By Henry Uche, Lagos
Groups involved in the fight against corruption have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to honour international obligations on corruption so as to strengthen the various anti-corruption laws and improve the capacity for citizen participation.
The request was made in Abuja during a one-day summit on “Assessing Key Development in the Anti-Corruption Regime; Focusing on the Proceeds of Crime Recovery and Management Bill”, recently organised by HEDA Resource Centre.
The summit drew participants from anti-corruption agencies including but not limited to: Presidential Advisory Council Against Corruption, (PACAC); Centre for Democracy and Development, (CDD West Africa); the National Assembly, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC); Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA); the media, labour and civil society.
In a communiqué issued and signed by HEDA Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, participants opined that Nigeria’s inability to honour international conventions undermines the country’s ability to deal effectively with corruption. Some of the treaties among others included: The United Nations Convention on Corruption (UNCAC), the ECOWAS and African Union protocols on corruption.
According to participants, corruption has remained a major problem in Nigeria which is responsible for poverty, deprivation, declining confidence in governance, government institutions and the rise in public disorder.
‘Nigeria is one of the richest countries in the world, but her citizens are among the poorest in the world. Not quite long, Nigeria lifted the trophy of the poverty capital of the world. Nigeria has a weak monitoring regime of the anti-corruption agencies,’ the groups said.
Participants maintained that success in the fight against corruption is a win-win for every Nigerian which definitely would lead to prosperity, greatness and peace by stemming the tide of violence and misery.
They urged the anti-corruption agencies and the civil society organizations to increase the tempo of anti-graft crusade through a strategic alliance with professional bodies like’: The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Society of Engineers among others while at the same time taking the campaign to the streets, through constructive engagements of victims of corruption.
They urged the Ministry of Justice to discourage the arbitrary withdrawal of ongoing corruption cases and there should be an end to MOUs that provide safe havens for looters. ‘The State Governments should institutionalise the fight against corruption by setting up anti-corruption agencies at the state and Local Government levels.’
It stated further: ‘The media, the National Assembly and all democratic institutions should sustain and uphold a language narrative that diminishes class distinction to reflect equity in the report and coverage of crime actors. We called for stiffer punishment for corrupt officials to serve as a deterrent while adequate funds should be provided for anti-corruption agencies to enhance their capacities.
They added that anti-corruption laws should take into consideration the fears, needs and aspirations of people with physical disabilities and other vulnerable ones in society.