WASHINGTON – Citizens, civil society leaders and other stakeholders have raised “serious concerns about the escalating series of kidnappings, killings and insecurity across the country, which are clearly fueled by years of grand corruption and impunity of perpetrators,” and stated that, “only ambitious and robust anti-corruption fight can end the insecurity in the country.”
This was stated today at a townhall meeting held at the Barcelona Hotel in Abuja and organized by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with UKaid.
Professor Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN, in his paper titled Practical Strategies to Mobilise Citizens to Participate in the Fight against Corruption, said: “Corruption is the greatest obstacle to security, development and equality in the Nigerian society. Corruption affects all aspects of human endeavour and permeates all strata of the Nigerian society, starting from the government down to the average citizen. This threatens the existence of the country as one entity by weakening institutions, rendering obsolete the rule of law, undermining good governance and impoverishing the citizenry through a diminishing economy.”
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According to Akinseye-George: “The most visible impact of corruption in the Nigerian society today can be viewed through the lens of the myriad of security challenges the country has to face, which extends from the activities of bandits on almost all major road networks to insurgency in the North. Despite millions allocated to the defence sector, the average Nigerian can hardly travel inter-state without fear for one’s safety.”
He said: “One wonders what the various governors do with the security votes allocated to them every month. The fact that security votes are generally not accounted for should be no excuse to divert such funds for purposes unrelated to security.”
Hassan Hafiz Mohammed, who represented the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, said: Official oath of secrecy cannot and should never be used as a pretext by public officials not to disclose information on corruption matters within their ministries, departments and agencies.”
According to Mr Saminu Amadin, representative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC): “The fight against corruption cannot be left for government alone as the citizens have a critical role to play in preventing and combating corruption in Nigeria. We should deploy all means to fight corruption.”
Mrs R Hassan Ahmed, who represented the National Judicial Council (NJC) on her part stated that: “The Administration of Criminal Justice Act should be fully implemented by all the states, as it will help to fight corruption including in the judiciary and help to address the chronic delay in judicial processes.”
Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP deputy director, said before the group discussions: “Good governance, respect for human rights and total commitment to obey court orders are critically important to the stability and growth of Nigeria, and to preventing and combating the security challenges in many parts of the country. Federal and state governments should focus their attention on the human rights dimension of insecurity in the country, as an honest government is a basic right of all citizens.”
According to him, “Citizens bring a missing component to the anti-corruption struggle. They bring extra-institutional pressure to push for change when power holders are corrupt and are unaccountable, and when institutional channels are blocked or ineffective. Nigerians should therefore exert their collective power to get involved in the fight against corruption including cases of corruption that directly affect them.”
Oluwadare also said: “While corruption brings out the worst in people, fighting corruption can bring out the best. Citizens don’t fight corruption in the abstract. They do so to overcome poor and unaccountable governance, poverty, displacement, organized crime and other forms of oppression and injustice.”
“SERAP encourages people to speak up against corruption at all levels of government—federal, state and local government as well as against corruption involving the private sector, and the impunity that has allowed corruption to flourish. Grand and petty corruption directly affect all of us as citizens, especially the socially and economically vulnerable among us. Nigerians can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if they wish to become a member of the Citizens United against Corruption”, Oluwadare said.
The event was attended by Engr. T.O. Dina, the Federal Ministry of Power; Mr Emmanuel Ochum, Ministry of Health; Mr Akpa Benjamin, Federal Ministry of Education; Mr Musa Matoma, Federal Ministry of Health; Mr Hanma Mohammed, Ministry of Interior; Shamm T. Kolo Director, Surveillance and Enforcement at the Federal Competitive and Consumer Protection Commission; and Mr Ogundumu, Ministry of Education.
Others at the event included the representatives of the National Human Rights Commission, civil society and the media.
Participants at the town hall meeting agreed to join ‘Citizens United against Corruption, to which everyone can become members and contribute to the fight against corruption in the country.
Akinseye-George’s paper read in part: “The citizens who are the greatest victims must mobilize efficiently to ensure transparency and accountability in government. This will necessitate making many difficult decisions which includes changing attitude and lifestyle patterns. The question however is, are Nigerians ready to make these changes and to respect the sanctity of the rule of law even when it is inconvenient?”
“Are we ready to face the sanctions for our wrongdoing when arrested by the police rather than offering a bribe? Are we ready to say ‘no’ when asked to pay a magistrate in order to win a case? Are the youths ready to work hard in order to secure good marks rather than taking the easy but corrupt route out by patronizing miracle exams centers? Are the citizens ready to pay the correct tariffs for electricity consumed rather than engaging unauthorized electricity officials or pay bribes to compromise electricity bills?”
“Are we ready as Nigerians to report doctors and nurses of public hospitals who spend most of the time pursing private practice to the detriment of poor patients who patronize public hospitals? When the citizens become conscious of the fact that power resides with the people and where purposes are aligned then significant progress will be made in the fight against corruption.”