Immediate past Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye (SAN), has blamed top civil servants, politicians and others for the high level of corruption, bedeviling the nation. He has also explained how lack of administrative experience led some heads of agencies, particularly academics, into corrupt acts.
Speaking at a forum in Abuja tagged ‘Behavioural Change and Conference Exhibition 2023’ organised by Akin Fadeyi Foundation (AFF) a not-for-profit organisation that uses communications, media, and technology to help combat corruption and promote social change in Nigeria, the anti-corruption czar, however, faulted the hasty generalisation in some quarters that all Nigerians are corrupt.
Owasanoye specifically recalled that those in the academics who headed one agency or another, became ICPC’s customers within one year as a result of one infraction or the other.
“And you could see that many of them, walking blind, lack administrative experience because they are misled, they have not read circulars and guidelines that say you can do this, you can do this, you can’t do that.
“Somebody who has a global reputation, who won consultancy, earns $20,000, why does he want to come and steal money from an MDA? Except somebody has set a banana peel for him to enable them to do what they want to do and they need to put him in that trap. And then, if he refuses, then they will orchestrate a petition to ICPC, to EFCC, then the man will come and then embarrass him,” Owasanoye said.
He added that most of the people who indulged in such acts were faceless civil servants who led the heads of agencies into default in the first place.
On his position that not all Nigerian are corrupt, the former ICPC boss stated that the erroneous belief by relatively few people that all Nigerians are corrupt can be considered in the light of the traditional anti-corruption interventions in Nigeria and the recent efforts towards expanding the focus of anti-corruption interventions to include the behavioural change approach.
“From my experience in leading the anti-corruption fight at PACAC (Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption) and the ICPC, I can tell you categorically that not all Nigerians are corrupt,” Owasanoye said.
Owasanoye shared an experience with a head of an agency who wanted to embark on an international trip and was told by the agency that his estacode was $900 instead of $600.
Also speaking, the Country Director, MacArthur Foundation, Dr Kole Shettima, whose Foundation was a co-partner to the event, wondered why Nigerians politicians, who were to be self-reformed to work for national interest, pursued personal interests that could harm national interests.
The convener of the forum and the founder of the Akin Fadeyi Foundation, Mr Akin Fadeyi, who spoke virtually said: “This event was not just to showcase our work, it was strategic to reevaluating our scorecards and redesign more robust templates aimed at scaling up our milestones in measurable impactful proportions.
“We are excited this event was successful and was well attended by experts and the international development community. It is imperative to convey our gratitude to the Nigerian Media across-board especially, as they have been the sustained strategic partners through which our efforts are conveyed to the larger populace.”
Fadeyi, who noted that the behavioural cohorts consist of about 18 CSOs, said his organization has been working as partners and Grantees of the MacArthur Foundation and have been leveraging one another’s expertise in addressing the cause of Behavioral Change as a remedy against corruption and other social vices undermining societal development.
“This event was not just to showcase our work; it was strategic to reevaluating our scorecards and redesign more robust templates aimed at scaling up our milestones in measurable impactful proportions,” he added.
Also, Mr Oliver Stolpe, Country Director, UNODC, represented by Ms. Lilian Ekeanyanwu, said: “The fight against corruption is not complete without addressing issues of transparency, integrity, and accountability. At the core of these values is behavioural change or the attitudes of citizens and their government. As we already know, combatting and preventing corruption requires a holistic framework and multi-sectoral approach.”
Speaking earlier, the General Overseer, Palace of Priests Assembly (PPA), Abuja, Otive Igbuzor, said the problem of corruption is a global one.
He stated that over the years, several scholars, development workers, activists, politicians, international organizations, public affairs commentators and the general public has given attention to the problem of corruption and its attendant effects on society, adding that the problem is not new to humankind even though it has reached unprecedented proportions in recent years.
“Over the years, there has been a lot of focus on how to mitigate the impact of corruption. Strategies, programmes and agencies have been put in place to address the problem of corruption. But the challenge remains. Despite the plethora of legislations and agencies fighting corruption in the country, corruption has remained widespread and pervasive because of failure to utilize universally accepted and tested strategies; disconnect between posturing of leaders and their conduct; lack of concrete sustainable anti-corruption programming and failure to locate the anti-corruption struggle within a broader struggle to transform society,” Igbuzor said.