To save Nigeria from corruption
WHEN President Goodluck Jonathan defended the charge of corruption against his administration on an international news network the other day, he could not be accused of not appreciating the fact that the credibility of his entire government had been challenged. Even as the president insisted that the perception rating on corruption in Nigeria was exaggerated by his enemies and that graft had not worsened on his watch, he spoke with effort and sounded more than a little unconvincing.
No doubt, the nation’s development has been hemmed in over the years by the carapace of corruption. This, and how to overcome the menace, should therefore, be the concern of the President who should not see the charge as an attack only on himself and his government. The question that should be on the mind of the President like every other citizen who is genuinely committed to the Nigerian project is: how does Nigeria develop a mechanism for fighting corruption successfully?
Today, sadly, a major attribute that is often associated with Nigeria is corruption. There is no focus on the brilliance, ingenuity and versatility of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora while there is hardly any mention of the great feats Nigerians are recording in almost every corner of the globe.
This is because the outside world is a witness to the unceasing reports of egregious cases of official corruption, under-hand dealings in private businesses and the failure of the nation’s justice system to punish culprits.
This is why in the global ranking of the most corrupt countries of the world, Nigeria has not yielded its inglorious position as one of the worst to another nation. For instance in 2014, Transparency International ranked Nigeria 136th out of 175 countries and territories in the world. This ranking places it among other most corrupt countries like Cameroun, Lebanon and Russia. And just recently, the Thambo Mbeki report on illicit financial flows from Africa said that Nigeria accounted for about 68.1 per cent of the total revenue Africa lost between 2001 and 2010 through corruption and illegal transfers.
And it is obvious that governance in Nigeria thrives on corruption. It is through corruption that political patronage is offered to supporters at the expense of the state. Through the entrenched corrupt system, billions are lost daily but nobody is held accountable. With the pension funds’ fraud, the oil subsidy claim scams, the Halliburton case, graft charges against former and sitting governors and bank chiefs, the point is fully made that corruption thrives in Nigeria or Nigeria will die by corruption. Yet, how many people have been sent to jail because of these glaring and mind-boggling cases of corruption? None!
The nation must strengthen its anti-corruption agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC). Clearly, the claims by these anti-graft agencies that they have taken some cases to court and won are true. The sad fact is that these are mostly cases dealing with petty instances of corruption while the big ones are left unprosecuted. How many of the nation’s so-called big men have been successfully prosecuted for corruption? In the rare cases where some big names are accused of corruption, they are merely relieved of their positions to continue to enjoy their loot. When they are taken to court at all, their prosecution is only a charade, for if they are found guilty, they are given ridiculously light sentences that can hardly deter.
In fighting corruption, the judiciary must also be alive to its responsibility. Cases of corruption should not only be expeditiously prosecuted and adjudicated upon, those found guilty should be heavily punished to serve as a deterrent to others. Alas, the arbiter in the cases of corruption is equally being accused of corruption. On the Bench and at the Bar, there have been proven cases of corruption. Judges have been accused of becoming billionaires after hearing election petition cases while lawyers have been accused of striking corrupt deals between their clients and the Bench.
The country is mired in the menace and cleansing the stable should not be the responsibility of President Jonathan alone. The whole nation and all citizens should face up to the challenge of winning the war against corruption in the country. The President, however, has the inescapable responsibility of leading the way.
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