There is no disputing the fact that corruption is the greatest problem of this country, whether it is lack of employment opportunities, power, health, petroleum product, security or insecurity, water, food, etc. All problems we face in Nigeria could be traceable one way or the other to corruption.
It was Chief Obafemi Awolowo, SAN, who raised a salient issue when he said, ‘‘since independence, our government have been a matter of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning to milk, under those circumstances everybody runs over everybody to make good at the expense of others’’.
Human beings are not angels; they are prone to self-seeking behavior. What constrains behavior and makes it conform to larger collective ends are norms and institutions, including laws and legal frameworks that institutionalize norms. Even if laws are far reaching and effectively enforced, there will always be the occasional criminal, clever, or risk-taking individuals who will tempt fate and seek to use public office for private gain. So, corruption will never be completely or permanently eliminated. How can it be controlled?
Today, the issue of corruption has led to loss of confidence in Nigeria by its citizens both home and abroad due to the activities of fraudsters, corrupt public officials and mis-governance by our leaders. On the international scene, Nigeria has been blacklisted as a state in which integrity and transparency are alien and where no transactions occur without greasing of palms.
The EFCC, ICPC and other anti- graft bodies were established to combat corruption at various levels. Sadly, in spite of these strategies in place, little or no success has been achieved in that direction as these institutions fall short of the standards and requirements of an effective anti-corruption regime, as demanded by the anti-corruption conventions.
There is no clear cut definition of role amongst these agencies, nor is there constructive collaboration between them and this has not helped the war against corruption. Institutional inadequacies and defective legal framework have also damaged the perception of Nigerians regarding the genuineness of the anti corruption effort.
Even the legal profession is not left out. We know that a few bad eggs are destroying the image of the profession.
The promotion of rule of law which the NBA is committed to, and the economic development of Nigeria can only survive in an environment devoid of corruption. Three key things which are central to a successful anti-corruption crusade are concise and coherent anti-corruption policies, independent and effective anti-graft institutions and an enabling legal framework.
The NBA supports a full scale war on corruption and received the approval of Nigerian Bar Association National Executive Committee meeting (NEC) held in Akure on Thursday, February 23, 2012 to set up an Anti-Corruption Commission, charged with the responsibility to, (i) identify all those involved in the unwholesome and indeed criminal practice of judicial corruption, (ii) investigate same and refer the outcome to the various anti-corruption law enforcement agencies for prosecution and any other action they may deem fit to take.
In view of this, my administration has constituted a high powered Anti-Corruption Commission, inaugurated in Asaba Delta State on the 30th of November, 2012. The Commission comprises men and women of proven integrity, who have over the years been tested and tried in numerous endeavours relating to the Bar.
They are to:
•Work with the 100 branches of the NBA to set up an Anti-Corruption Committee in each Branch.
•Set and maintain the highest standards of conduct aimed at avoiding corrupt practices at the Bar and the Bench.
•Establish formal and transparent mechanisms for applying anti-bribery and corruption prevention measures.
•Monitor and investigate allegations of corruption leveled against members of the Bar and Bench.
•Identify practitioners who carry out corrupt activities in the legal profession and justice system and forward their names and evidence of corruption practices to the relevant agencies for prompt action and prosecution.
•Identify corrupt practices and factors or circumstances that promote corruption in the Bar and Bench.
•Develop and facilitate policy dialogue and anti-corruption training courses/ workshop for stakeholders in the fight against corruption.
•Develop feedback mechanism from anti corruption agencies and the general public.
•Do all things necessary to ensure a corruption free society.
The frame work for the Anti-Corruption Commission of the NBA is set out in the 10 point agenda of this administration. The United Nations declared today the 9th of December Anti-Corruption day. It is a day for political leaders, governments, legal bodies and lobby groups to work together against corruption by promoting the day and the issues that surround this event.
The nationwide strike which followed the Federal Government decision to deregulate the downstream sector in Nigeria oil industry and subsequent removal of oil subsidy on January 1, 2012 catalyzed public interest and discourse on the need for fundamental change in our public governance system, to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of public resources, reduce the cost of governance, tackle corruption and make government work for our people.
The citizens’ activism and resistance to a government policy was unprecedented. It cost the nation N208 Billion according to estimates provided by the National Bureau of Statistics and demonstrated through deep frustration and social disconnect Jonathan pledge to implement institutional reforms and ensure passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill.
