By Chuks Okocha and Gboyega Akinsanmi
Corruption took the centre stage at the third edition of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) loyal to the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, as participants spanning various strata of anti-corruption fight in the country lamented its inability to tame the scourge.
Former Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Justice Mustafa Akanbi, former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, a member to the forthcoming National Conference, Prof. Akin Oyebode, Governors Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos and others lamented the high level of corruption in the country.
Speaking variously at the NGF seminar in Lagos, they said that the move to curtail the growing influence of corruption must be holistic, with no one being spared. They also lamented that the menace, if not tackled, has the capability of threatening the survival of Nigeria as a country.
They spoke yesterday at the third Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum, NGF Retreat held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
According to Justice Akanbi who chaired the discussion session on “Building Systems and Institutions that Prevent Corruption”, the situation called for a holistic approach to the fight against corruption. He charged the presidency, the governors and political parties to include in their various manifestos and explain in details how they plan to tackle corruption.
Akanbi appealed to the governors to lead by example and also ensure that those who are corrupt under them were brought to book. He however hailed the Nigeria Governors’ Forum under the governor of Rivers State for putting in place a retreat of this kind as well as having the courage and tenacity in the face of obvious challenges, to include in the discourse, the issue of corruption, adding that the leadership must ensure good governance at all levels in the country.
According to him, the commitment and readiness of the political class was critical to fight corruption in the country, without which the scourge may persist in the country.
According to him, as the country moves towards 2015, whoever must be the president of this country or a governor must be transparent, just as he said that President. He recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan delayed in sacking the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah when she was alleged to have been involved in corruption but was quick to move against the Governor of Central Bank, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for making a public statement.
Akanbi, also, explained with remorse what he faced in the hands of federal lawmakers when the ICPC made attempt to arrest former Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Ghali Na’aba and former Senate President (now Secretary to the Government of the Federation), Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim.
He said the National Assembly then created political problems for him when the anti-graft operatives tried to arrest Na’aba and Anyim, acknowledging that it took the intervention of Oshiomhole among other labour activists who protested against persecution in the process of performing his duties.
The former anti-graft czar, also, lamented how one of his security details was gruesomely killed in the course of discharging his responsibilities as the ICPC’s helmsman, explaining that he was only fortunate and lucky that he was not in the car at the time the incident happened.
He noted that there was the need for those heading the country`s anti-graft agencies to be bold and courageous, adding, “you cannot lead in the struggle to fight corruption when you are in yourself corrupt. The challenge is there for our leaders. My challenge to the NGF and the political class is that they should put corruption in their manifestos”.
Also speaking, Ribadu warned that if Nigeria as a country must get it right, there must be the need for transparency, due process in governance as well as the need for less of private jets, beautiful government houses, and beautiful cars. To him, if the president and governors behave well and are prudent in their expenditure, the other arms of government would as well emulate.
In his presentation, Prof. Akin Oyebode who took a swipe at President Jonathan for giving an award to late Head of State, General Sani Abacha as that was encouraging corruption, however said that the problem with Nigeria was not that of corruption, but the government’s inability to punish, throw away, burn and shame those caught.
“All that is required to save this country from the corrosion of unconscionable acts is total commitment of the powers- that- be to the fight against corruption by way of requisite body language and full cooperation with the agencies established to carry out the war against corruption”, he pointed out.
Former Vice Chancellor, University of Benin, Prof. Grace Alele- Williams who called for a holistic approach to addressing the menace, however lamented that corruption has penetrated into the nation’s children as many do not want to read, but want to pass, adding that parents of these children assist them in doing that to buy results.
In his remarks as a Discussant, Oshiomhole who corroborated Ribadu’s position that governors must take the lead for their subordinates to follow, stressed that if subordinates realise that they could be fired, they would shun corruption.
According to him, “In terms of looking at corruption induced capitalism, the Nigerian environment has gotten to a point where all of us should get up and fight corruption. When we talk about who will throw the first stone. Just as we have so much more money, some people are getting poorer.”
For Fashola, “When you look at a system that peoples way of living is incompatible with their income. In terms of values, from the leadership side, when we reward people for no work done, 20 billion dollars missing and all seems to be well. I can’t contemplate what will happen now.”
Earlier in his address of Welcome, Chairman, NGF and Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi who noted that the retreat, being the third in its series as a follow up to the second one held in Sokoto State last year, explained that the retreat was designed to build on the gains of the last retreat as well as explore and take forward the 2014 – 2016 Strategic Plan of the Forum.
He pointed out that Peer learning was the major hallmark of the Forum and there was no doubt that, “we have a lot to learn from Lagos State.”
Present at the Retreat were Fashola of Lagos; Amaechi of Rivers; Oshiomhole of Edo; Aliyu Wammakko of Sokoto; Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti and Abdulazeez Yari of Zamfara.
Also present were Deputy governor of Oyo State, Moses Adeyemo; Deputy governor of Ogun, Segun Adesegun; Deputy governor of Imo, Eze Madumere; Deputy governor of Kwara, Peter Kisira and Deputy Governor of Osun, Grace Tomori.