HUMAN Right Lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana on Wednesday said corruption has actually ‘assumed dangerous dimension’ under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The lawyer attributed this to what he described as ‘anti-people economic programme’ of the Federal Government, thus called for quick intervention of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country to partner the public and fight the menace.
He spoke in a keynote address titled ‘Involvement of Nigerian People in the Fight Against Corruption’ at Stakeholders Dialogue on Corruption in Nigeria organised by Action Aid Nigeria, in Kano.
“The role of the civil society in ensuring the effective fight against corruption and the implementation of the above recommendations cannot be over-stressed. In fact, both the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption clearly articulate important roles for civil society in the fight against corruption,” says Falana.
“A good example of the role civil society can play is that currently being played by SERAP, a Nigerian based human rights, and anti-corruption NGO. But as corruption in Nigeria has assumed a dangerous dimension due to the anti-peoples economic programme of the government CSOs must link up with the people in combating the menace of corruption.”
Various reports have shown that the level of corruption is relatively indifferent compared with the past government especially ex-President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
While condemning the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) over its refusal to grant a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on the ground that asset declaration form is private information, the lawyer described the development as irrational.
According to him, “the Federal Government has also failed to show commitment to the fight against corruption by encouraging secrecy with respect to asset declaration by public officers. A few days ago, the CCB turned down the request made by SERAP for the release of copies of the declaration forms of former state governors and Presidents on the grounds that the declaration forms are private documents.”
However, he expressed optimism the CCB would reconsider its position and allow citizens to access the information in the declaration forms submitted to it by all public officers, considering the new policy of the Buhari administration to enforce effective asset declaration by public office holders.
Speaking on increasing insecurity and poverty, Falana emphasised that having managed the Petroleum Trust Fund under the Sani Abacha regime, Buhari should have no difficulty in investing the $321 million Abacha’s recovered loot to fix the crises of insecurity and unemployment.
He recalled that the federal ministry of justice and federal ministry of finance, as well as the anti-graft agencies, revealed the federal government recovered not less than N1 trillion from treasury looters and through the whistleblowing policy of the current administration.
“It is suggested that the sum of N1 billion be set aside for the establishment of a factory in each of the 774 local governments in the country while the balance should be allocated to the police to secure the country.
“…After all, the sum of $321 million from the Abacha loot is being distributed to the poor as dictated by Switzerland that illegally warehoused the loot for almost two decades,” Falana stated.
He argued further that, “Through the privatisation of public enterprises and assets including banks and other financial institutions the economy was taken over completely by foreign and local interest groups. Thus, the privatisation of public companies, commercialisation of social services, have increased poverty and income inequality in society.”
However, he called for a collective effort such as an alliance with progressive political parties, trade unions, women and youth organizations for the purpose of fighting together for the society where welfare and security of the majority of the people will be the primary purpose of government.
“To achieve the objective, popular forces should be prepared to challenge neo-liberal ideologues who are promoting poverty through the domination of the economy by market forces.”