In this piece, MONDAY IJEH examines stakeholders’ reactions and the resolve of President Muhammadu Buhari administration to tackle corruption in Nigeria
Corruption is seen by many observers as a major obstacle militating against the socio-economic development of Nigeria. This, according to the observers, is because corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society to such an extent that if care is not taken, country’s quest to develop into one of foremost 20 countries in the world may turn to be a mirage.
They insist that in spite of the efforts of the country’s anti-corruption agencies to curb all forms of corruption, some government officials still embezzle public funds without any fear of sanctions. This worrisome development, perhaps, made the President Muhammadu Buhari, to pledge, during his electioneering, that his administration would strengthen the country’s anti-corruption war and make it a priority project. Buhari, at several fora, has reiterated his readiness to tackle corruption head-on because it constituted a threat to the nation’s development and survival. “Corruption attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character by misdirecting into selfish hands, funds intended for the public purpose; corruption distorts the economy and worsens income inequality.
“We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival. I repeat that corruption will not be tolerated by this administration,” the president vowed.
Mr Emmanuel Amadi, a lawyer, however, attributed the high level of corruption in the country to what he calls a decay of the moral and cultural values of the Nigerian society.
“There are cultural practices that feed corruption in Nigeria and unfortunately, corruption has become an official modality for conducting government businesses.
“When somebody begins to spend money in a manner that is beyond his income, we tacitly support him by calling it `dividends of democracy’ without asking questions,” Amadi says.
As a result, Mr Abdullahi Musa, another lawyer and public affairs analyst, advises the incoming administration to give priority attention to the anti-corruption war.
He insisted the anti-corruption crusade can yield the desired results if the incoming administration adopts a multi-faceted approach in tackling corruption because the vice is visibly entrenched in both the public and private sectors of the economy.
Musa urged Buhari to be very transparent in his war against corruption, as there are allegations in certain quarters that a lot of the political bigwigs in the country are very corrupt.
He, nonetheless, vouches for the determination of the president-elect to successfully prosecute the war, saying that his antecedents as a legendary anti-corruption crusader will aid the process of sanitising the system. “We need to set our values; we need to define what we should support as a people; extravagance in the use of public funds must be jettisoned and replaced with prudence and value for money.
“Every country that wants development must have certain values that are held dearly; values that are given paramount importance in the public space.
“This must also reflect in the presidential convoy: how many cars will be in the presidential convoy, what kind of cars will be in the convoy; all of these must be defined,” he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Prof. Yemi Akinseye (SAN), underscores the need for the president-elect to revamp the country’s anti-corruption institutions so as to facilitate the achievement of speedy and effective results in his anti-corruption agenda.
He contends that the agencies have all performed below public expectations in their efforts to curb corruption.
Akinseye insisted that the apathy of the agencies towards certain public officers, who allegedly gave money to legislators to pass laws, is an act of corruption. “The anti-corruption agencies are expected to be centres of excellence; bodies that are known to be free of corruption but unfortunately, we cannot say that now. The incoming administration should reinvent the agencies; this entails carrying out one-by-one review of every member of staff of the agencies and by this, some workers may need to be sent to other agencies.
“We need institutions that can deliver on their mandate of combating corruption, those whose integrity is beyond doubt; and by this, the agencies must be competent capable and well-motivated enough to prevent corruption and minimise leakages from the nation’s treasury,” he said.
In the same vein, Mr Samuel Obiora, an anti-corruption crusader, also called for the reform of the institutions as well as a reduction in the cost of governance by the incoming administration. He faults the sustained practice of successive governments, in which the National Assembly determines what its members should be paid.
“It is unethical for any institution to determine its remuneration; the National Salaries and Wages Commission is constitutionally empowered to determine and harmonise salaries in the country. I, however, agree that one factor that will determine the success of this government is its ability to secure the support and cooperation of the National Assembly.
“These legislators have actually spent a lot of money to win their seats in the National Assembly; starting from their expenses in acquiring nomination forms in their various political parties. Some of these politicians have even borrowed money and a lot of people have supported them in one way or the other,” he said.
Obiora, nonetheless, wanted the incoming Buhari-administration to work out legitimate ways of securing the support of the National Assembly apart using from financial inducements. “For instance, the government must be transparent in the provision of accommodation for the incoming National Assembly members since the Legislative Quarters have been sold their occupants under the monetisation policy of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
“Once the National Assembly knows that the President is sincere and that he is also making sacrifices, they will follow suit. The expectations of Nigerians are very high; so, the APC government is expected to go for quick-fix programmes that can be executed as quick as possible so as to garner and sustain the citizens’ goodwill,” Obiora added.
Analysts, however, commend the outgoing administration of President Goodluck Jonathan for its anti-corruption efforts.
They claim that some initiatives of the government have somewhat saved the country from the high cost of investigating and prosecuting corruption cases. Prof. Saleh Dauda of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Abuja, says that the anti-corruption initiatives of the outgoing administration have strengthened the citizens’ awareness of certain corrupt instances.
He cited the elimination of corrupt practices in the fertiliser distribution chain as a major feat of the Jonathan-administration, insisting that its fertiliser supply initiative has made it easier for farmers to obtain the product.
Besides, Dauda noted that Jonathan has never been accused of corruption, saying: “To me, once a leader is not accused of corruption, it is a very positive development.”
Nevertheless, he insists that the country’s anti-corruption agencies have not achieved much in terms of the investigation and prosecution of high-profile cases, adding, however, that the country’s judicial system should be blamed for the deficiency.
“The Nigerian judicial system has, over the years, performed below expectation in terms of prosecution of high-profile cases and this manifested in the high number of pending corruption cases against some ex-governors in various courts. The duty of the anti-corruption agencies is to investigate and prosecute these cases; the agencies cannot determine how long a case will be in court,” he said.
Dauda, therefore, called on the incoming administration to urgently initiate decisive measures to reform the country’s judicial system in order to enhance the speedy trial of criminal cases, among others. While appealing to Nigerians to be patient with the incoming Buhari-administration, the don also advises the administration to consolidate on the feats of some initiatives of the Jonathan¬-administration, particularly those with positive impacts and those aimed at strengthening the anti-corruption agencies.
Commenting of the government’s anti-corruption crusade, Mr Ekpo Nta, the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other related Offences Commission (ICPC), said that the commission’s focus on corruption prevention strategies is in line with global best practices.
He said that the rationale behind ICPC’s adoption of preventive measures is to strengthen public awareness on corrupt practices. Nta said that the commission has, in the last four years, adopted several anti-corruption preventive strategies, particularly in the area of collaboration with relevant stakeholders, government agencies, civil society organisations, law enforcement agencies and other partners in the crusade.
The spokesman of ICPC, Mr Folu Olamiti, cited the detection of 56,000 ghost workers in the payroll of the Federal Civil Service as a product of the corruption prevention initiative of the agencies.
“The ghost workers were detected through the Integrated Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and this exercise has saved about N162 billion for the federal government,” he said. Besides, Olamiti said that the elimination of touts at the country’s airports is an outcome of the partnership between ICPC and the Ministry of Aviation, adding that the agency is currently investigating 156 companies over fake tax clearance certificates.
Another major feat of the outgoing administration in the anti-corruption war is the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Academy to enhance local training of anti-corruption officials and stakeholders.
Under the Buhari administration, Nigerians express the hope that it will initiate far-reaching measures that will strengthen the country’s anti-corruption war. (NAN)