By Tobi Soniyi and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has expressed concern over what it described as the apparent down-playing of the country’s corruption index by President Goodluck Jonathan.
This is coming on the heels of the condemnation by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) over the increasing rate of corruption in the country, stating that it was imperative for the Federal Government to increase the funding for all anti-graft agencies in the country.
The party said amidst the glaring evidence of worsening level of corruption in Nigeria, President Jonathan had continued to talk and act as if the country is in fact corruption-free.
In a statement issued yesterday in Ilorin, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party expressed serious concern at the negative impact that runaway corruption was having on the country’s economy as well as the image of the country.
ACN wondered what was responsible for the wide gulf between the President’s perception and the reality on the ground.
“President Jonathan must wake from his slumber and face the reality that corruption is fast eating deep into the soul of Nigeria, having already decimated the body. He must stop playing the ostrich and lead the way in the fight against corruption before it consumes the country,” ACN said.
The party said the country’s poor rating by Transparency International in its 2012 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) had shown as an empty boast the Jonathan presidency’s claim that corruption has gone down under its watch.
It said that if left unchecked, corruption was capable of bringing Nigeria down even ahead of the slow intensity warfare and general insecurity in the country.
ACN said the “harvest of corruption scandals” that have dogged the Jonathan administration is probably unprecedented in the country’s history, and that this has been attested to by the global anti-corruption body in its latest CPI.
Meanwhile, the President of NBA, Mr. Okey Wali, while speaking at the International Anti-Corruption Day in Abuja, said there was no disputing the fact that corruption remained the greatest challenge in the country.
He said: “Today the issue of corruption had led to loss of confidence in Nigeria by its citizens both home and abroad and due to the activities of fraudsters, corrupt public officials and mis-governance by our leaders.
“On the international scene, Nigeria has been blacklisted as a state in which integrity and transparency are alien and where no transactions occur without greasing palms.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and other anti-graft bodies were established to combat corruption at various levels. Sadly, in spite of these strategies in place, little or no success has been achieved in that direction as these institutions fall short of the standards and requirements of an effective anti- corruption regime, as demanded by the anti- corruption convention.”
He pointed out that there was no clear cut definition of role amongst the anti-corruption agencies and no constructive collaboration between them as well a situation, he said, had not helped the war against corruption.
According to him, institutional inadequacies and defective legal framework have also damaged the perception of Nigerians regarding the genuineness of the anti corruption effort.
He said: “The NBA supports a full scale war on corruption and had received the approval of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association held in Akure on February 23, 2012 to set up an anti-corruption commission charged with the responsibility to identify all those involved in the unwholesome and indeed criminal practice of judicial corruption, investigate same and refer the outcome to the various anti-corruption law enforcement agencies for prosecution and any other action they may deem fit to take.”
He also said the association had set up anti corruption units in over 109 of its branches.
He recalled the nationwide strike which followed the federal government’s decision to deregulate the downstream sector in Nigeria’s oil industry and subsequent removal of oil subsidy on January 1, 2012, saying it catalysed public interests and discourse on the need for fundamental change in governance.
“The citizens’ activism and resistance to a government policy was unprecedented. It cost the nation N208 billion according to estimates provided by the National Bureau of Statistics. Jonathan’s pledge to implement institutional reforms and ensure passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). These actions have not assured citizens and underscore the significant trust deficit between government and the people,” he declared.
He said there must be transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and urged government to reduce the cost of governance, tackle corruption and make government work for the people.
He said NBA was of the strong view that for the anti corruption agencies and institutions like the EFCC, ICPC etc to function effectively and efficiently, and achieve measurable results, they must be funded adequately.
“We seek no other satisfaction other than to ensure that the EFCC is strengthened and not weakened by financial incapacity,” he added.