Civil society leaders, anti-corruption agencies and other stakeholders have raised serious concerns about the escalating series of kidnappings, killings and insecurity in Nigeria.
They agreed that grand corruption was the cause and that only an ambitious and robust anti-corruption fight can end the insecurity in the country.
The experts spoke on Wednesday at a townhall meeting held at the Barcelona Hotel in Abuja and organized by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with the UKaid.
Professor Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN, in his paper titled Practical Strategies to Mobilise Citizens to Participate in the Fight against Corruption, said: “Corruption is the greatest obstacle to security, development and equality in the Nigerian society.
“Corruption affects all aspects of human endeavour and permeates all strata of the Nigerian society, starting from the government down to the average citizen. This threatens the existence of the country as one entity by weakening institutions, rendering obsolete the rule of law, undermining good governance and impoverishing the citizenry through a diminishing economy.
“The most visible impact of corruption in the Nigerian society today can be viewed through the lens of the myriad of security challenges the country has to face, which extends from the activities of bandits on almost all major road networks to insurgency in the North. Despite millions allocated to the defence sector, the average Nigerian can hardly travel inter-state without fear for one’s safety.
“One wonders what the various governors do with the security votes allocated to them every month. The fact that security votes are generally not accounted for should be no excuse to divert such funds for purposes unrelated to security.”
Hassan Hafiz Mohammed, who represented the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, said: Official oath of secrecy cannot and should never be used as a pretext by public officials not to disclose information on corruption matters within their ministries, departments and agencies.”
According to Mr Saminu Amadin, representative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC): “The fight against corruption cannot be left for government alone as the citizens have a critical role to play in preventing and combating corruption in Nigeria. We should deploy all means to fight corruption.”
Mrs R Hassan Ahmed, who represented the National Judicial Council (NJC) on her part stated that: “The Administration of Criminal Justice Act should be fully implemented by all the states, as it will help to fight corruption including in the judiciary and help to address the chronic delay in judicial processes.”
Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP deputy director, said before the group discussions: “Good governance, respect for human rights and total commitment to obey court orders are critically important to the stability and growth of Nigeria, and to preventing and combating the security challenges in many parts of the country.
“Federal and state governments should focus their attention on the human rights dimension of insecurity in the country, as an honest government is a basic right of all citizens.”
According to him, “Citizens bring a missing component to the anti-corruption struggle. They bring extra-institutional pressure to push for change when power holders are corrupt and are unaccountable, and when institutional channels are blocked or ineffective. Nigerians should therefore exert their collective power to get involved in the fight against corruption including cases of corruption that directly affect them.
“While corruption brings out the worst in people, fighting corruption can bring out the best. Citizens don’t fight corruption in the abstract. They do so to overcome poor and unaccountable governance, poverty, displacement, organized crime and other forms of oppression and injustice.
“SERAP encourages people to speak up against corruption at all levels of government—federal, state and local government as well as against corruption involving the private sector, and the impunity that has allowed corruption to flourish.
“Grand and petty corruption directly affect all of us as citizens, especially the socially and economically vulnerable among us. Nigerians can contact us at [email protected] if they wish to become a member of the Citizens United against Corruption”, Oluwadare said.