To boost the current anti-corruption campaign of the present administration, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACA) has enlisted the help of Civil Society Organisations (CSO), the media and the general public to help win a long-lasting fight, Abimbola Akosile and Ugo Aliogo report
Nigeria has truly evolved. She has gone beyond mere perception, on the issue of corruption. Here, corruption is very real and it is endemic.
To some, the annual figures released by Transparency International (TI) in its global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) only scratch the surface when it comes to Nigeria, and these reporters are wont to agree with the assertion.
Before the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came into power, they had an electioneering mantra tagged ‘change’, in a bid to bring change to the governance process in the country.
To give teeth to the change mantra, the President and his team have embarked on a full scale anti-corruption war, which is yielding positive results for the nation, as stolen monies are being recovered, and some looters are being prosecuted in the courts of law.
But that is only a tip of the ice-berg, when it comes to checking an issue which has persistently hindered this nation from reaching its desired level of national development; and the issue goes beyond official response only.
Task for All
To underline the fact that the anti-graft war is a campaign which requires collective efforts, a workshop was organised recently in Abuja by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOC) under the European Union (EU) funded project on Support to anti-corruption in Nigeria.
At the well-attended event, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption (PACA) sought collaboration from the Civil Society Organisations (CSO), Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs), media and the public to ensure that the war on corruption is tackled holistically.
Speaking at the forum, the Chairman of the occasion and a member of PACA, Prof. Femi Odekunle, said the workshop was aimed at collaborating with CSOs to ensure that they buy into the anti-corruption fight of the present administration appropriately, stressing that it is high time “we get over the attitude of seminar workshops in hotel rooms and take it to the streets for actions.”
He explained that the fight against corruption must involve everyone, especially those stakeholders that are suffering from the direct consequences of the corruption problem and urged the CSOs to get the public involved in the campaign.
Odekunle explained that PACA has been working on sensitising judges, lawyers on prosecution, the ACAs such as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and other relevant bodies on the strategy to follow in the fight against corruption.
The PACA member remarked that if President Buhari was operating in the manner he operated in the 80s, the public would have accused him of autocracy, stating that Buhari is an oasis of integrity in the desert of corrupt elites.
To the Trenches
In his presentation, the Chair of CSO Advisory Committee, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraj, stated that the CSOs have been active in the fight against corruption through rallies and campaigns, while commending their efforts during the 2011 general elections.
He explained that the CSOs have fought to address the abuses and excesses in public offices and to hold government accountable, noting that people were sufficiently mobilised to vote beyond primordial considerations during the 2011 general election.
To him, the expectations of Nigerians are very legitimate and the demands are very valid, adding that the CSOs are working to move beyond the face value of public expectations.
“For us, it is important to ensure that we are not just looking at the face value of every actions of government. There is a clear reason of opposing the government based on certain decisions and actions. But in expecting dividends, it does not come within that short period. There are certain palliative measures that could be taken by government to the extent that they would reduce the hardship of the people.
“Overall, the government has gone ahead in some measures in institutionalising what is expected of governance. The recent budget screening, where Nigerians were heavily involved in the process, from submission to passage, is actually a measure of institutionalising and improving the issue of governance in the country. The CSO are actually monitoring and this is why we are engaging the policy advisory committee. We can give some pass mark. But there is still a huge gap in the expectation of Nigerians and that really needs to be managed.
“There is no support from the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption to CSOs, but we are still going to engage the government to find out the strategy they want to evolve in fighting corruption.”
In his welcome address, the Country Director, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pa Lamin Beyai, stated that the workshop seeks to empower CSOs to increase their participation in anti-graft activities, stressing that a vibrant CSO can a play crucial in the anti-corruption war.
“CSOs and the Media can be invaluable assets in the fight against corruption through their networks and access to the community”, he affirmed.
Beyai, represented at the forum by a UNDP official, Mr. Segun Olusola, said the workshop was a follow-up to the maiden meeting of PACA, Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) and CSOs, which charged the CSOs to enhance their support to the activities of PACA and to adopt a more inclusive and coherent approach to their engagement.
He expressed confidence that the regular interface between technical experts in the ACAs, CSOs, and PACA can help to facilitate international cooperation in asset recovery and the return of proceeds of crime to legitimate owners, with backup from existing frameworks such as the United Nation Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
A representative from the Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ) Mr. Eze Onyekpere stated that the media under Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution is charged with the responsibility and accountability of government to the people.
He therefore called for close collaboration between the media and the office of the Auditor-General of the federation in order to disseminate audit reports, follow-up on audit findings, “the media should also inform the public about public office holders who are running foul of extant legal and financial provisions.”
He said, “Public officers and politicians do not generally like to be mentioned negatively in media reports. A strong collaboration between the Auditor-General and the media may serve as deterrence to financial misdemeanours, even if it is for the purpose ‘of naming and shaming’.
Ironically, the war against corruption is not for government or CSOs or the media alone, and the final solution goes beyond naming and shaming. Until corruption is torn up from the roots in the fabric of the Nigerian society, development and the much-sought-after progress may well remain a pipe dream. The war against corruption is a task for all, and this change will not come easily. Simple truth.
“CSOs and the Media can be invaluable assets in the fight against corruption through their networks and access to the community”