Government should adopt a better strategy for the anti-graft war

If there is any lesson from the current suspension and investigation of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, it is that there is no silver bullet for fighting corruption. It is also clear that what Nigeria needs are not strong individuals but strong institutions with in-built adherence to the rule of law complemented by effective law enforcement. This is essential to breaking the cycle of impunity in our country.

From the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) scandal that has led to the suspension of the Managing Director and two Executive Directors to the crisis in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) where the removed Managing Director, Joi Nunieh and the Niger Delta Minister, Godswill Akpabio are trading damaging allegations, it would seem that transparency and accountability have taken flight from Nigeria. To imagine that the country suffers the kind of enormous revenue depletion as being revealed almost on a daily basis while begging for foreign loans to finance its projects is, to say the least, lamentable. It is even more tragic that senior officials of this administration have only been making complaints to the media, touting figures of the amount of theft in different sectors without proffering any solution to the challenge.

Even as we lament the growing number of corruption cases, it is also evident that they persist because if any measures were taken to combat the challenge, Nigerians are yet to see the impact. With revelations of how hundreds of billions of Naira of public funds end up in private hands, the federal government can only allow the problem to fester at our collective peril. Besides, it is unacceptable that the federal government seems helpless on how to deal with what clearly threatens the economic well-being of the nation and our national security.

Successful enforcement approaches that are supported by a strong legal framework and an independent and effective court system are important to the war against corruption. Closely related to this are reforms that would focus on improving financial management and strengthening the role of auditing agencies. These have provided greater successes in many countries and have achieved greater impact than public sector reforms on curbing corruption. Reports of countries with successes at curbing corruption have a long tradition of government openness, freedom of the press, transparency and access to information.

Access to information increases the responsiveness of government bodies, while simultaneously having a positive effect on the levels of public participation in a country. Government officials constitute the greatest barriers to access to public information in Nigeria despite the Freedom of Information (FOI) law. A situation where agencies of government are not audited as at when due leaves much to be desired. There is hardly any government agency that is audited as at when due. Audit reports are submitted three to four years belatedly, hence the reports become a mere routine with no effect.

The federal government must distinguish between all the variants of the pervading malaise, so that appropriate strategies for tackling each can be designed and implemented within the broader framework of values reorientation. This will lead to a better society and not just the arrest and trial of persons who have committed various forms of graft that the operating environment subtly encourages and nurtures. Admitting the full scope of corruption and exposing the soft underbelly of extant practices that fuel abuses are necessary preambles to a sustainable solution.

If President Muhammadu Buhari is to fight corruption as he promised, he must deal with the foregoing issues. And he cannot do that when he continues to create the impression that under his watch, there are no consequences for bad behaviour.

Source: Thisday

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