Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Blows The Lid On Why State Governors Are Reluctant To Pay Workers Saying Senate Will Not Shield Anyone
Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, yesterday blamed non-payment of salaries in some states across the country on the high rate of corruption that is being perpetrated by those in the public service.
Saraki, who addressed a delegation of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in his office, assured that the 8th Senate would make corruption a priority, as the Senate has a zero-tolerance to it.
“I want to let you know that the 8th Senate has a zero-tolerance to corruption. We will want to make it a priority for us. We believe that it has got to a stage where it is truly endangering the entire system.
“And some of the symptoms that we are seeing in the area of how it is affecting our national development is becoming more and more clear to all of us because of corruption and our national life goes beyond financial cost.
“We see it in states now; they cannot pay salaries. We see it in the states of our schools and the impact on our education. We have seen it in the state of our health and the impact on the issue of maternity and child health.
“We have seen it in the ever increasing cost of governance, the failure of public institutions and infrastructure. We have taken it upon ourselves that one of the deliverables is to bring it to an end and begin to tame corruption,” he noted.
He disagreed with the ICPC Chairman, Barr. Ekpo Nta, that the slight improvement on the Transparency Corruption Index was something for Nigeria to count as achievement.
Saraki, who also called for all hands to be on deck in the fight against corruption, assured corrupt Nigerians that they would not find a safe haven in the Senate.
“A country like Nigeria with our position, not only in Africa, but in the world today, must do better than that. So, for the 8th Senate, we are making corruption a priority. It is a must, and we are committed to that. And our goal is to work with you, EFCC and Code of Conduct to reduce significantly the level of corruption in the system.
“We can only do that by knowing the challenges. It is not just the photo shots or appearing before the media and saying the right things alone; you know what the challenges are. Are there things that we need to do that will help prevention? Because I’m sure a banker, who is doing his due diligence, sees a balance of an assistant director that is in billions, I don’t think he needs anything to tell him that there is something funny going on here.
“We need to be very creative and bring everybody in. Are you independent enough? Are there areas we can support you? The message we want you to take away with you today is that the 8th Senate is ready to work with you.
“The 8th Senate is not going to provide any safe haven for anybody. The 8th Senate wants to work very closely with the President (Muhammadu Buhari) on this issue. And I’m sure with the political will, both on the legislative and executive part we can bring it to an end.
“We might not be able to eradicate it completely, but we can bring it to a level that as a country we can be proud of. I’m very committed to this, and so are a lot of our colleagues here. When a government gets to a stage that we cannot meet our obligations, then we know that we are getting into a crisis. And that crisis also requires drastic action,” he added.
Earlier, Nta noted that Nigeria had taken steps to address the issue of corruption holistically by following the guidelines of the international convention, which focus on the key areas of enforcement, prevention, mass mobilisation against corruption.
Nta, who noted that the fight against corruption was making progress, however, stressed the need for government to address the root cause of corruption, if the fight against corruption must be won by the Buhari-led administration.
According to him, corruption in the country was on the steady rise due to default on the part of government in the payment of wages and pensions, compelling public servants to resort to self help through the divergence of funds in the course of discharging their duties.
With the fight against corruption over the last years, Nigeria is on the right track. The sub-structures that
support corruption need to be addressed first public officers have not been paid accumulated pensions in a long while, forcing civil servants in service to resort to corrupt means of seeking self help,” he said.
Speaking on the Commission’s approach to curbing corruption, Nta added that: “The ICPC approach to enforcement is simple. If the commission is investigating any fraud the primary intent is not to send the suspect to jail but to ensure recovery of looted funds.”
He stated that the ICPC had, over time assisted the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in the recovery of taxes evaded by organisations and individuals.
He disclosed that the commission had a competent team of chartered accountants, as well as a working template being developed to clamp down on the crime of tax fraud in the country.
Nta further assured that the ICPC would always be ready to assist the senate on issues that affect national interest.