliament is supreme in the United Kingdom; in Nigeria, the president is the supremo before whom nothing existed and after whom nothing will. The heroes of the past didn’t bargain for this when they were fighting for independence for Nigeria and for democracy. We lost it, and it is sad. How easy is it now for our leper to pick up his slipped needle? (The Yoruba say abéré bó l’ówó adétè, ó d’ète). The British gave us a system designed to make it easy for us to live in peace, punish insults and reward good behaviour. They gave us a constitutional arrangement which allowed us to engage and to throw out our husbands when they went mad. We messed it up within five years of independence. In 1979, after 13 years in the wilderness of the military, we went for the most expensive of the systems in the books – presidential democracy. It may have worked in all other places, but, here, it has steadily evolved into a most fiendish monarchy – a kábíyèsí system where the legislature and the judiciary are the king’s phlegm eaters.

In the opening lines of his ‘Two Thousand Seasons’, Ghanaian writer, Ayi Kwei Armah, warns our spring water to stop “flowing to the desert.” He says “there is no regeneration” where it flows. It is there in the Bible (and in the Quran) that the Lord restored Job’s fortunes only after he changed his course and did as he ought to do. “In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before” – Job: 42:10. The afflicted got reprieve because he cooperated with his Maker. Here, we cling to what will never work and pray for increased blessings. When we talk about restructuring of Nigeria, it is because we want Nigeria to regain what it lost to unitary presidentialism. We saw how simple the UK elections were last week. There was no movement of ballots across constituencies. The man who emerged as prime minister contested for votes only in his Holborn and St Pancras constituency. It was exactly like that with the December 1959 election which ushered us into independence in 1960. Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa did not have to break the bank to contest that election. His constituency was his Tafawa Balewa locality.

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MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Reps’ Drunkard Democracy

For 99 years (1861 – 1960), the British were officially here working hard on their broth of strange ingredients. With the magical deft and expertise of the enchanter, they came up with an arrangement that should work for the happiness of all. They gave each region a constitution and the country itself a super constitution. And, so, Nigeria started on a note of globally expressed optimism. At the British House of Lords on Thursday 28 July, 1960, while debating the bill that granted Nigeria independence, the then Earl of Swinton said “Nigeria has proved how diverse peoples can combine in successful union while maintaining their own individuality.” Indeed, the whole House – and the other one, the House of Commons – hailed our negotiated federalism and expressed confidence in our commitment to constitutional parliamentary democracy.

But, in less than six quick years of that constitutional arrangement, we tore it and plunged ourselves down beyond ground zero. Today, the country is centralized – unitarized – and atrophied. The central government owns and controls everything with an imperial presidency summoning governors to its presence for daily obeisance.

“It is easy to go down into Hell,” Virgil, Roman poet (70 BC – 19 BC), warned. He added that “night and day, the gates of dark Death stand wide; but to climb back again, to retrace one’s steps to the upper air – there’s the rub, the task.” We have a very complex structural issue which we have not managed well. We continually subvert our federalism because it is suicidally sweet to do so. But how long will the leaky titanic remain afloat? The way to regeneration is for our river to stop flowing towards the desert of unitarism. Nigeria is not irredeemable if it chooses redemption. Britain has as much complicated structure; but it is a delicate balance well managed. We read of a kingdom of four countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and the kingdom is paradoxically a working democracy. We saw it last week.

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Will democracy ever work for Nigeria? Or, will Nigeria ever allow democracy to work for Nigerians? Multi-genre performer, Tar Ukoh, was engaged at the Eagle Square in Abuja on 29 May, 1999 for the inauguration of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Everyone around him exuded joy at the dawn of that new day. They were sure the exit of the military after so many years meant the good times had come. Tar Ukoh was asked by The New York Times how he felt about Nigeria’s brand new democracy. He cautiously told the American newspaper that he feared that the joy of that moment might be misplaced or short lived. The New York Times still has the report of that encounter on its website. The man said: “I hope this event is not a re-awakening of illusions of freedom, or a Eureka, like we had during independence in my youth.” Tar Ukoh, who was 46 years old at that time, concluded that “having returned to civilian rule, we now have to fight for democracy.” Nothing can be truer than his fears and his conclusion. The “fight for democracy” entered its 25th year this year. It is still on. But, the battle will be lost unless we ‘borrow’ ourselves sense and go back to “the way.”

