By Austin Oboh Senior Correspondent, Lagos
More Nigerians have continued to express anxiety over the state of the nation, especially as it has been roundly reported that the nation’s rising corruption profile is exacerbating insecurity in the land. More critics are daily drawing attention to the relationship between corruption and insecurity, arguing that crimes such as arm robbery, kidnapping and terrorism are reactions to the refusal of those in power to check their excesses and the now pervasive culture of impunity. According to analysts, the nation’s leadership has carried on without the least attention to the process of enthroning justice and addressing the plight of the mass of the people. Despite this diagnosis coming from reputable sources, Abuja appears to be unwilling to move against the obvious drift through proactive measures as is being demanded by concerned stakeholders.
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), last week, pointed out that if left unchecked, corruption could bring Nigeria down even ahead of the slow intensity warfare and general insecurity in the country. According to the party, the country’s poor rating by Transparency International in its 2012 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) had shown Jonathan presidency’s claim that corruption had gone down under its watch as lacking in substance.
In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said the “harvests of corruption scandals” that has dogged the Jonathan administration is probably unprecedented in the country’s history,” adding that this had been attested to by the global anti-corruption body in its latest CPI.
Mohammed said: “Sadly, despite the Presidency’s self-delusion, Nigeria remains among the most corrupt nations on earth. According to the latest CPI, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and one of the continent’s biggest economies was not listed among the top 35 least corrupt nations in Africa, even when it was ranked the 35th most corrupt nations in the world.
“It is also instructive that Liberia and Sierra Leone, which Nigeria helped to liberate from the throes of war are now doing better in fighting corruption than the country (Nigeria), just like much smaller and less-endowed nations like Niger, Gambia, Burkina Faso and Mali are better rated.”
The party blamed Nigeria’s precarious position in the global anti-corruption battle on the fact that the Jonathan Administration had not only become corruption scandal-prone, but that it had also allowed impunity to thrive by paying only lip service to probing the scandals and bringing perpetrators to book.
He continued: “The massive oil subsidy scam, the Malabu oil scandal, the pension scam and now the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting N2.1 billion scam are just a few of the corruption scandals that have dogged the Jonathan administration. In all of these and more, the administration has shown an amazing lack of political will in investigating the scams and prosecuting perpetrators.
“Worst still, key administrative officials have shown from their careless comments that they either do not understand what it means to fight corruption or they are just trivialising it. One of such is the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was quoted as saying that Nigerians were unable to get petroleum products without stress because they demanded transparency and accountability in the oil sector.
“What the minister is saying, in essence is that uninterrupted fuel supply as well as probity and accountability cannot go hand in hand, that Nigerians must choose between enjoying an abundant fuel supply riddled with corruption and a well-managed, corruption-free oil sector. “In saner climes and with an administration that is committed to fighting corruption, such a minister will be long gone.”
Amidst the glaring evidence of worsening corruption in Nigeria , President Jonathan had continued to talk and act as if the country was in fact corruption-free, Mohammed observed, wondering what was responsible for the wide gulf between the President’s perception and the reality on the ground.
“President Jonathan must wake from his slumber and face the reality that corruption is fast eating deep into the soul of Nigeria, having already decimated the body. He must stop playing the ostrich and lead the way in the fight against corruption before it consumes the country’’, he said.
Also, Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Debo Adeniran, said: “Those ministries, departments and agencies and public servants claiming to be championing the crusade against corruption in Nigeria are a bunch of unserious lot; people who are merely paying lip service to the fight.”
The general perception is that Nigeria’s present leadership lacks the will to truly fight corruption because, in the opinion of many, the seat of power is the bastion of corruption in the country. This was probably why the Nigeria’s Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), under the aegis of Situation Room, last Tuesday, expressed intense disappointment over failure of Federal Government to tackle corruption and insecurity.
In a communique issued at the end of a meeting in Abuja on how to review the National Assembly Zonal and Constituency Public Hearings, and strategise on options for CSOs, the groups also called for local governments to be accorded a pride of place as the third tier of government
The workshop brought together CSO leaders and activists from different parts of Nigeria. Issues deliberated included: CSO engagement with the constitution review process, local government reforms, federalism and devolution of powers, indigeneship and citizenship question, as well as current national issues, such as rising corruption, insecurity and failure of governance in Nigeria.
