January 15, 2014 15:25
NANFeatures/Vol. 8/No. 19/2014 (Jan. 15)
By Funmilola Gboteku, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Unarguably, corruption is one of the greatest threats to the socio-economic and political development of any nation.
Observers insist that the fight against corruption in Nigeria has remained a major challenge facing successive administrations.
They stress that Nigeria has been rated low in the fight against corruption, citing a report of Transparency International which indicates that the country currently occupies 144th position in the global corruption ranking.
The concerned observers concede that although Nigeria has made some efforts to tackle the menace in the past, very little achievement has been recorded.
They also note that delays in the movement of files in offices, extortion by law enforcement or traffic officers, queues at passport offices and filling stations, the ghost workers’ syndrome and election irregularities, among others, are some instances of corruption.
They are of the view that the success of the war against corruption in Nigeria largely depends on the input of all Nigerians.
Dr Femi Omotoso of Ekiti State University said that the fight against corruption should not be handled by the Federal Government alone.
He called on local and state governments, private organisations and individuals to make concerted efforts to tackle the menace.
He said that the obsession of some public office holders to acquire wealth at the expense of national development would fizzle out if political leaders were honest and upright.
Commending the efforts of the Federal Government to curb official corruption, Omotoso, nonetheless, called for more pragmatic measures aimed at restoring national ethos.
He noted that the poor workers’ salary had fostered corruption, adding, however, that there was a convincing need for all Nigerians to shun corruption at all times.
“Living wage or a good pay package for workers will help to reduce the level of corruption in the system; it is better to be paid a high salary than to illegally earn millions through corrupt means,’’ he said.
Besides, Omotoso underscored the need to build the capacity of the country’s anti-graft agencies to prosecute those involved in corrupt practices as a means of fighting corruption.
He also said that more preventive measures should be put in place in ministries, departments and agencies to make it impossible for officials to have easy access to public funds.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Debo Adeniran, the Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, said that the Federal Government should redouble its efforts to stamp out corruption.
He urged the government to empower the anti-graft agencies to strengthen their investigation and prosecution of suspects.
“If the anti-graft agencies are empowered, they can engage in diligent investigations by gathering iron-cast evidence and witnesses against the corrupt elements before they are apprehended.
“If prevented, corrupt acts won’t be committed but if the crime eventually occurs, anti-graft agencies should be empowered to nip it in the bud before it festers.
“Culprits who are caught in the act, those who confess to stealing public funds or those who are convicted by appropriate courts, should be adequately punished,’’ he said.
Adeniran stressed that if corrupt persons and officials were adequately punished when they were apprehended, their punishment would serve as a deterrent to others.
He, nonetheless, commended efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the fight against corruption, urging the commission, however, to improve on its service delivery.
“The operational strategies of the EFCC could have been more productive, if the agency has enough specialists that have specialised training for the kind of investigation they are supposed to undertake,’’ he added.
Nevertheless, Prof Seyi Akinseye of Nasarawa State University called for a national action plan to curb corruption in the country.
He noted that the current focus of the country’s anti-corruption policies was mainly on prosecution, with little or no regard for crime prevention.
“There is need for a national action plan against corruption; the plan should not focus on prosecution as its main pillar.
“It must also focus on prevention of looting, economic crimes as well as fraud; if this is done successfully, the national anti-corruption policy should then focus on value for money.
“What this means is that the value for money spent by government and the value for money spent by the private sector on the same project must be equal,’’ he said.
All the same, Dr Mu’azu Yusif of Bayero University, Kano, said that even though corruption was rampant in Nigeria, the corrupt practices of the country’s political office holders were quite irritating.
“These public officials perpetrate corruption via contract awards and inflating contracts’ costs with the connivance of contractors,’’ he said.
He stressed that some state governors and local government chairmen had become so engrossed in corruption to such an extent that public funds were now deposited in personal saving accounts.
Yusif said that the plot of such public officers was aimed at generating personal income from the interests accruing from the government funds.
“All these happen because of personal aggrandisement, sectional interests, absence of clear programmes and legal framework to deal with the problem of corruption as well as the poor wages of some categories of public servants,’’ he noted.
Regardless of the reasons adduced for the rising corruption in the country, analysts underscore the need for all Nigerians to make concerted efforts to tackle the menace.
They also insist that pragmatic plans should be initiated to sensitise the youth to the evils of corruption, as part of designed nation-building strategies aimed at the evolution of a better Nigeria. (NANFeatures)