Text of CSOs press conference on State of Anti-corruption fight in Nigeria

For Anti-Corruption War to Be Successful, Nigeria must be free from Rats, Termites and Sacred Fat cows being the text of press conference by Anti-Corruption Civil Society Coalitions on Tuesday 25th August, 2015 at social Justice Centre, ikeja, Lagos

Protocols

We called this Interactive Session with the Media in view of the seeming grand conspiracy and groundswell to frustrate the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. We call the conference to sensitise Nigerians on the need to rise up and support the clamour for transparency in all facets of life and to sack corruption from public and private lives. We commend the efforts of PMB and assert that his efforts should be supported.

It will be recalled that a major campaign mantra of the president before he was voted, was to fight corruption and recover all stolen fund and looted assets of Nigeria because it was obvious to all citizens and the international community that corruption has been institutionalized in Nigeria and has been a major stumbling block to national growth and development.

Although this criminal act of looting spree and mismanagement of public fund by public officers; elected and appointed did not start with the immediate past administration of ex-president Goodluck jonathan but the former administration by its conduct, actions and inactions gave corruption a life of its own.

Corruption was promoted as a direct policy of government and governance. It was simply an era of impunity and immunity to sanction against corrupt government officials.

Nigeria literally became a big looting field. Big thieves became bigger, new and powerful thieves were created under the regime, big destructive “rats”, “termites” were unleashed on the nation’s treasury as all anti-corruption institutions went to bed having been incapacitated by the corruption–compliant body language of Goodluck Jonathan and his several pronouncements that: “Stealing is Not Corruption” among others. The resultant effect is that the tribe of the nation’s sacred fat cows became wider and many more corrupt people were covered with the corruption safety net. Looting was fully democratized from local government, state to federal government.

No nation develops when you have such high profile thieves parading as leaders prowling the nation’s political space with impunity. Something must just be done and be done urgently too before corruption kills Nigeria!

Opinions and Arguments against Anti-Corruption War, Our Response:
As the maxim goes: “if you don’t fight corruption, corruption will kill you, and if you fight corruption, corruption will fight back” – this is the context we look at the activities and orchestrated arguments against the renewed fight against corruption.

It is expected that many powerful rogues who have had their hands, beards, robes and names soiled or perceived to be tainted will obviously feel the intensity of the anti-corruption war and definitely fight back by all legitimate and illegitimate means possible under any subterfuge in order to frustrate the ethical revolution to sanitize governance in Nigeria.
While we concede that in a democracy everyone is entitled to his/her opinion on government policy and programmes no matter how good intentioned. But the citizens must always be conscious of the underlying motive of such opinions and actions, particularly, when it has to do with anti-corruption policies.

A critical examination shows that many arguments of some prominent Nigerians, groups, political parties and organisations, so far, against corruption fight of this regime are puerile, ill-motivated, pro-impunity, corruption enhancing with a dint of bad politics and lacking in patriotism and courage to disclose their real motives

Arguments against anti-corruption war so far:
That the anti-corruption war should start from Nigeria’s independence from Tafawa Balewa’s government and encompasses all former federal, regional and state government.

Our response to this demand and opinion, unfortunately being led by former president Jonathan, is that it is a recipe for a do-nothing agenda against corruption. A serious nation must start corruption fight from somewhere concretely. Instead of running after dead leaders’ record of service, a serious government must commence its probe with the records of service of its immediate predecessor and in the course of this; findings from such probe may ultimately lead to further probes of other previous administrations. That is common sense. Meanwhile, there are ongoing cases of corruption that cannot be sidetracked, like the Haliburton probe, by the current government.

That corruption war could threaten the nation’s peace and stability and that the fight against corruption should follow due process of the law and constitution of Nigeria.
It is embarrassing that ridiculous rants like this are promoted by some members of the National Peace Committee led by Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar, Pastor Oritsajefor and Father Matthew Kukah.

We ask all these “emergency apostles of peace and due process” why the hullabaloo when President Buhari has assured the nation and international community and has stated on many occasions that his regime corruption fight, from investigation, arrest and prosecution of people suspected to be corrupt would strictly follow rule of law?

The president’s actions so far in this corruption crusade have justified his assurance and the court is there for anyone who feels his right to fair trial has been or about to be abridged. We consider this preemptive cry as self-preservation and a subtle blackmail against corruption trial and an attempt to confer immunity against investigation and prosecution of suspected corrupt officials of the immediate past regime of which some of them are beneficiaries of the huge mismanagement under Jonathan.