The communiqué stated: “The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room observes that the legislature is an important theatre of constitution review, and that the legislative arm of government at the federal and state levels should be supported to perform their critical roles in Nigeria ’s democracy.
“The Situation Room is pleased with the decision of the National Assembly to involve the people and allow for popular participation in the constituency and zonal public hearings on the review of the 1999 constitution.
“The Situation Room observed that the local government system in Nigeria is critical to democracy and good governance at the grassroots levels, and should be made more functional and accountable.
“The Situation Room is worried by the failure of the government to address the high level of insecurity in Nigeria , especially considering the escalating levels of kidnapping currently taking place in the country.
“The Situation Room is concerned that the government has shown inability to curtail the rising levels of corruption in Nigeria.”
Critics insist that the failure of government has become the source of trouble for the country which is now in the throes of insecurity, masterminded by those who believe that violence is the best reaction to injustice. Thus, peace is becoming elusive in some parts of the country.
Similarly, the Acting Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Ekpo Nta, observed recently that rising insecurity in the country could be blamed on rising cases of corruption in the socio-political and economic life of the nation.
He disclosed that the commission had consolidated its preventive strategy against corruption through the introduction of ethics as a core subject on corruption in the nation’s primary and secondary school curricula.
Speaking in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, at a public sensitisation lecture, organised by the commission’s National Anti-Corruption Volunteers Vanguard Corps (NAVC) and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Nasarawa State, Nta said Nigeria must invest in its youth as the future of the country depended on them.
The ICPC boss, who was represented by the National Coordinator of NAVC and Resident Consultant, Media and Event of ICPC, Folu Olamiti, explained that introduction of ethics as a core subject on corruption into the school curriculum was to enlighten the children on reasons they must fight the menace, which had eaten deep into Nigerian system, from their tender age.
He said one monster standing between the youth and a good future is corruption, while also urging the youths to shun examination malpractice, bullying and cultism.
His words: “The future of any country is determined by the past and present antecedents of what you invest in. Our youth is our future, and one monster that stands between them and a good future is corruption.
“If we do not sustain a zero tolerance of corruption, we can safely aver that sustainable economic and social development is unattainable, because security and stability in the society is threatened.”
In his lecture titled; “Corruption: The Genesis of Nigeria’s Socio-Economic and Security Challenges; the Way Forward”, Olajide Itiafa Ayodele, a public speaker, said Nigeria had no business being poor and so corruption has to be fought in all ramifications.
“At the root of the corruption quagmire in Nigeria is the failure and virtual collapse of governance, the contamination of democratic values, the erosion of accountability procedures, and the looting of the money meant for the socio-economic development of the country, thereby creating poverty and security challenges,” he said.
The overall effect of corruption in the system is dwindling economy, according to some commentators, who have pointed out the imminence of severe economic hardship in the parts of the country currently ravaged by terrorism.
This view accords with the opinion of former military Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, who recently enjoined patriotic citizens not to lose faith in the collective responsibility of promoting peaceful coexistence at all times.
“Promoters of violence are doing great disservice to upcoming children and generations unborn,” he noted.
Abdulsalami spoke shortly after he and some others were inaugurated as members of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University (IBBU), Lapai, Endowment Fund Board of Trustees by Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State.
He expressed regrets that the security situation in the country was taking great toll on the northern states’ economy, and observed that promoters of violence and perpetrators of evil against the Nigerian nation are not only destroying the image of the country, but also the economy of the 19 northern states in particular.
The senseless shedding of innocent blood occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram, Abdulsalami said, has not only killed night life but has also contributed immensely to the crashing of the economy of the northern states and that of the country in general.
“Bombing which had claimed many lives will not do the country any good; in fact it has destroyed both the night life and the economy of the north,” he said, adding: “People who have grievances against the government should exhibit sense of maturity by coming out to discuss the grievances and settle for peace. There is no more night economy and this is not good for the region which is yearning for development.”
Political observers keep praying that the Federal Government would heed these various calls and take proactive measures to redirect the country to the path of peace and development.