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Japa: 4 Ways Nigerians Can Migrate, Get Jobs In Canada

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As Nigeria continues to experience economic challenges, an increasing number of its citizens are exploring opportunities to migrate to Canada.

Canada, known for its welcoming immigration policies and robust job market, has become a top destination for Nigerians seeking a better life. Canada’s comprehensive immigration programs and strategies for job seekers make it an attractive option for those looking to start anew.

Canada’s plan to invite half a million newcomers by 2025, coupled with its need for skilled workers, opens various pathways for Nigerians.

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From the Express Entry system to family sponsorships, these avenues provide hopeful migrants with multiple options to settle and work in Canada.

Here are five key ways Nigerians can migrate and secure employment in Canada:

READ ALSO: Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries In The World 2024

Express Entry

The Express Entry system is Canada’s fastest and most popular immigration program, enabling candidates to receive permanent residence status in as little as six months. By 2025, Canada plans to invite half a million newcomers, with a significant portion coming through one of the three streams of Express Entry. This system evaluates candidates based on factors like age, education, work experience, and language proficiency.

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Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

Throughout the pandemic, Canada’s provinces continued to nominate overseas workers for permanent residence. By 2025, Canada aims to welcome 117,500 new immigrants through PNPs. Each of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories offers unique nominee programs with specific eligibility criteria. Some PNPs require a connection to the province, while others invite candidates based solely on their ability to meet the province’s labor market needs.

READ ALSO: Top 10 Countries With Strongest Militaries In Africa [Latest]

Business Immigration

For those with experience in managing or owning a business, federal and provincial business immigration programs offer a pathway to reside and work in Canada. These programs are designed for individuals planning to be self-employed or start a business in Canada. Business immigration typically requires a significant investment, with specific amounts varying by program and region.

Sponsorship

Family sponsorship is often the easiest route for those with a qualifying family member who is a Canadian permanent resident or citizen. Canada plans to welcome 105,000 new permanent residents through family sponsorship programs this year. The cost of sponsoring a relative is around CAD 1,135, with additional fees for residents of Quebec. Processing times vary, with spousal sponsorship typically taking about 12 months.

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How to get jobs in Canada

Securing a job in Canada can be facilitated through several strategies:

Networking with Experts

Engage with professionals in your field through events and networking opportunities to learn about job openings.

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Continuous Learning

Stay updated with the latest trends and roles in your field by reading articles, watching videos, and gaining new knowledge.

Building Professional Relationships

Attend job fairs, industry meetups, and online groups to connect with potential employers.

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Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries In The World 2024

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The world’s most dangerous countries to visit in 2024 have been unveiled in a recent report by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

The report ranks 163 independent states and territories based on their level of peacefulness, covering 99.7% of the world’s population.

It also noted that there are currently 56 active conflicts, marking the highest number since the end of the Second World War, with fewer conflicts being resolved either militarily or through peace agreements.

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Using the Global Peace Index (GPI), here are the top 10 most dangerous countries in the world in 2024.

Yemen

With a 2024 Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.397, Yemen remains one of the world’s most hazardous nations, with its catastrophic civil conflict since 2015 causing immense suffering and turmoil.

Yemen is grappling with widespread famine, disease, and infrastructure collapse amid a prolonged state of war. What began as an internal conflict has escalated due to the involvement of neighboring countries, each backing different factions, prolonging and intensifying the destructive nature of the conflict.

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READ ALSO: Top 5 Cheapest Countries To Study In Europe

Sudan

Sudan is widely regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous countries, influenced by a variety of factors that severely affect its safety and stability.

Sudan’s instability stems primarily from the ongoing conflict in Darfur, alongside unrest in South Kordofan and Blue Nile districts. In 2024, these conflicts resulted in over 3,000 deaths and displaced nearly 2 million people, according to UN estimates. The humanitarian crisis is exacerbated by frequent attacks on civilians by government forces, opposition groups, and militias.

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Also, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 14 million people need humanitarian aid.