Instead of limiting their “due process crusade” to cover only the corrupt politically exposed persons who are yet to be arrested or even prosecuted, we appeal to these “due process apostles” to take their due process concern to various prisons in Nigeria to help free petty thieves and suspects who are languishing in jail, many of them victims of “undue process” of the warped justice system. Due process should not be the exclusive privilege of the privilege class!

That corruption fight will disturb governance and that the government is spending too much time on corruption crusade at the expense of other progrmmes.
This line of thought is even being promoted by many “human rights entrepreneurs”. The least we can say is that such a warped logic is too simplistic and unintelligent. It does not take cognizance of our rotten past which the business as usual to governance attitude had led us to.  Even the fastest runner in the world, Usain Bolt, would not hit the ground running when the pitch is slippery.

No good governance can be guaranteed or sustained in a situation of national moral epidemic when all institutions of government have been morally destroyed due to corruption.

That the corruption fight is selective as only people in the main opposition party that lost power to the incumbent is been investigated. Many politicians from People Democratic Party (PDP) are the main canvassers of this campaign against corruption crusade.

We agree that in any genuine fight against corruption, there should not be friend or foe, and no selectivity or privilege of association. But it is just natural that since PDP was in power for sixteen years at the federal and most state governments, the preponderance of suspected corrupt government officials being investigated or about to be investigated and prosecuted will most likely come from PDP based on the ruinous ways they ran the country when the party was in power.

We hasten to add that beyond calling for the investigation and prosecution of past and present government officials from the ruling APC, the PDP should tender tenable and indicting documents against suspected APC or any other party stalwarts. The “my son is not the only thief” approach of the party is unhelpful of corruption fight.

After all, PDP federal government had sixteen good years to have done thorough investigation of the activities of opposition politicians in government using the EFCC, ICPC, Police and other anti-fraud institutions if the party genuinely fought corruption when it was in power.

The party should blame no one but itself if it did compromise corruption fight on the altar of political expediency and compromise with the opposition parties during its tenure and Buhari didn’t want to trade off his corruption crusade he promised Nigerians, notwithstanding whose ox is gored.

The accusation of selectivity may be too hasty since President Buhari has promised there won’t be any sacred cow even in his party.

Our Demand and Message to Nigerians
It will be a disservice to the nation and to us, Nigerians, as victims of corruption to leave the battle against corruption as a “Buhari’s One Man Riot Squad Against Corruption”. No, the battle is not for Buhari alone, we , the people, must seize the opportunity of Buhari’s seeming passion against corruption to participate and own the corruption crusade. We must be vigilant and become whistle blowers to help all anti-corruption institutions and government to fight corruption at every level of government and governance.
The appointment of Ministers, Commissioners and Local Government political office holders must be subjected to public scrutiny beyond security checks. And all politically exposed persons in government, from President, governors, local government chairmen etc must declare their assets publicly as part of anti-corruption measure so that their assets and financial status can always be tracked as a proactive measure instead of waiting for them to have corruptly enrich themselves before running after them
We support the establishment of specialized courts for corruption cases so as to have a fair and speedy trial of corruption cases. The Nigerian Bar Association should, as a matter of nationalism, monitor activities of corruption compliant lawyers who help corrupt public officials to frustrate court trial process through frivolous applications and delays.
National Assembly members must cut their salary and allowances, in compliance with economic realities, and be supportive of the ongoing war against corruption in view of the need for sustained ethical revolution of the present regime.
We of the Civil Society Coalition Against Corruption will henceforth track corruption cases and actions as a proactive measure to monitor and guarantee good governance. We shall mobilise Nigerians to fully support the anti-corruption war and be ambassadors of ethical revolution to reclaim Nigeria.
States are implored to set up their versions of anti-corruption agencies.
Anti-corruption crusade of the president should be extended to Private companies and individuals for their conspiracy and culpabilities.
The federal government must ensure the judicious utilization of Recovered funds for job creation and revamp of the economy.

In due course, we shall publish a book on corruption cases and how corruption in high places has underdeveloped Nigeria and Nigerians.

Thank you

Signed

Olanrewaju Suraju.                                    Adeola Soetan
CSNAC.                                                      Democracy vanguard

Jiti Ogunye                                                 Debo Adeniran
Lawyers for justice                                      CACOL

Wale Adeoye                                               Abuka Omababa
JODER.                                                       Middle belt youth forum

Malachy Ugwumadu.                                   Sina Odugbemi
Movement for change.                                Value and integrity group

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