Lagosians seek sanctions for corruption at local level
IT is a known fact that many Lagosians are victims of corruption at the community and local government level, but there are few opportunities and fora for them to narrate their experiences at the hands of government corrupt officials.
At a public hearing organized last week by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) on local/community level corruption, it provided the needed opportunity for victims to narrate their experiences as well as demand for sanctions for government officials’ corrupt acts.
The participants, drawn from trade unions, market men and women, taxi drivers association, Community Development Associations (CDAs), and artisans, agreed in unison that corruption has assumed the toga of impunity in the country because corrupt people are not punished.
They, therefore, called for a change of culture that will guarantee punishment for corruption and corrupt tendencies in order to mitigate the rising incidence of fraud at the community and local government level.
According to Busola Olurundipe, a human rights activist with Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), the meeting provided a wonderful opportunity for ordinary Lagosians to narrate their ordeals of graft involving government officials and public institutions.
Some of the problems identified are prevalent in the local government offices, primary healthcare centres, and police stations, which demand for bribe at all level of engagement with citizens. According to her, the endemic nature of corruption in the country requires revolution to tackle.
Speaking in same vein, head of Netherlands Representation in Lagos and Deputy Mission Abuja, Michel Deelen, said corruption is not typical to Nigeria, but what is lacking is punishment for offenders. People, he said will continue to breach the law, if they know that there is nobody to stop them.
According to him, the good thing about the meeting is that people are getting vocal and want to make use of the opportunity to say that things cannot continue the way it is happening. “It will come to a situation where people who are engaging in corrupt practices must feel the guilt before they desist, because at the moment, they don’t feel guilty at all.”
Deelen also said it is not lack of law that is the issue because Nigeria has a long legal traditions but implementation of the law.
Beyond supporting SERAP, the Netherland Embassy in Nigeria, he said, is also partnering Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) to train journalists because people must know what is going on and must be investigated by both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and journalists.
The way out of corruption, he said is not different from the same way the political situation is being tackled, which is that the citizens must be vocal and its growing middle class must not desperately depend on handouts from politicians or corrupt people.
In all parts of the world, there is no where corruption is completely eradicated; the difference is that once it is committed, there will always be consequences.
“The middle class in Nigeria is very key, because people will now demand service from their governments. That is when the situation will change. Impunity will not take the country anywhere,” he added.
For the Executive Director of SERAP, Prince Adetokunbo Mumuni, the public hearing was a departure from the norm, in order to allow the ordinary Nigerians to narrate their practical life experiences.
“In all parts of the world, there is no where corruption is completely eradicated, the difference is that once a corrupt act is committed, there will be consequences.”
Mumuni stressed that the inability of anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC and ICPC to properly prosecute corrupt cases was caused by people holding political powers, who are not giving the agencies all the necessary support to act.
“The conclusions and recommendations at the hearing will be sent to the appropriate anti-corruption agencies and other concerned authorities,” he added.