By Abubakar Jimoh
A group of national and international anti-corruption actors has called for ample and sincere policy response to reported corruption, giving zero chance to nepotism to revert current unfavourable corruption indices and successfully combat the menace in Nigeria.
The group made this call at a One-day High Level Workshop to Share International Anti-Corruption Best Practices to Address Emerging Issues themed “Preventing the Facilitation of Corruption in Public and Private Sector: Leveraging on International Frameworks to Promote Sustainable Development” organized by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with support from MacArthur Foundation and Ford Foundation in Abuja.
Speaking at the High Level meeting, human right activist and former Minister for Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili urged immediate dismissal of excessive centralized power operating in opaque context, especially in the oil and gas sector to successfully wage war against corruption in the country.
She bemoaned the refusal of the President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a Petroleum Minister to effectively coordinate activities and pilot affairs of the nation’s oil and gas sector, giving chances to infiltration of politically exposed persons into oil and gas contracting.
“Where the tendency to be corrupt is high, there will be more corruption. Effort to reduce corruption must critically consider prompt reduction of power that exercise in opaque context especially in the oil and gas sector. Government must embrace total transparency and accountability, and open-up the economy to the world.
“Government must embrace full accountability in the nation’s extractive sector. If these are taken into account, the existing challenges of identifying beneficial owners in public contracting will be automatically addressed.
“While Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an enabling law to ensure openness and transparency of public information disclosure, the political class however, does not want the Act in practice,” Dr. Ezekwesili bemoaned.
The human right crusader encouraged anti-graft institutions to embrace high level professionalism, openness and transparency in their activities in order to earn credibility and support of the citizens, who will take ownership and de-normalise behavour in demanding social justice and accountability in governance.
Giving his welcome remarks at the Workshop, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) said despite emphasis placed by successive administration in combating corruption in the public sector which accounted for an estimated 70% of corruption cases in Nigeria, the spite of corrupt practices in the public sector remained a major impediment to service delivery and development success of the administrations.
He said: “The effects of corruption in service delivery in Nigeria are outrageous. The effects range from under development, absence of basic infrastructure facilities such as potable water, good road networks, dilapidated health care facilities and degrading services, massive poverty, cluelessness in professionalism, deficient leadership outputs, high unemployment and youth hopelessness, falling standard of education leading to production of low-quality graduates.
“Let me also use this medium to emphasis that since the issue of corruption remains persistent in Nigeria, putting in place adequate and effective anti-corruption response mechanisms with a view towards tackling the menace remains looming.
“We must therefore share international anti-corruption best practices to address emerging issues towards building integrity and emerging best practices on curbing corruption by leveraging on international frameworks to promote sustainable development in Nigeria.”
The Executive Director continued: “In February 2018, Transparency International released the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and Nigeria slipped further down in the global rankings, an indication that appreciable and lasting progress has not been made in the fight against corruption.
“Nigeria ranks 148 out of 180 countries, with a 27% score out of 100%. In 2016, Nigeria ranked 136, slipping further down by 12 points. Corruption persists in the country at all levels costing taxpayers 25% of annual GDP. Despite accelerated convictions between 2016 and 2017, none has made sufficient impact on asset recovery or positively defined public opinions.
“There can be no gainsaying that corruption threatens virtually everything we hold dear and precious in our hard-won constitutional order. It fuels maladministration and deceitfulness, and blatantly undermines the democratic ethos, the institutions of democracy, the rule of law and the foundational values of our emerging democratic project.”
The Chair of Transparency International, Delia Matilde Ferreira Rubio added that collective and sincere effort must be invested by relevant authorities and the citizens to successfully combat corruption.
She called for strong institutions and de-normalised citizens’ perception through the passage of internationally ratified conventions to change process and institutions.
According to her, without strong institution, individual re-orientation and enabling laws against corruption, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) cannot be achieved.
“Corruption can happen in any country. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with reaction of the government or society towards corruption cases. It is the reaction that makes the difference in each society.
“Corruption has been normalized as usual way of behavior. This is what we must fight. We must fight for education, strong institutions and full implementation of enabling laws.
“We must fight for independence agencies with adequate resources and legal authorities to deal successfully with corruption. The fight against corruption must be sustainable to combat forces that undermine anti-corruption efforts,” the Chair warned.
The Chairman of CISLAC’s Board of Trustees, Mallam Y.Z Ya’u said corruption crippled most government’s initiatives in Nigeria, warning that the manners in which corruption is encouraged and celebrated, especially in the public sector reveal the extent to which systemic corruption has become the order of the day.
He said: “Whistleblowers are fast becoming victims of circumstance in any attempt to uncover corruption.
“Continuous diversion of resources reduces the level of resources and investments available for social sector.
“Corruption is Nigeria’s worst problem. It is responsible for all kinds of woes, such as election rigging, failed promises, abandoned projects, poor quality of implemented projects, dilapidated infrastructure facilities, and nepotism.”
Acknowledging the ongoing efforts at arresting and prosecuting offenders in the country, the African Director of MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Kole Shettima stressed the importance of instituting appropriate preventive mechanisms and ensuring governance presence at all levels.
“There is need to ensure presence of governance in ungoverned areas in the country. More priority should be accorded basic and qualitative lives of the people. Good governance is a credible investment to combat corruption in the country.
“Effort should be made in raising the public conscious especially ordinary citizens against corruption. Those who are not corrupt should be appreciated, reinforced and celebrated,” he explained.