Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga and Francis Moses report on the civil society efforts to gulvanise Nigerians in support the officially declared war on corruption
Rising to the challenge posed President Buhari in his inauguration speech to the effect that corruption must be tackled form the Center through the state and local government, Nigerians in their numbers gathered at the Ogun Hall of the Ikeja Airport Hotel to brainstorm on the way forward. Organised by the Social-Economic Rights and Accountability Projects (SERAP) in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) yesterday, the participants discussed strategies/approaches to tackle corruption in Local Governments Areas in Nigeria and the role of Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the agenda.
It was a very robust and enlightening event where the ICPC representative, Adedayo said “The fight against corruption cannot be fought alone by ICPC/ EFCC, but civil society organizations should join in the fight as whistle blowers.” In his contribution, Mr. Kayode Adebayo, the chairman investigative unit of ICPC, he further noted that the average responsibility of a Politian is for his or her selfish interest. His words “for us to get the society right we must get the man right, and we have to start from the top, to the middle and finally the list, that is the only way to combat corruption in Nigeria”.
Speaking on the preventive measure he said, strengthening the institution is one of the key to fight corruption in Nigeria, our votes must be counted, our money must be counted, to improve budgeting system and budget control, all these can lead us a long way in fighting corruption. However ICPC cannot fight this alone, he said and therefore urged Nigerians to speak out at the right time. However countries without vibrant civil society culture and credible media, he said, have been successful in developing merit-based bureaucratic values, institutionalized competitive politics, inclusive and transparent government processes, public accountability and participation.
He stated that as civil society is a staunch defender of public interests and a watchdog of government policies and activities, it must be encouraged, strengthening and involved in the formation and implementation of anti-corruption legislation and strategies by the state. He called on the public to send any information about corrupt practices by wards and local government chairmen to the ICPC for proper investigation in order to make sure any government officials or public servants found wanting could be tried and made to face the full wrought of the law. He gave out five toll-free numbers through which the public may inform the organization about anybody suspected of involvement in shady deals, so that the corruption fighting body can act on it.
The numbers given are: 08031230280,08031230281, 08031230282, 08150905191 and 08150905191. In his own contribution, the EFCC representative, Latona said “The strength of the EFCC is not even up to 10,000 personnel. How can such small number successfully investigate a population of over 170million people? People compare the EFCC to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI is well equipped than the EFCC. The EFCC is not only constrained by personnel but equipment. “Another challenge is that, many people see things and don’t talk or inform the EFCC, yet they want the organization to be performing well.
The commission deserves commendation than condemnation. It is the duty of every well meaning Nigerian to see things, talk and do their own part. That is, seeing crime, recognizing it, talking about it and doing your part by reporting it to the EFCC to act upon. “You also have to be patient with EFCC while we are investigating issues or reports about crimes. It takes at least three months to properly investigate an issue to get the facts before taking a decision. We don’t act on conjectures or imagination but facts.”
While talking about corruption, he said “In the up north, I discovered that people only go to local government offices only when there is money to share. But after that day, you won’t see anybody again until another 28 days when money is to be shared. This means money meant for projects for the interest of the masses goes into private pockets. However, the commission still wants autonomy for local government.
All we need do is to monitor very well how they spend the subventions given to them for rural development.” The roundtable which was titled “Approaches for combating impunity for local government corruption: the role of ICPC and EFCC”, was sparked off by President Muhammadu Buhari’s policy on local government corruption, urging Nigerians to help in tackling corruption. President Buhari had stated in his inaugural speech that, “Elsewhere relations between Abuja and the States have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better.
His words “Constitutionally there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the Federal Government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments”. Those who attended the event include Mr. Debo Adeniran, the coordinator of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) in Nigeria; Mr. Kayode Adedayo, Head of Investigation and Coordinator of ICPC State Offices, who represented the Chairman Nta Ekpo; Mr. Gbolahan Latona of the EFCC, represented Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde and a very large number of pressmen who filled up every seat in the hall.