By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), have called on the Government, to take preventive, rather than curative measures to curb the rising menace of corruption in Nigeria.
This call was made, at a two-day Capacity Building Workshop on Advocacy for implementation of the African Union Convention for Preventing and Combating Corruption(AUCPCC), organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre(CISLAC) in conjunction with Transparency International (TI) and State of the Union(SOTU) Coalition.
The workshop which lasted from Thursday September 27 to Friday September 28, 2018, created an avenue for CSOs and the Media to brainstorm on how Nigeria can work towards enforcement of Africa’s commitments against corruption.
The AUCPCC was adopted on July 11, 2003 by the 2nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union due to concerns about the negative effects of corruption and impunity on the political, economic, social and cultural stability of African States and its devastating effect on the economic and social development of the African peoples.
The AUCPCC is determined to build partnerships between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular, women, youth, media and the private sector in order to fight the scourge of corruption.
In line with this, Nigeria signed the agreement to the CPCC on December 16, 2003, ratified it in September 26, 2006 and deposited in December 29, 2006, in fulfilment of article 23 of the convention which talks about signature, ratification, accession and depository; meaning that Nigeria, has shown commitment to comply with the provisions of the instrument.
Giving a goodwill message at the workshop, the Executive Director,CISLAC, Auwal Musa noted that corruption is fuelled in so many ways in Nigeria and the citizens are all part of it.
Musa who was represented by the Senior Program Officer, Okeke Anya, said the meeting is an opportunity to look at the issues and tackle corruption frontally so as to attain redemption, adding that Nigeria is drifting very far away from normal civilization.
According to him, “When we talk about corruption at times, we want to look very far away but we don’t look at ourselves. When we only look at it from the government, you find out that it may look very far away from us. When we talk about issues of corruption, we need to really think deeply.
“Nigeria gives out about N400 billion yearly in bribes and I want to say that if we look around, we would find out that one way or the other, we contribute to that N400 billion” he noted.
Also, lack of adequate mechanisms to tackle and fight corruption was said to be a major hindrance to winning the anti-corruption war.
“We do not have enough mechanisms to tackle and fight corruption, yes we have the BVN and TSA but not having enough mechanisms is the challenge. It is not about the law now, the law needs mechanisms to automate its ability to curb corruption”, said Soji Apampa, Co-founder, Convention on Business Integrity.
Apampa, who noted that preventing corruption requires setting of standards to gather information, stressed the need to automate the process of gathering compliance information and the process of intervening with corrective measures, adding that prevention starts with education.
“You have to educate all the players about the standards, the rules and gather information well about their compliance, those mechanism are missing and we need to focus on those preventive mechanism”, he pointed out.
He however posited, that Nigeria is not on the right track in its fight against corruption, saying, that what is being done is necessary but not sufficient enough to deal with the problem.
“What we are doing, we are looking at sanctions, and enforcement and so on. Yes, those are very important but we have not dealt with job number one which is prevention. If you do not prevent, then in another four years, a new administration comes, you will have a new set of actors that you are chasing to try and deal with corruption.
“So it means you have learnt nothing. We have been doing the same cycle from 1966. Every successive administration has been talking about corruption in the previous one and we have not learnt any thing, that is not the way to fight corruption. Yes, it is important that those who steal should not get away with what they have stolen, but you must do something about preventing more people joining the ranks of those who have stolen” he concluded.
While assessing the level of implementation of the AUCPCC by Nigeria, the Convener, Good Governance Team(GGT), Tunde Salman, warned that if Nigeria does not use the AUCPCC to fight corruption, then whatever is being done at the level of investigation, is curative and so, not significant enough.
“A lot of cases around corruption are in court or under investigation. I am not saying that it is unimportant to investigate and do thorough prosecution of corruption, particularly high level corruption by people we call “politically exposed persons”, but we really need to do more on the side of prevention” he said.
He noted that the necessary frameworks needed to reduce the cancer of corruption is already in place, but the level of efforts in trying to address corruption and the Transparency International Perception Index which ranks Nigeria as 148th on world least corrupt country, shows an unacceptable high level of corruption, adding that the efforts are not in tandem with the outcomes.
Salman remarked, that Article 8 of the Convention which speaks on illicit enrichment, should be implemented and called on the CSOs and the media to put more efforts on the passage of the legislations to curb corrupt practices especially illicit enrichment. “We need to be on the side of efforts to fight corruption”, he stated.
On the solutions and way forward the CSOs called for: Dedicated funding of Anti-Corruption agencies; Deeper clarification on what corruption is; Ensuring that agencies do their work; Strengthening and empowering institutions, and Ensuring that integrity is pushed forward.
Under the AUCPCC, state parties are required to adopt legislative and other measures to criminalize acts of corruption listed under the convention.
The workshop was aimed at strengthening Civil Society’s Contribution to African Union’s Anti-Corruption Ffforts and Commitments during the 2018 African Anti-corruption Year and beyond.