Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mallam Yusuf Ali, has said colonial governments including the British laid the seed of corruption in Nigeria and other African countries.
Ali, who spoke in Abuja on Tuesday at an interactive session on corruption organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to find practical ways to end corruption in Nigeria said that the way and manner the British colonialists deceived our forefathers to collect their lands from them sowed the seed of corruption in Nigeria.
The senior lawyer said he accepted the statement credited to British Prime Minister, David Cameron that Nigeria is ‘fantastically corrupt’, however, he said the British were blame worthy for introducing corrupt practices into Nigeria.
He said: “According to some writers, corruption became deeply embedded and became a norm in the Nigerian society because of the historical accident of colonialists.
“The right of the European colonialists to rule in Nigeria had no moral basis in our tradition, convention or myth. It was grounded purely on conquest by force of arms, or cession obtained by undue influence and corruption.”
Ali said one of the greatest legacies the imperialists transferred to Nigeria at independence was corruption.
He cited the works of other writers who had carried out research into the issue to support his argument.
He suggested that the constitution be amended to make the declaration of assets by public officers a public issue.
According to him, the present practice of secret declaration of assets is of no use in the fight against corruption.
He noted that lack of access to information remained an obstacle in the fight against corruption adding that corruption thrived in obscurity.
He suggested that the government activities should be done transparently.
He further suggested that: “Law enforcement agencies must be thoroughly cleansed, restructured and highly motivated, the judicial system must be strengthened and the rule of law must be entrenched.
“We cannot make progress with the fight against corruption as long as there is so much impunity in the land, with many seemingly operating above the law. We must mount a vigorous campaign against impunity.”
Ali further noted that institutions established to fight corruption were also ridden with corruption.
“For instance, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which should be fighting corruption was mentioned as beneficiary of the fraud in pension scam,” he added.
Also speaking at the event, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, commended the NBA for the initiative on the fight against corruption.
NBA National President, Augustine Alegeh (SAN), called on all anti graft agencies to work together by sharing intelligence in order to make the fight against corruption more effective.
Alegeh, whose speech was read by the NBA Secretary, Afam Osigwe, also called on government to increase the funding of agencies saddled with the responsibility of fighting corruption.
He gave an assurance that NBA would continue to sanction lawyers found to have engaged in corrupt activities.