Here’s a novel way to punish corrupt officials, said Lagos’ This Day in an editorial. Kill them. Nigerians are so frustrated at rampant corruption in the government that one lawmaker actually proposed the death penalty for bribe takers and embezzlers—and he was taken seriously. The idea “received the hearty support of Supreme Court Justice Niki Tobi” at the National Political Reform Conference last week. “We have too many rogues in public office,” Tobi told the lawmaker, “and I agree with you that capital punishment would do a lot in reducing corruption.” Would it, though? It’s true that corruption has “kept Nigeria and, indeed, the black man down, in an age where every other race is taking astonishing strides in economic development.” Nearly every palm is stretched out for a little grease, and nearly every man who attains high office feels entitled to dip into public coffers. The problem is so widespread that we certainly can’t execute every perpetrator. But we can try to catch, humiliate, and reprimand every one. Zero tolerance has worked in other countries against other social ills, and it’s worth a try here. After all, as Max Weber wrote, “It is not the severity of punishment that discourages criminality, but the certainty of punishment.”
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