South Sudan

South Sudan, with a 2024 Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.224, continues to rank among the world’s most dangerous nations due to ongoing civil conflict, ethnic violence, and political instability since gaining independence in 2011.

Afghanistan

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Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with a Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.448. The country has been experiencing ongoing violence for more than 40 years, making it a center of international concern.

READ ALSO: 7 Countries Who Recently Changed Their Names And Why

Decades of conflict have shaped Afghanistan into one of the most dangerous countries. The Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021 has intensified instability, with heightened risks of terrorism, kidnappings, and widespread violence.

Ukraine

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Ukraine has experienced the most significant decline in safety and stability, not only within its region but globally as well. This notable deterioration can be primarily attributed to the Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

By 2024, the conflict in Ukraine has claimed over 150,000 lives, including soldiers and civilians. More than 8 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries, with an additional 7 million internally displaced, causing widespread destruction of cities and critical infrastructure like homes, schools, and hospitals.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The conflict in Congo has spanned more than four and a half years, has taken more lives than any other since World War II, and is the deadliest documented conflict in African history, according to the International Rescue Committee.

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Russia

In 2024, Russia, with a Global Peace Index (GPI) score of 3.249, ranks among the world’s most hazardous nations, exacerbated by heightened geopolitical tensions stemming from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: 10 Safest Countries In The World In 2024

Russia is grappling with internal challenges including organized crime and corruption, which undermine law and order, alongside escalating environmental concerns such as industrial accidents and pollution, posing significant health risks to the population.

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Syria

Syria’s civil war, beginning in 2011, has resulted in a profoundly tragic and complex situation. The conflict has ravaged infrastructure, including buildings, roads, hospitals, and schools, severely impacting the daily lives of those remaining in Syria.

The humanitarian situation in Syria is dire, with over 13 million Syrians, including 6.6 million internally displaced, requiring humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

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More than half of the population faces food insecurity, and the healthcare system is in disarray, with many hospitals either destroyed or operating at minimal capacity.

Israel

The conflict between Israel and Hamas has escalated regional risks for Western travelers and exacerbated unrest-related dangers.

Mali

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Mali has been in the grip of armed conflict since January 2012, when Tuareg rebels seized control of northern territory and subsequently declared the independent nation of Azawad by April of that year.

The situation escalated further with a military coup in March of 2012, intensifying the turmoil in the region.
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Nigeria’s Public Officials Received ₦721bn Bribe In 2023 – UN, NBS

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A newly released report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), has said Nigerian public officials received nothing less than ₦721bn as bribes in 2023.

The result was based on a survey conducted with the UNODC.

According to the report “Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends”, published by the NBS on Thursday, the ₦721bn paid in bribes amounted to about 0.35 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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According to the survey, the average cash bribe was ₦8,284, an increase from an average of ₦5,754 in 2019.

“According to the 2023 survey, the average cash bribe paid was 8,284 Nigerian Naira. While the nominal average cash bribe size increased since 2019 (from NGN 5,754), this does not account for inflation. The inflation-adjusted average cash bribe in 2023 was 29 per cent smaller than in 2019 in terms of what could be bought with the money.

“Overall, it is estimated that a total of roughly NGN 721 billion (US$1.26 billion) was paid in cash bribes to public officials in Nigeria in 2023, corresponding to 0.35 per cent of the entire Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria,” the report read in part.

The report indicates that 56 per cent of Nigerians interacted with a public official in 2023, down from 63 per cent in 2019.

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Despite this reduction, bribery remains widespread, with an average of 5.1 bribes paid per bribe payer, totalling approximately 87 million bribes nationwide. This is a decrease from the 117 million bribes estimated in 2019.

READ ALSO: [JUST IN] Alleged N33.8b Fraud: Court Grants Bail To Ex-power Minister

On payment mode, the report noted that over 95 per cent of bribes were paid in monetary form (cash or money transfer) in 2023.

It said public officials were more likely to demand bribes while private sector actors included doctors in private hospitals, which increased from 6 per cent in 2019 to 14 per cent in 2023.

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Despite this rise, bribery in the public sector remains about twice as high, with public sector contact rates also being twice as high as those in the private sector.

