- 3 commissioners suspended for improper dressing in Ebonyi
- CBN issues two new merchant bank licences
- Ekiti PDP accuses ACN of attacking members
- Daniel eulogises HID Awolowo at 97
- Jonathan hails Koroma's re-election
- Collapsed man: Edo dep gov threatens Airhiavbere
- Communal clash: Police arrest gang leader, 12 others in Nasarawa
- Corruption: There ‘ll be no sacred cow - Jonathan
- Amosun’s wife tasks students on reading culture
- Flooding: Dangote committee sets N50bn target
- Adamawa LG election conducted peacefully
- 1999 Constitution: Women group calls for amendment to gender-biased provisions
Corruption as Nigeria’s albatross
The Human Rights Watch (HRW), during the week, released a 64-page in-depth report on the state of Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts and concluded that corruption appears to be winning the war in the most populous African nation. Regional Editor,Olawale Rasheed, reviews the report and its recommendations.
The Human Rights Watch during the week released a 64 page in-depth report on the state of Nigeria`s anti-corruption efforts and concluded that corruption appears to be winning the war in the most populous African nation. Regional Editor,Olawale Rasheed, reviews the report and its recommendations.
The nation`s dented image as an endemically corrupt nation is again on display by no less a body than the Human Rights Watch. With data and quotes from actors in Nigeria, the report which focussed on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was at pain to insinuate that only a miracle can reverse the current trend of corruption gaining upper hand in the nation`s life.
"The country’s governing elite continues to squander and siphon off the nation’s tremendous oil wealth, neglecting basic health and education services for the vast majority of ordinary citizens. Widespread graft has fuelled political violence, police abuses, and other human rights violations``, the report noted in a series of explosive but embarrassing revelations.
The records in the report are clearly dreary. Despite the propaganda, in the eight years of existence of the EFCC for example, only four convictions were secured in high profile cases with only one was obtained through trial while the rest are through plea bargaining. Increasingly, there is a drop in the investigations of high profile cases in the last three years. The anti-corruption efforts have been more about continuous headlines but very few accomplishments in stemming high crime in high places. Under both Nuhu Ribadu and Farida Waziri, the report said nothing appreciable was done to tame the corruption monster.
The obstacles identified for the failing war on corruption were many. Key challenge, according to the report, was that the Nigerian system rewards rather than punish corruption. The political process is an investment process, a structure that the report said guarantee corruption of new and old elected and appointed officials. That culture links up with associated political interference with the anti-corruption efforts where leading officials dictate patterns and directions of indictments and prosecutions of corruption cases.
The compromised political structure fits near perfectly into an equally controversial judiciary struggling with impropriety and inefficiency. Judges granting frivolous injunctions to delay and frustrate trials were rife. More than twenty five complaints were filed against judges on this account.
The EFCC itself is bedevilled by myriads of challenges which largely weaken its capacity and resolve. Staff competency was cited with failure to prosecute former Governor Peter Odili cited as a consequence of incompetency or deliberate collaboration. This also goes along the allegations of extortion and corruption within the commission with some commission`s operatives said to have been compromised.
Even more serious is the lack of trust in the leadership of the commission by some foreign partners who believed the commission leadership is part of the problem rather than solution in the fight against corruption. The United States of America was particularly loud on this count, cutting off high level contact with the EFCC since the appointment of Mrs Waziri.The report even cited an incident in which the American Ambassador threatened to walk out on the foreign minister who had arranged a meeting between the Ambassador and Mrs Waziri.
The foreign partners are said to suspicious of the circumstances through which Waziri was appointed, believing that she was brought in to save some high profile suspects. While noting that Waziri may be a victim of circumstance, the report also chided the commission leadership for some conducts and actions which the report said appear to have compromised the anti-corruption efforts. The American cut off funding even though the Europeans appear sympathetic to the Waziri leadership.
Other agencies came for even rougher bashing. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission [ICPC] was classed as largely inefficient and ineffective despite the resources and network at its disposal. If the ICPC had been as active as EFCC, the report said the anti-corruption efforts would have recorded significant milestone.
The case of Code of Conduct Bureau was even more disappointing, Despite its powers to enforce probity among public officials, the report quoted its head as confirming the failure of the Bureau to act. The National Assembly also refused to pass the law regulating public declaration of assets by public officials. There was a surprising admission of failure by the Bureau.
The report thus pointedly identified the failing war on corruption in Nigeria and went further to Counsel President Jonathan to act quickly to safe the nation from receding further into the corruption water. In specific terms, the report tasked Mr. President to ensure the implementation of an agenda which includes measures to publicly signal a commitment to break from the bad practices of previous administrations, especially political interference with anti-corruption investigations and prosecutions;
The report further tasked the Jonathan administration to take steps to control the interference of the attorney general in anti-corruption cases; to increase the independence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through greater security of tenure of the EFCC chairman and other measures; to critically examine the record in office of the current EFCC leadership; to mpower the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission by installing credible and dynamic leadership; to enhance the Code of Conduct Bureau’s effectiveness by sponsoring legislation empowering it to grant broad public access to asset declarations and to take steps towards a broader effort to bolster the capacity and integrity of the federal courts.
The report also stated that the fight against corruption cannot be fought by the executive arm of government alone, thereby recommendations were made for the National Assembly to complement the efforts of the executive in the fight against corruption.
Part of the task handed the National Assembly is the amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act to define specific terms and conditions for public access to the asset declarations of public officials as provided by the Nigerian Constitution.
The National Assembly was also tasked to pass the Evidence Act (Amendment) Bill to modernise the rule of evidence, including admission of electronic evidence and consider passage of the Special Courts (Establishment) Bill to designate specific courts to hear corruption cases.
Former American Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr John Campbell, an established critic of Abuja, has the following to say on the report:``The HRW report should be required reading for those of us concerned about sustainable solutions to seemingly endemic conflict. In Nigeria, as elsewhere, corruption and conflict are inextricably linked.
“Competition for access to Nigeria’s vast oil wealth through public office has spurred winner-take-all politics, justifying any means. Unemployed youths are hired by politicians to intimidate and fight for them; ethnic, regional, and religious identities are mobilized for political purposes; elections are rigged; bribes are paid; and favours are owed. And the winner truly takes all,” Campbell noted.
As corruption impedes development and fuels conflict, the present administration has a herculean task to tame this hydra headed monster that is virtually encircling and fouling the nation. But is this albatross not too overwhelming for an innocent presidency?Share