–Blank NEWS Online (NIGERIA) –From Mike SOGBOLA -North East Editor:
The gale of corruption recently uncovered in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as well as few other federal agencies may unleash “new marque of militancy, economic downturn, trust deficits in governments as well as heighten poverty, and exacerbate inequality gap,” a non-governmental organisation, ActionAid Nigeria has raised the alarm.
A statement by Action Aid on Tuesday said: “While we welcome policy interventions by past and present governments in setting up institutions and designing of policies to address the lingering poverty of the people of the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large. We are really worried with the allegations and counter-allegations of corruption and the indictment of institutions and individuals saddled with the responsibilities of addressing the excruciating poverty problems in the Niger Delta regions as well as other parts of the country.
“These current gale of accusations and indictments being experienced in the past one week further corroborate a study carried out by ActionAid Nigeria in 2015 revealing the strong correlation between corruption and poverty in Nigeria.”
The statement added that: “We like to infer from the study and in line with what is currently playing out with the EFCC, FMoJ, NDDC, NSITF, MoND, NASS, that the country may be heading in the wrong direction to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the leadership crisis, regional conflicts and state of anarchy.
“Consequently, these may unleash new marque of militancy, economic downturn, trust deficits in governments as well as heighten poverty, and exacerbate inequality gap. It is also worthy of note that though NDDC has the mandate to fill the development gaps in the Niger Delta,
the FGN still has the responsibility to do more by ensuring the region overcome the challenge of infrastructural deficit, environmental degradation, loss of means of livelihood etc.”
It lamented that: “Over the years, trillions of naira has been appropriated through budgets towards the development of the country. Yet the state of roads, electricity and water supply, schools, and hospitals remains inadequate to meet even the basic needs for a large part of the population. More than one-third of Nigeria’s population lack access to safe water, and over 130 million citizens are without access to adequate sanitation.
“Many resort to drinking water from boreholes packed in sachets, which in some cases may have been exposed to feacal contamination in various homes. This invariably increases the disease burden on poor households.”
It however said that: “With all these gloomy concerns and outlook of the region and the country at large, we would like to recommend as a matter of urgency that His Excellency, President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria-Gen Muhammadu Buhari rtd should consider for adoption, some of the recommendations below to complement what the Presidency had planned to address the unpleasant situations:
“There should be renewed investments in civic education and re-orientation for both public office holders and the citizenry to promote the social contract needed to reduce citizens and leadership’s propensity to engage in any form of sharp practices and corruption.
“Corruption should be made to be seen and addressed as anti-development issue, in which case governments at all levels should pay significant attention to social provisioning as a way of serving as disincentives for citizens to engage in corrupt behaviours.
“The Federal Government should implement all aspects of the Procurement Act, including constituting and inaugurating the National Procurement Council. State governments should also enact similar laws, where they do not exist, and ensure effective implementation.
“The Office of the Attorney General should enforce compliance with the Freedom of Information Act across all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.
“The Federal Government should ensure that all anti-corruption agencies are autonomous with functional boards for effective oversights and given all the powers and resources needed to discharge their mandates of fighting corruption.”
It said the National Assembly should ensure that: “The corruption-fighting agencies should be streamlined, reformed and strengthened in order to avoid administrative conflicts and unhealthy rivalry with similar agencies.They should also be made to be corruption preventive oriented, cost-effective; free from the clutch of the executive arm and other forms of control; and facilitate optimal performance. The specific actions to be taken include:
“Reforming the anti-corruption agencies to weed-out non-performing staff and elements that frustrate and weaken the internal operations through their resistance to change.
“Adequately funding the agencies, including designing and employing modern Information, Communication & Technological systems to enable them to conduct their affairs in a transparent and professional manner.
“Granting the agencies relative autonomy from the executive and legislature. The immunity clause should be removed from the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) in order to deny public office holders the opportunity to engage in corruption and other forms of impunity and escape unsanctioned,and to serve as a deterrent to public officers from engaging in corruption.
“The specific action to be taken is the review of the 1999 Constitution to make it mandatory for the person holding the office of President or Vice-President, Governors or Deputy Governors to be tried in the court of law for criminal offences committed while in office.
“The extant laws in the Penal Code should be reviewed to increase penalties, which will serve as a deterrent to public officers from engaging in corrupt behaviours.
“There is need to review and reform the current tax system as a way of reducing lapses or loops which induce corruption. Many government agencies, especially the gateway agencies, collect money that never gets to the treasury.
“The Whistle Blowers Protection Bill should be speedily passed.”
ActionAid advocated that: “Anti-corruption agencies must institute a programme of robust documentation and the building of a reliable database on corruption.
“A process of monitoring for corruption should be instituted to facilitate the taking of proactive measures, rather than wait for people to make complaints.
“The Code of Conduct Bureau should ensure the compliance of the law with respect to the declaration of assets by public officials and promptly prosecute defaulters.
“There is need for the anti-corruption agencies to mobilise various stakeholders around a strategic programme of fighting corruption in the country.
It also tasked Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to scale up the education of citizens to facilitate the understanding that public funds are not resources for government officials, but resources for the provision of public good. CSOs should partake in continued advocacy for the passage of all anti-corruption related legislations at all levels.
Adding that: “CSOs should advocate for effective and unrestricted implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.
“Monitoring of compliance with all anti-corruption laws, including the Freedom of Information and Public Procurement Acts, should be undertaken by CSOs.
“Advocacy should be undertaken by CSOs to ensure that states fully implement the Freedom of Information Act.
“CSOs should engage in systematic monitoring and reporting of advocacy activities.
“CSOs should drive the campaign against corruption to the grassroots level to ensure that the critical mass needed to achieve traction in the campaign is possible.
“Sensitization and advocacy efforts related to corruption should be extended to the private sector.”
It urged Anti-Poverty Agencies to ensure: “Data-driven social protection programmes should be promoted, and social services expanded, most especially education (both academic and vocational) and health care programmes.
“Appropriate economic policies to promote sustainable growth in vital sectors capable of reducing poverty, inequality and expanding employment and entrepreneurship opportunities should be introduced.”