These actions have not assured citizens and underscore the significant trust deficit between government and the people. Fresh revelations appear daily across local print, electronic and social media on considerable wastage in government. This is in spite of Nigerian’s infrastructural challenges with an annual funding deficit of N1.5 Trillion according to Ministry of Finance, dire statistics of 23.9% unemployment rate as at 2011, and the dismal human development indices, which ranked Nigeria 156 out of 187 countries according to the United Nations Development Programme.
Ten months after the protests, the Petroleum Industry Bill remains un-passed, while institutional Changes promised are yet to become manifest. Corruption in the oil and other sectors continue to thrive. The economic condition of our people and state of insecurity across the country has worsened and the future of Nigeria as a sovereign entity, has most unfortunately become a subject of debate.
How the International Community Perceived Nigeria
The United States Consul General in Nigeria, Jeffery Hawkins, has identified corruption as a key element hindering the country from attaining its full potential. He also said the United States government was concerned about the activities of the Islamic sect, Boko haram, and reports of right abuses in Nigeria.
Hawkins, who described the people of Nigeria as those with phenomenal potential, said, stemming corruption was fundamental to the country’s prosperity and economic development. Hawkins spoke during a courtesy visit to the Punch place, the corporate headquarters of Punch Nigeria Ltd in Magboro, on Wednesday 5th December, 2012, Hawkins said,‘‘the potential of the people of Nigeria is absolutely phenomenal; Nigerians are forward looking with a whole lot of entrepreneurial expertise, but this potential is not being harnessed because of the potential risk element of corruption in the polity, especially in the power sector.
Corruption is Nigerian problem and it does not only have its impact on Nigerians because there are also American companies here. Besides, we have over $5bn investment in Nigeria. Without addressing that issue of corruption, we are not likely to see this country get to where it should be.
The US government will continue to support Nigerian efforts on transparency issues and engage civil society groups, anti-graft agencies and other stakeholders in stemming the tide of corruption in the country’’.
It is important to note the above statement credited to a highly respected diplomat, shows how deep this cancer called corruption which has become endemic has permeated into the Nigeria system. For a diplomat of this standing to have made such a statement, speaks volumes. Especially in view of the fact that diplomats are not given to directly criticizing host countries.
Funding of Institutions that fight corruption
According to the Vanguard Newspaper report of Tuesday 4th December, 2012, page 15, with the title ‘‘FG slashes EFCC’s budget’’, the Federal Government has slashed the EFCC’s budget by 50%. The Nigerian Bar Association is concerned about this newspaper report.
This means that the activities of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission may be crippled in 2013, if the Federal Government slashing of the 2013 proposal by N11.7 billion sails through the National Assembly.
Already the chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Larmode has expressed concern that the development might prevent the EFCC from meeting its personnel cost in 2013. Note, its personnel cost, not other operational costs
The anti-graft agency had proposed N21,.028,488,772billion to fund its operation in 2013, but the Budget Office approved N9,328,159,022billion, less than half of the Commission’s request to meet capital, personnel and over head expenditure items in 2013.
The Nigerian Bar Association is of the strong view that for the anti-corruption agencies and institutions like the EFCC, ICPC, etc to function effectively and efficiently, and achieve measurable results, they must be funded adequately. We seek no other satisfaction other than to ensure that the EFCC is strengthened and not weakened by financial incapacity.
Anti-corruption crusades are driven by independent and effective institutions and not individuals. The NBA therefore states that what is required to fight corruption in Nigeria is over lapping institutions designed to ensure financial autonomy and effectiveness. Such institutions like the EFCC must be equipped to be insulated from politics and political leaders who allocate funds at their whims and caprices. Such institutions must also be controlled by the Rule of Law and must be designed to outlive the individuals that manage them.
The Nigerian Bar Association therefore calls on the Federal government of Nigeria to increase the funding allocated to this anti-corruption agencies, with a view to strengthening them for better performance. The move to slash the EFCC 2013 budget proposal by half is worrisome and unacceptable to the NBA. More so, when the 2013 budgetary allocations to other less important agencies are very high. The NBA believes that this is the time to financially strengthen the institutions set up for the crusade against anti-corruption.
To be continued