Support Existing Institutions that’ll Sustain Anti-corruption Fight, Campaign Urges Buhari

0
  •  Members to stage accountability walk Dec 9

Abimbola Akosile

In line with his famous campaign promise to stop corruption in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has been urged to desist from interfering in corruption cases, but rather provide support to strengthen the existing institutions that will sustain the fight against corruption in the country.

The president was also enjoined to publish the result of the investigation of alleged fraud against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), mandating speedy action by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant institutions, and ensuring justice for the people of Nigeria.

The EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and the police were also urged to take up their constitutional role of investigating offences and cases of corruption regardless of the position of the public official involved.

Likewise, the National Assembly members were advised to corroborate the anti-corruption fight by expeditiously legislating bills that promote the fight; as well as by ensuring that their oversight role is deployed transparently in the aid of the fight against corruption.

In the same vein, the executive and legislative arms of government were urged to provide support for the implementation and enforcement of the recent directives of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) based on the resolutions and decisions of the National Judicial Council, while the judiciary should be positioned and supported to deliver justice without fear or favour.

These, among other recommendations, formed part of the text of a statement on the current state of the nation, which was released recently by the Say No Campaign (SNC), a platform of citizens committed to fighting corruption, impunity, poverty, violence and other governance challenges in Nigeria.

The campaign members, in the statement, also disclosed plans to mobilise their partners and Nigerians across the country on December 9, for an accountability walk as ‘A collective Action Against Corruption’ with the aim of re-arming citizens and educating them on the need for collective action to stamp out corruption.

The campaign, in a statement made available to THISDAY, also launched a people’s programme called #Dorocorruption “which will air every Monday on Wazobia FM 99.5 in pidgin English.”

Members of the campaign who jointly signed the statement include the SNC Co-Convener, Ezenwa Nwagwu; the Centre for Transparency and Accountability (CTA); the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); Protest to Power (P2P); Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), and the Youths Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA).

According to the statement, “Recent happenings in the country have necessitated the need to call the attention of the three arms of government to expedite action to salvage the longstanding commitments of governments since the 1999 return to civil rule, and what is left of the credibility of the current administration’s fight against corruption in the quest to rid Nigeria of the menace.

“While the desire of the current regime to fight corruption is unequivocally stated, the mannerism or body language expressed by the chief executive in the face of corruption against certain public officials close to or within his inner circle, belie and betray this noble intent.

“The reality of seemingly protecting sacred cows stares us right in the face and thus has become difficult to ignore. It is increasingly difficult to dismiss the albeit self-serving criticism of the corrupt opposition that the anti-corruption fight of this regime is selective and or targeted only at the opposition.

“For a president, reputed for having zero tolerance for corruption and famously stating explicitly that “if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us”, there has been very disturbing silence over allegations of corruption in critical positions that should have never been overlooked”, the campaign noted.

It added that “the report of the outcome of the investigation headed by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and submitted to the president, Muhammadu Buhari, on allegations of fraud against the Director General of National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, has remained a secret despite the humongous amount of $43 million involved in the scam.

“There has been no word uttered from the presidency on the outcome of the investigation, neither a cause of action initiated, except that Ayo Oke remains suspended, and presumably still earning a salary.

“Similar investigation was carried out on the SGF, David Babachir Lawal, by the vice president led investigation panel. The report was submitted to the president, but the details have also remained hidden. Babachir Lawal was accused by the senate for scamming the government of a whopping N270 million in the guise of cutting grass at the Internal Displaced Persons’ camp, in the north-east region of Nigeria.

“It would probably have been better and cheaper if we had just bought the rodent – grasscutters and deployed them to the North East. What remains unclear is why the president instituted an investigation panel to conduct the investigation, and why the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was not directed to handle the cases from the very beginning.

“Regardless of these anomalies, the president maintains an alarming silence. Justice remains delayed and the credibility of the anticorruption fight, led by the president himself, is in jeopardy.”

According to the Campaign, “In the same vein, the Inspector General of Police, has been accused by a serving senator of embezzling police funds to the tune of N10 billion monthly, being income accruing from paid services rendered to private citizens.

“Rather than the IGP being investigated and being suspended pending the outcome of an investigation, the government decided to take the whistle blower to court. What is even more worrisome about all of these is that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) would take on the task of suing on behalf of an individual against another individual.

“The above issues involve massive amounts of money and has equally garnered enough public outcry such that the president cannot afford to remain quiet on those matters any longer; especially not with the waning trust by Nigerians on the integrity of the President and the sincerity of the anticorruption fight and the capability of the other arms of government, particularly, the Judiciary to deliver justice.

“We are alarmed that highly placed public officials seem to be comfortable that other judicial jurisdictions other than ours are better placed to bring criminals to book. For the sake of national pride and in the interest of strengthening institutions to succeed in the anticorruption fight, this ugly trend must be reversed.

“We however take notice of recent directives by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) with respect to the designation of special courts and days of the week to handle corruption cases with a view to speeding up administration of corruption cases.

“We welcome and commend this initiative of the CJN as well as the setting up of monitoring mechanisms to monitor, evaluate and report on the progress of corruption cases in the courts”, the campaign added.

To the members, “While all of these are certainly steps in the right direction, we hasten to point out that we are not a nation lacking in good policies and good intentions, oftentimes though the real challenge has been with implementation and enforcement.

“The CJN and the NJC as well as the Presidency require to demonstrate the necessary political will to implement and enforce these new directives. Without adequate punishment regime in place for defaulters though, people will be emboldened to disregard the new policies.

“Unfortunately, the legislature which ordinarily ought to prioritise this fight and legislate relevant laws to advance the crusade against corruption, as well as deploying their oversight role in the cause of the fight appear to be nonchalant, to say the least.

“The apparent disregard for relevant anticorruption bills on the floor of the National Assembly and the waste of time and resources deployed in deliberating such other mindless and anti-people bills like the NGO Bill that is destined to fail, is a cause for worry. Had the judiciary not intervened and created Special Courts to speed up corruption cases, the Executive Bill for the establishment of a special court division, which has been gathering dust at the senate floor for over a year, would never have seen the light of day.

“Other very important Bills pilling dust at the floor of the National Assembly are the Proceeds of Crime Bill, the Whistle Blower Bill, and the Corporate Corruption Bill otherwise known as the Bribecode Bill.

“The Bribecode Bill proposes a more significant penalty for grand corruption, liquidation of company involved and total forfeiture to the Federal Government of their assets, adequate compensation of whistleblowers etc. to open the floodgate of information.

“It also promotes speedy trial by allowing the 37 Attorney Generals (36 state and federal AGF) to prosecute serious corruption cases and most of all promotes transparency and justice. These conscious omissions, pretentious playing to the gallery and selective fight cannot be in the interest of the public and the country at large,” the campaign also observed.

In the interest of transparency accountability and justice, the campaign demanded that “The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, should be suspended and the EFCC should launch immediate investigation against the IGP and proceed with immediate trial if indicted.”

The members noted that the #Dorocorruption programme is designed to sensitise the masses on issues of corruption, encourage public participation in ensuring good governance, and provide the platform for constructive engagement with various stakeholders in the anticorruption fight.

“We recognise our role in the anticorruption fight and we do not intend to shy away from it, hence, we demand the government to honour their words and fulfil their mandate to fight corruption by promoting transparency, accountability and justice, starting with the highlighted cases herein”, the campaign added.

The Campaign, according to the statement, aims to mobilise Nigerians from all sections of the country to embrace people-driven and non-violent forms of campaigns and protests any act of corruption, impunity and bad governance in the country.