In 2023, 27 per cent of Nigerians who interacted with a public official paid a bribe, a slight decrease from 29 per cent in 2019. Including instances where bribes were requested but refused, over one-third of interactions between citizens and public officials involved bribery.

Similarly, the report shows a growing trend of Nigerians refusing to pay bribes. In 2023, 70 per cent of those asked to pay a bribe refused at least once, with the highest refusal rates in the North-West zone at 76 per cent. All regions recorded refusal rates above 60 per cent. This indicates that Nigerians are increasingly standing against corruption.

According to the report, bribery is becoming less accepted in Nigeria. The percentage of citizens who view bribery requests as acceptable to expedite administrative procedures decreased from 29 per cent in 2019 to 23 per cent in 2023.

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Fewer citizens reported suffering negative consequences after refusing bribe requests in 2023 compared to 2019. This suggests a growing empowerment among Nigerians to confront corrupt officials without fear of repercussions.

In 2023, 21 per cent of bribe refusers indicated they refused because they had other options. Normative concerns (42 per cent) and cost of living pressures (23 per cent) also played significant roles in their refusal to pay bribes.

Furthermore, not less than 60 per cent of public sector workers were hired due to nepotism, bribery or both between 2020 and 2023.

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The report noted that six out of 10 successful candidates admitted to using either nepotism, bribery, or both to improve their chances of being recruited.

Specifically, 27 per cent of these candidates admitted to using only bribery, 13 per cent to only nepotism, and 19 per cent to both bribery and nepotism. On the other hand, 40 per cent of the candidates claimed to have secured their positions without resorting to any such means, based on data collected between November 2020 and October 2023.

The report read, “The selection process used to recruit public officials plays a crucial role in shaping the culture of integrity that should drive the civil service as well as ensure that recruits have the highest standards of professionalism and merit.”

However, the 2023 survey findings indicate that the public sector recruitment process requires closer monitoring, as almost half (46 per cent) of people who secured a job in the public sector in the last three years before the survey admitted that they paid a bribe to facilitate their recruitment – about 1.5 times the share found in the 2019 survey (31 per cent).

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“The 2023 survey also found evidence that a considerable number of people recruited into the public sector secured their posts with the help of a friend or relative, many in addition to paying a bribe: of all successful applicants in the last three years before the 2023 survey, 32 per cent were helped by friends or relatives. Overall, in the three years before the 2023 survey, around 60 per cent of public sector applicants in Nigeria were hired as a result of nepotism, bribery or both – about 1.2 times the share found in the 2019 survey.”

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The report also noted that the use of bribery is notably lower when the recruitment process includes formal assessments.

Specifically, 51 per cent of candidates were not formally assessed, and of these, a significant 53 per cent admitted to using bribery or nepotism to secure their positions.

Conversely, among the 49 per cent of candidates who underwent a written test or oral interview, the use of unethical means such as bribery or nepotism dropped to 41 per cent.

The report read: “The 2023 survey data show that approximately half (49 per cent) of those who secured a position in the public sector in the three years before the survey passed a written test and/or oral interview during the recruitment selection process. Importantly, the data suggest that the means of selection had a role in facilitating or preventing the use of illegal practices during recruitment. Among those who underwent an assessment procedure (written test / oral interview), 41 per cent made use of bribery, while the share was as much as 53 per cent among those who were not formally assessed.”

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It was also disclosed that bribery is more common in rural areas, with rural residents paying an average of 5.8 bribes compared to 4.5 bribes in urban areas.

It was also disclosed that bribery is more common in rural areas, with rural residents paying an average of 5.8 bribes compared to 4.5 bribes in urban areas.

The report stated that corruption was ranked fourth among the most important problems affecting the country in 2023, after the cost of living, insecurity and unemployment.

It added, “This suggests relatively stable and high levels of concerns about corruption over time and compared to other concerns such as education or housing.

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“Nigerians confidence in the government’s anti-corruption effort has been declining over time and across regions. While in 2019, more than half of all citizens thought that the government was effective in fighting corruption, in 2023, the share declined to lessons than a third of all citizens. The downward trend in the citizen’s confidence is observable across the entire country, with all six zones recording reductions of more than 10 percentage points between 2019 and 2023 in terms of the share of citizens who thought the government was effective in fighting corruption.”

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