Happy VW Scandal Day Nigeria!
As Martin Winterkorm sauntered off with his tail between his legs, amidst the scandal and uproar raised by Volkswagen’s emission test cheats, the checks and balance nature of the European/American business and government bodies was once again applauded. Auto-making juggernauts, VW were certainly not spared any blushes and the spotlight shifts to Nigeria, where a lackluster, business as usual environment has ensured that corruption and system cheats escape unscathed, daily.
From an absolute disregard for state and federal government policies, in view of the fact that a wave of the hand and a usual bribe can be paid, to the encouragement of an alternative means developed to cheat the system, Nigeria constantly celebrates “VW scandal day”.
A typical drive through Lagos, One of Africa’s most advanced cities, shows that one can get away with almost any breach in operational or enacted standards. The magic wand is deeply embedded in a bribe or a sweet enough argument.
For example, while the state and federal ministries of transportation insist on road worthiness tests for vehicles, the urban areas see an absolute disregard for this, as cars unfit for museums are seen dinging through the streets with an air so casual, they form the norm and not the exception.
Responsibility and obedience of laws and regulations are only made more impossible with encouraged bribery and weak enforcement. Corruption flows through the very annals of the country, and the ordinary man on the street is likelier to attempt to cheat the standards before adhering to them.
This looks grim and anarchic but the normalcy of things have made this a livable norm. Independent investigators have noted that where standards are not being followed locally, import responsibility continues to dwindle. Foreign manufacturers have been noted to become increasingly halfhearted in their responsibility to ensure that their products meet international standards within the country. This is rank, as more cases of goods supposedly tested by regulatory bodies fail consumer tests often leading to fatalities.
A correspondent working in the Niger Delta region, noted with suppressed irritation that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which occurred on 20 April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-owned Transocean-operated Macondo Prospect, was nowhere close to the incessant spills that have almost certainly subsumed fishing in the region. The difference? Regulatory reactions. It seems that one system has reacted proactively to positively devastating effect while the other has simply taken the short road.
The question then is, how would Nigeria have reacted to news that VW was cheating on its emission tests had the problem been detected here. Would the bizarreness have been considered deeply enough for tough sanctions? Unlikely. Pundits believe that the carpet would have bulged even higher with the story.
A sad assumption of how such a scenario would have been handled, yes, but a more realistic outlook nonetheless. With all eyes focused firmly on Nigeria’s president and promises to fight corruption sounding like a broken record too soon, the populace can only wish for swifter changes in the attitude of the system towards breach. Change in this regard, can not be limited to the government alone. Finally, the inclusive government arrives at the door step of the average Nigerian.