Assessing corruption trends in Nigeria at a roundtable to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, has accused President Goodluck Jonathan of encouraging corruption in the country.
Tambuwal who presented a paper titled the ‘role of the legislature in the fight against corruption in Nigeria,’ at the roundtable organised by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, lamented that the President has failed to act on corruption cases painstakingly probed and investigated by the House, adding that is most cases a new committee is set up to further duplicate what has already been done and prosecution is often slow or outrightly absent.
Under the legislative function, Section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 provides that the National Assembly shall have the power to make laws for peace, order and good government of the country.
More specifically, under Section 15 (5) of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, it provides, “The state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office”.
But citing examples of the fuel subsidy probe, the pension scam, the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, probe and recently the bullet proof car cases, Tambuwal concluded that Jonathan has failed to act on corruption cases unearthed by the National Assembly.
“The President’s body language’ seems to be encouraging corrupt practices in the country. In some cases, you have the government setting up new committees to duplicate the job already done by the parliament. Take the bullet proof cars case, the NSA, with all the security challenges confronting the country, should not be burdened with a job that can best be handled by the anti-corruption agencies,” he said.
He added: “By the action of setting up different committees for straightforward cases, the president’s body language doesn’t tend to support the fight against corruption.”
The speaker said a list of manifestation of corruption especially in the public sector of Nigeria ranges from direct diversion of public funds to private pockets, contract over-pricing, bribery, impunity, nepotism, general financial recklessness, fraudulent borrowing and debt management, public assets striping, electoral fraud, shielding of corrupt public officers among others.
He noted that corruption thrives well in any environment or society where there is community indifference or lack of enforcement policies, societies with a culture of ritualized gift giving where the line between acceptable and non-acceptable gifts is often hard to draw and societies in which values have been overthrown by materialism or where the laws are observed more in the breach.
According to him, corruption is Nigeria’s greatest problem and an impediment to any development efforts.
The Speaker added that if Nigeria is to witness true development, then corruption must be dealt with decisively and comprehensively.
“It is a duty requiring will, zeal and passion on the part of the three arms of government and indeed the entire citizenry,” Tambuwal stressed.
Speaker Tambuwal also called for the provision of adequate funding for anti corruption Agencies through appropriation.
“Unfortunately efforts to exercise this function by the legislature is often misconstrued by the executive arm and even some members of the public. Yet without adequate funding the anti corruption agencies cannot execute their functions satisfactorily,” he noted.
The lawmaker urged other arms of government and indeed the general public to complement the efforts of the legislature in ridding the country of its corruption tag.
Tambuwal reiterated that the Legislature will not abdicate its responsibilities on the account of inaction or negligence of another arm of government, adding: “If nothing else we will at least continue to name and shame.”
It would be recalled that in its 2012 Global Corruption Perception Index, CPI, the global corruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranked Nigeria as the 36th most corrupt country globally.
Nigeria placed 139th of the 176 countries assessed scoring 27%.
In its statistics, the African Development Bank, AfDB, says an estimated $2.6 trillion is stolen annually through high level corrupt practises in Africa.
AfDB’s President, Donald Kaberuka, said that the figure amounted to more than five per cent equivalence of the global GDP.
The theme of this year’s International corruption day is “Zero Corruption, 100 per cent Development”.
The day had been observed every December 9 since the passage of the UN Convention Against Corruption on Oct. 31, 2003.
The convention aims to promote and strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively.