By Abiose Addelaja Adams
As the World Anti – Corruption Day was marked across the globe on Tuesday, the ministry of Aviation and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, in Lagos, launched an initiative to cleanse the Aviation sector of longstanding corrupt practices.
And, in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, at a ceremony marking the day, stakeholders called for better funding and more autonomy for anti-corruption agencies to enable them fight the cankerworm.
The “Anti-Corruption Intervention in the Aviation Sector” initiative launched in Lagos is borne out of the desire to make Nigeria an aviation hub in the sub-region and to create new impressions about the country in the minds of foreigners, whose first port of call is often the airports.
Speaking during the official launching ceremony at Nigeria’s busiest airport, Muritala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, Aviation minister, Osita Chidoka said corruption, which is not just stealing money but includes anything that disrupts due process, has been the major roadblock to economic prosperity of the nation.
He observed that one of the major opportunities for corruption in the Aviation sector in Nigeria arises from interaction between airport users/passengers and officials as they present the occasion for demanding and receiving gratification, thus leading to a process that gives one passenger an undue advantage over another.
“In all the airports that I have been abroad, you do not see the officials because they are locked up somewhere in their rooms from where they monitor activities of passengers in the CCTV (close circuit television). But here in Nigeria, passengers keep meeting with the officials; they ransack their bags, then go through their luggage almost at every point, then immigration will check, customs will check passport, then NDLEA will also check, then immigration again. Need we do all these,” he queried.
“What we are launching today is not a strategy to catch the thief. We are creating a process of engagement, dialogue and, most importantly, enforcement because education without enforcement is entertainment,” he stated.
The minister directed the heads of relevant agencies, including the Nigeria Customs, National Drug Law Enforcement Agent, NDLEA, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, to rid the airports of touts.
“All the touts that stand in front of the airport should henceforth leave. I am giving you (the commandants) two weeks to do that. We are going to stop giving concessions for trolleys; also all taxis must stay in the taxi bay.”
Chijoka said that there were plans to install at the nation’s airports CCTVs “that will have the power to zoom and record.” According to him, an official will only have contact with a passenger if it is extremely necessary or if the passenger requires further questioning.
Remarking on Nigeria’s position in the 2014 Transparency International report, he lamented that ranking136 out of 172 countries, which is a slight improvement from last year’s, is still is a huge source of concern.
He observed that the top 10 countries such as Denmark are the richest countries of the world, an indication that corruption destroys economic prosperity.
He noted that a major reason for corruption in the country is a disincentive to work hard.
“The government needs to create incentive for hard work so that people can play by the rules of fairness and transparency. The most corrupt countries, of which Nigeria is one, are places where people don’t play by the rules. Thus there is no level playing field and no fairness.
The minister and the ICPC showed their commitment with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, to facilitate the anti-corruption initiative and to formalize the institutionalization of good practices in the system, strengthen and deepen ethical compliance by both officials and users of the airports.
On his part the chairman of the ICPC, Ekpo Nta, said the MoU will set into motion the objective of the Aviation sector anti-corruption initiative.
“With this, I don’t need to deploy my men to keep monitoring people about, we will do occasional checks, but like the Aviation minister has said, an Aviation Travellers Portal which is online has been launched. We also have the corruption box on that same portal, so that even if you cannot make a formal report directly, you can go to that portal and you report whosoever has demanded XYZ from you, stating his name and so on and so forth.”
Nta, observed that the initiative is not peculiar to the Aviation industry as it has similar ones ongoing in Education, Visa Activities in Embassies, sea ports such as Tin Can Island, Clabar and Warri Ports.
Strategies to achieve the anticorruption objective of the MoU include a mandatory training on Ethics and Integrity at the ICPC Academy for personnel of all stakeholders of the Ministry of Aviation and its parastatals,; a continuous sensitization of the travelling public and foreigners who use our airports not to compromise officials with offers or tips and bribes and to also report unwholesome acts to ICPC.
At ceremony, the ICPC issued a circular with the title, “Important Anti-Corruption Notice” which states that the offence for accepting gratification is seven years jail term. Giving or Accepting gratification through an agent also attract the same penalty: Failure to report corrupt transaction to ICPC attracts a penalty of two years jail term or N100,000 fine.
Bribery of public officers in relation to performance of duty attracts a five year jail term. Same punishment goes for using office or position to gratify or confer unfair advantage on oneself, relation or associate.
The circular, which contains boldly printed ICPC toll free lines, will be placed at strategic points within the airports.
In Abuja, at a similar ceremony marking the World Anti-Corruption Day organised by Inter-Agency Task Team, IATT, at the National Centre for Women Development, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde, called for the support and cooperation of Nigerians in the fight against corruption, stating that “the job of fighting corruption should not be left only to statutory organisations”.
He stated that the EFCC had been deploying the social media platforms to reach the public, adding that the fight against corruption could not be fought only by traditional model of public enlightenment.
The EFCC boss said that the agency had developed a state-of-the-art forensic laboratory which deals with all types of analysis in the fight against corruption.
“We have trained a lot of analysts and financial crimes investigators who specialize in modern techniques of identifying frauds,” he said.
The chairman of the IATT, Ledum Mittee stressed the need to strengthen anti-corruption agencies financially and granting them more autonomy to execute their mandates.
He said that Nigeria does not meet the standards set out in the Jakarta Principles for Anti-Corruption such as adequate remuneration, authority over human resources, adequate and reliable resources as well as financial autonomy.
He also called for the effective implementation of laws at all levels of governance without fear or favour.
“Not only must there be no sacred cows and the culture of impunity wiped out, but the replication of anti-corruption measures and institutions at the sub-national levels must be seen as a priority,” he said.
The chairman of National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Chidi Odinkalu, who gave the key note address, charged leaders who are nonchalant about fighting corruption to have a rethink.
“I don’t congratulate people on erecting buildings, but I ask what they have done to build our values,” he said.
Also speaking at the ceremony, the representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, Bala Sanga, , emphasized that corruption leads to weak governance, which in turn could fuel organised crimes, including human trafficking, money laundering, terrorism and other forms of criminality.
While pledging the support of UNODC to eliminate corruption, Sanga added that the UNODC had just started the implementation of 34.5 million Euro project funded by the European Union to assist anti-corruption agencies, the police, the judiciary and civil society organizations.