‘Corruption should be treated systematically in Nigeria’

Prof. Yemi George SAN, President of the Center for Socio-Legal Studies has said that corruption have become so endemic, deep-rooted and multi-faceted in Nigeria that it needs to be tackled systematically.

George, who is also a professor of public law, said this in Abuja on Wednesday at a town hall meeting organized by a civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with the Department for International Development (DFID)

The meeting was citizens’ participation in the fight against corruption in the police, health, education, judiciary and the electricity sector of the economy.

The professor, represented by Mr Adekunle Adewumi, an associate with the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies said the fight against corruption would not be led by the state or the elite.

He said if allowed, they would introduce a system that would feed their political ambition and economic power.

Reacting to SERAP national survey report entitled “Nigeria Anti-Corruption Performance Assessment Survey”, he said that citizens, who were the greatest victims, must mobilize efficiently to ensure transparency and accountability in government.

“This will necessitate making many difficult decisions which includes changing attitude and lifestyle patterns.

“The question is, are Nigerians ready to make these changes and respect the sanctity of the rule of law even when it is inconvenient?

“Are we ready to face the sanctions for our wrongdoing when arrested by the police rather than offering a bribe?

“Are we ready to say ‘no’ when asked to pay a magistrate in order to win a case?

“Are the youths ready to work hard in order to secure good marks rather than taking the easy and corrupt route by patronizing miracle exams centers?” he questioned.

George called on citizens to be ready to pay the correct tariffs for electricity consumed rather than engaging unauthorized electricity officials or pay bribes to compromise electricity bills.

He urged Nigerians to be ready to report doctors and nurses in public hospitals who spent most of their time pursuing private practice to the detriment of Nigerians who patronized public hospitals.

“Events worldwide such as in Hong-Kong where over one million persons gathered for over three months to demand that unfavorable legislation which may infringe on their rights should not be passed.

“Romania where protesters gathered for more than 500 days to call for the repeal government decrees which sought to pardon some crimes and modify criminal code provisions regarding corruption in the government.

“These show that the tide is turning and there is a global demand for accountability,” he stressed.

He however, noted that when the citizens become conscious of the fact that power resides with the people and where purposes were aligned then significant progress would be made in the fight against corruption.

Earlier, the Deputy Director of SERAP, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare said that the organization came up with the 57-page report in collaboration with UKaid.

Oluwadare noted that corruption was prevalent in the country in spite of some significant measures by the President Muhammadu Buhari toward addressing it.

According to him, some of the measures were the establishment of the Treasury Single Account, Whistle-Blowing Policy and constitution of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption.

He said that the national survey was conducted between November and December, 2018, targeted 2,655 respondents selected from seven states spread across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria and Abuja.

The deputy director said that the survey also covered five sectors – police, judiciary, power, education and health to assess the state of corruption in public law enforcement and service provision.

“There was a 63.7 per cent probability that an average Nigerian would be asked to pay a bribe each time he or she interacted with the police.

“There was a 49.1 per cent probability in the power sector, 27.7 per cent in judiciary, 25.6 per cent in education and 20.5 per cent in the health sector.

“The police and the judiciary had the largest proportion of total bribes paid at 33 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively.

“The average amount of bribe paid by the respondents was highest among those who paid to the judiciary at about N108,000. All the other institutions ranked lower on this variable,” he stated.

He however, said that SERAP recommended establishment of an independent commission of inquiry to conduct a transparent, comprehensive and impartial investigation into corruption in the five sectors.

“It also suggested legislative and constitutional reforms including amendment of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act to ensure public access to the asset declarations of public officials.

“It equally urged prosecution of liable individuals without delay and according to international fair trial standards, adding that there should be improvement in financial oversight of the five sectors,” he suggested.

Oluwadare, however urged publication of quarterly budget execution reports by the sectors

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