CSOs, Falana worry over weakening corruption war
Participants at a forum on anti-corruption crusade in Abuja yesterday alleged weak approach to fighting the menace, consequently crippling the efficiency of government at all levels.
The stakeholders, who spoke at the event tagged ‘13th Anti-Corruption Agenda for the 9th National Assembly’ organised by the Human and Environmental Agenda (HEDA), said urgent practical steps must be taken to redress the situation in the interest of national development.
A senior advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, lamented that attention was being focused on a few issues at the federal level to the dangerous neglect of what he called serious rot at all tiers of government.
Falana described the inefficiency at the local and state levels as a major setback in the fight against corruption, lamenting non-investigation into how states and local governments expend their money.“None of the 774 local governments in Nigeria has any operating budget. They are just operating without any direction,” he said.
Falana condemned what he described as abuse of court process, where those invited for questioning over allegation of fraud secure court orders to frustrate such investigation. He warned that should the practice be allowed to continue, criminals and other evil elements may soon adopt the same method to frustrate their arrests and eventual prosecution.
“When you invite a politician for questioning, he runs to a court to get an order. This is alien to our laws. If we don’t stop this practice, very soon, criminals, including armed robbers and kidnappers, will rush to court to stop their arrests. No court can stop any investigation. Even with immunity, you can be investigated, but not arrested.”
The Chairman of the event, Prof. Shehu Abdullahi, said every stakeholder must contribute to the fight against corruption.
“Corruption is a problem and Nigerians talk about it everyday. Despite the concerns, corruption still stays with us. We don’t intend to eliminate corruption, but we can reduce it to its lowest minimum.“We are here to set an agenda for the National Assembly. But did they ask us to set an agenda for them? However, we will do what we are expected to do. From the constitutional provision, the National Assembly has the responsibility to enact the necessary legislative framework for the country to tackle corruption.
“If we are going to set an agenda for the National Assembly, we need to engage them first and understand where the problems are.”
The Chief of Staff to the Deputy Senate President, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, identified five bodies that should be at the forefront of the fight against corruption.He said: “Corruption is as old as the society itself. In every society, there are key agencies that try and fight corruption. We have the executive, the legislature, independent commissions, the media and citizens.
“The challenge is that these five groups are not doing their job well. I advise that we should have a clear advocacy brief that will be taken to the National Assembly. We need to have a clear picture of how to tackle corruption. With the level of graft in the country, things will not be sustainable in the nearest future. We need to do something.”
The Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, said: “Some of our beneficiaries are being shortchanged. We have investigated the allegation and found that it is true. Some community leaders are demanding for levies and some local government officials are also stealing the money. All of us have a responsibility to ensure that citizens who are not privileged as we are should be taken care of.
“As for the National Assembly, we have asked how we can sustain our efforts. There is a draft bill we are working on. The National Assembly is not too keen on how monies appropriated are spent at the local levels.”
To Mrs. Ene Obi, the Director, Actionaide, there is the need to take the fight against corruption to all the states and local governments. We need to fight corruption completely. People need to go to jail if they have to go to jail.”
Dayo Olaide of McAthur Foundation said that in fighting corruption, Nigerian must move from name calling to taking action. “The challenge appears to be that the country has lost the capacity to enforce the laws. The laws are not enough, people give bribes because they see more people doing it.”
The Chairman of HEDA, Olarenwaju Suraj, said they were out to assist the parliament by offering them an agenda to work with. He said that as the 9th Assembly reconvenes in September, lawmaking, oversight should be taken serious. He added that the government must review its policies and fund the agencies to meet the demand for effective fight against corruption.
Aminu Ibrahim Gusau, who represented the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, said the anti-graft body was established by the National Assembly but wondered why the lawmakers “can’t guide the institution.”