Media Roundtable Urges Collaboration with Anti-corruption Agencies

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There is mutual suspicion between the media and anti-corruption agencies that is counterproductive to the development of the country. There is need for improvement of this relationship for effective prosecution of the anti-corruption initiative of the federal government, according to participants at a media roundtable organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the implementation of the EU-funded “Support to Anti-Corruption in Nigeria”. Bennett Oghifo reports

Participants at a workshop, drawn from the media, judiciary and anti-corruption agencies have resolved that the media should be familiar with anti-corruption laws and support their enforcement in line with due process.

They also said the media should advocate early consideration and passage of the Whistleblower, Justice Sector Reform and other relevant bills pending before the National Assembly.

This were among resolutions reached at a media workshop, organised by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), with support from the European Union, which held in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, recently.

Rising from a three-day brainstorming session, the participants recommended that Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) should build trust and confidence in the media in the fight against corruption; ACAs should develop strategic communication plans for their operations.

Government, they stated should establish special courts to tackle corruption matters; the fight against corruption should not be limited to the federal level but should include states and LGAs; the media are encouraged to establish Anti-Corruption desks; the media are encouraged to forge a national consensus in the fight against corruption including the use of FOI Act, open data, e-governance and other transparency initiatives.

“Media managers and journalists are urged to uphold the ethics of the profession and maintain integrity; Media owners are encouraged to take the welfare of their staff as top priority. “Media should promote good governance by upholding its responsibilities in accordance with the Constitution; Participants emphasise the importance of value re-orientation of citizens in the fight against corruption; Participants recommend the need to curb institutional corruption through systemic reviews; ACAs should help build the capacity of the media in the fight against corruption.”

They also recommended that journalists should not only break anti-corruption news but must stay on the issue; Participants commend United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union (EU) for their support to Nigeria in the fight against corruption.

These resolutions stemmed from deliberations that followed presentations by some seasoned journalists, including Mr. Ayodele Akinkuotu, Editor-in-Chief, Tell Magazine, who discussed ‘The Role of the Media in Curbing Corruption’; Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, Provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos, who presented a paper ‘Anti-Corruption Agencies and the Media: Bridging the Gap in the Fight Against Corruption’, among others.

Earlier, in a welcome address, Sylvester Tunde Atere of UNODC laid the groundwork, stating that UNODC was the UN mandated agency to provide assistance in areas related to the prevention and control of transnational organised crimes, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling of migrants and arms trafficking, related crimes such as money-laundering and corruption as well as terrorism in line with the respective UN Conventions and universal instruments.

Atere said strengthening integrity and reducing corruption had been a priority for Nigeria for a number of years. “The anti-corruption sector in Nigeria currently has a reasonable quantity and quality of legislative texts, statutes and mandates to carry out its work and a number of anti-corruption institutions have been created.

“Since the start of its anti-corruption efforts, Nigeria has demonstrated resolve and has progressed with its policy goals, in particular with regard to adopting a legal framework, establishing anti-corruption institutions and signing international instruments, such as the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), to address this problem. The anti-corruption sector currently has a reasonable quantity and quality of legislative texts, statutes and mandates to carry out its work. Though the existing legal framework could be improved further (specifically in areas relating to preventive action, incentives for reporting, whistle blowing and witness protection), it provides a fair basis for anti-corruption agencies to conduct their work, if it were fully enforced.”

The Government of Nigeria, he said was also making efforts to addressing corruption both locally and internationally. The Federal Republic of Nigeria participated in the consultations leading to the adoption of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2003. 

The UNCAC is the global framework for the fight against corruption, with 178 state parties. Nigeria has also been active in the UNCAC compliance country peer-reviews, where Nigeria was reviewed in 2014 and has also reviewed other countries. During the Sixth Session of the UNCAC Conference of State Parties held in St. Petersburg, Russia in December, 2015, Nigeria co-sponsored the Resolution 6/2 on “Facilitating international cooperation in asset recovery and the return of proceeds of crime.”

This project builds on the achievements of a previous EU-funded project under the 9th EDF, and will support the Government of Nigeria by promoting good governance and by contributing to Nigeria’s efforts in enhancing transparency, accountability and combating corruption.

The project, he said aims to provide effective support to anti-corruption coordination, policy formulation and legislation, based on a sound evidence base; to strengthen institutional and operational capacity in the nine main anti-corruption agencies, the Police and the Judiciary with an emphasis on cooperation; and to enhance accountability, transparency and public engagement.

The Project has contributed to the following efforts by the Government of Nigeria: The Extradition Act (Modification) Order 2014; Federal High Court, Extradition (Proceedings) Rules 2015; Federal High Court Sentencing Guidelines for Corruption and Related Offences 2015; and a 33,000 household survey on governance and corruption, among others.