Written by Scholastica JOSEPH, Ijeoma UKAZU, Williams ABAH

FG still scratching the surface in fight against corruption - Nigerians

Recent allegations against officials of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have renewed discussions on the effectiveness of the country’s fight against corruption. Our correspondents, Scholastica JOSEPH and Ijeoma UKAZI, sought the opinions of a cross section of Nigerians on whether the fight is being won. Excerpts:

 

AUSTIN ONUOHA:

Corruption is fought in two ways and that is how its effectiveness is measured. The face of government we see on a day-to-day basis is the Nigerian Police. You meet them everywhere; on the road, where there is crime etc.  Can we say that the police no longer ask for bail money? Can we say they have stopped bribe?

Recently in my village, a boy had problem with his uncles because he went and sold the family land. When the community and the family rose, he went and reported to the police that they kidnapped him. Now, when people kidnap you, will you recognise them? Will you see their face and you are busy moving about? Do you know the police came to my village and arrested them?

They said they were kidnappers and they were bailed with N35,000 each. If you want to fight corruption, you must look at those who represent the face of government on a day to day basis. That is an aspect of it. Let’s go to the political corruption which EFCC and ICPC is talking about. There is one portal where you go to check how the federal government and its agencies are procuring materials.

This Thursday morning on the radio; Nigeria Info 91.5, there was news that the Nigerian Road Safety Commission acquired sanitizers at N5000 per one and the thing is going for less than N1500, N2000 in the market and its one agency. It is easy to say yes, we are succeeding or no, we are not succeeding. But we must look at the fundamentals of how our society is organized and see if we are making progress or not.

Talking about corruption in the health sector, When COVID-19 broke out, one of the first argument that was made was that government don’t have money and people began to donate.  People cried out, are we going to account for this money or not. Now, it is not being accounted for. If you follow the media, a big scandal is growing concerning billions of naira worth of medical supplies for COVID. Where did they get the money from? Who is monitoring it?

The anti-corruption agencies have literally collapsed. When Magu is on trial, who is fighting corruption now? Everybody in EFCC now will be scared because they don’t know whether they will lose their jobs or not. See the scandal in NDDC and many other places. In our everyday life, can you walk into a government agency and get something done without payment? The answer is no. Can you get into a police station, make a statement and somebody bails you and you go home? The answer is no.

The big one; our judiciary is in jeopardy. When every other thing fails, you should go to court. Let’s look at the evidence on ground, what is going on and I tell you, what is going on is not very inspiring and encouraging at all.

 

JUSTIN GBAGIR: I wouldn’t say that government is winning the fight because corruption has been so endemic in our society and it has also been there for several decades. If you remember when Buhari wanted to come back as a civilian president, there were a lot of opposition.

He contested three times and won the fourth time. A few set of political leaders we had, that hitherto opposed him back then, were the ones who eventually supported him come back. You will also recall that when he eventually took over in 2015, his policy statement and body language were indicative that he was interested in fighting corruption because he said if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us.

In the course of his administration, he took critically ill and almost died. At the time he came back, he was no longer the Buhari we used to know. Every attempt to fight corruption at the highest level has been resisted even by the general public, there has been no support.

Now, the situation has gone back to the status quo where if you are able to get something for yourself, you will eat. Even in the more advanced countries of the world, there is corruption but it is not at the large scale as we have in Africa.

There, people make money that they can use to enhance or improve their standard of living but here, you see people embezzle money to build houses, stash some in banks and nobody raises eyebrow. That is the situation we have and I think it will take a lot of time to correct.

It is not only government that should fight corruption. All of us as citizens must resolve to fight corruption so that when we see people living corrupt lives, we will rise up against them. But as long as we continue to applaud people who are embezzling our public resources and seeing it as being fortunate, no effort by the government to fight corruption will yield any positive result.

 

ROSELINE APOCHI: Well, the anti- corruption agency, EFCC, has tried in the area of building public trust, especially under the present administration whose mantra is to fight corruption. But I can tell you that their best is not good enough to actually get to the root of corruption and eradicate it. They need to investigate and prosecute accused persons without external forces from the ruling class.

 

For me, the war against corruption in Nigeria is subjective. You cannot totally blame EFCC for their shortcomings. The presidency arrogated so much power to itself so that at any level of government, it decides on its operations, even when it is against established laws. Those external forces have crippled EFCC's efficiency in fighting corruption and that of other anti-corruption agencies.

 

I think the government need to recruit trusted and refined personnel into the anti-corruption agency, because as we speak, the crop of people in that organization are all cronies of the politicians. They have strong influence on them. Until that is done, the situation will remain the way it is.

 

USMAN MOHAMMED: fighting corruption is not an easy task. However, government is gradually winning the war, but a lot needs to be done. We can see now that it is no longer business as usual where political appointees and civil servants loot from public treasury and go scot free. EFCC has created an atmosphere where anybody entrusted with the management of our public treasury, handles it with care, as he must account for his stewardship.

However, the rate of corruption is still high. Corruption is not something that can be addressed in a single tenure. Corruption in Nigeria is deep-rooted in our social and economic life. It requires consistent effort to be eradicated completely. The recent accusation against the chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, is so embarrassing. We cannot continue this way and get good result.

Government needs to appoint the EFCC chairman outside the police force, and allow the anti-corruption agency to operate on the established law in discharging their legitimate duty.

 

ASOGBA MICHAEL:

For decades, political corruption has remained a persistent phenomenon in Nigeria. The ruling party campaigned on the promise of delivering annual economic growth of about 10 per cent. But realities in the global oil market collided with that pledge.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has had a busy time prosecuting alleged corrupt individuals and politicians, some of whom were given jail terms. But others ended up as mere media trial after suspects were acquitted. Also, some of the accused who later joined the “winning team” had their corruption charges put on hold. This government is NOT winning the war against corruption as promised!

 

EMMANUEL OKODUA: President Buhari-led administration is winning the war against corruption. With so many hidden truths being unraveled and made public, obviously, it is taking the right steps towards a good direction.

However, this government would have been more justified if all identified corrupt individuals and cases were meticulously prosecuted. Finally, steps taken so far on the fight against corruption are commendable.

 

 

 

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