BY Emeka Mamah, Kingsley Omonobi, Tony Edike, Henry Umoru and Peter Duru
Some Nigerians including the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, yesterday reacted to the report by the United States of America about pervasive and widespread corruption in the country, saying that America was telling Nigerians what they already know.
The ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, also described the 2011 Country reports on Human Rights Practices which indicted the Federal government over alleged non-implemention of anti-corruption laws as inaccurate and misleading.
But the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on National Assembly matters, Senator Joy Emodi described the report indicting the Federal government for allegedly not implementing ant-corruption laws as unfair, unfortunate, annoying and unjust.
Emodi noted that President Jonathan should be commended for insisting that no culprit will go scot free in the area of corruption, adding that the fight against corruption must not stop on the table of the President alone as it was a collective war.
She spoke as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, PDP Rivers South East admitted that there were gaps inNigeria’s implementation of anti- corruption laws.
In its 2011 Country report on Human Rights Practices which was submitted to Congress by Secretary of State, Mrs Hillary Clinton, America said although the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the government does not implement the law effectively and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, just as she accused the security forces of extra judicial killings.
’’Public officials including the President, Vice President, governors, deputy governors, cabinet ministers and legislators (at both federal and state levels) must comply with financial disclosure laws, including the requirement to declare their assets before assuming and after leaving office. Violators risked prosecution, but cases rarely came to conclusion,’’ the volumnous report stated in part.
Military authorities however reacted to allegations by a USreport that troops of the Nigerian Army have been involved in extra-judicial killings in prosecuting its war against terrorism and the Boko Haram debacle saying that such allegations were mere imaginations of the authors of the report, as the Nigeria Army was not a boy’s scout army.
Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Bola Koleosho who spoke on the issue wondered how a well trained army that had proven its mettle in international operations and received international commendation for performance, would be accused of extra judicial killings.
His words, “People are just imagining things. I do not know where they get their imaginations from. Listen, we ( Nigeria Army) are not a boys scout army; we are not a boys brigade army. The Nigeria Army undertakes training everyday; transformation is going on.
’’It is unthinkable that in the 21st century, an Army like that of Nigeria, that is acknowledged worldwide and is carrying out counter-terrorism training, would go for an operation and open fire on innocent citizens.
“The Chief of Army Staff’s vision is to turn the army into a force that is trained, equipped, and better prepared to meet current and cotemporary challenges and that is exactly what the army has been doing, so I wonder where this report is coming from”.
Deputy Police Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mbah also denied that the police was involved in extra judicial killings of Nigerians, saying,‘’ the force is a life saving institution and not a life taking one. The report is unfortunate. What is the yardstick for the report? We will like to know the antecedents of the authors, the research methodology they employed and how they arrived at their conclusion because that conclusion is at variance with what is on ground now.”
Member, Senate Committee on Drug, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Senator Kunlere, LP, Ondo state however, blamed the international community over the corruption menace, saying that they encouraged Nigerians to engage in money laundering activities using their countries.
FORMER first Vice-President, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA and current Alternate Chairman, NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law,
Mr Ikeazor Akaraiwe, decribed the US Country Report on Nigeria as a very correct and sad portrayal of the true state of things in the country.
He said: “Corruption is cultural inNigeria. It is toNigeria what the slave trade was toBritain. It can only be addressed by a revolutionary, idealistic, visionary leader who will be ready to lay down his life in the somber task of reculturising and reorienting the Nigerian.
”The US Country Report onNigeriais alas, very correct and a sad portrayal of the true state of things.”
However, the ACF which reacted through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Anthony Sani said that ‘’as long as the security challenges, human rights abuses, extra judicial killings and corrupt practices are still pervasive and yet to ebb, it is hard to aviod the conclusion that the governments in Nigeria have not done enough in containing such national manace, considering that it is within the purview of the governments to address such concerns.’’
Executive Director of the CLO, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike said Nigerians had been paupreised by both the fedral and state governments’ officials and their legislators through corruption, pointing out that there was nothing new in what the Americans were saying.
Ezike lamented that corruption had eaten deep into the fabrics of the society, adding that the People’s Democratic Party, PDP led administration had entrenched corruption in the society.
Also, an elderstates man, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande asked the Federal Government to stop making mochery of Nigerians through false claims that it was fighting the maliaise.
Kwande said, ‘’The US government was only telling us what we know already. It is definitely not surprising. We have heard it not once, twice but 1000 times and it has become our music. If you listen to one music consistently, you will be used to it. We are used to it. It is our own perculiarity. We should start fighting corruption from the ordinary man in the street.
‘’But my advice to the Federal Government is to stop mouthing its so-called fight against corruption. There is this popular saying that those who cannot withstand the heat should not go into the kitchen. They should stop decieving us with their so-called fight against corruption because they are not serious. They should stop blowing hot air. It is very unfortunate that we have to hear what we already know from Americans.
The only governor who has been convicted for corruption in this country is the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamiseigha, and another governor from there is being tried again. We are waiting to see what they will do with him.”
In his own reaction, the former Lagos State Commissioner of Police and renowned anti corruption crusader, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said that ‘’the President Goodluck Jonathan led government lacks the capacity to fight corruption in Nigeriabecause it has not shown enough political will to address the menace.’’
Tsav told Saturday Vanguard in Makurdi that the developmental challenges confronting the nation was a function of the high level corruption in all facets of the nation’s life, noting that graft has gone digital in all strata of governance in
Nigeria even as he warned that the situation was fast getting out of hand because the government has been overwhelmed.
Tsav said, “I totally agree with the US Government in it’s assessment of corruption inNigeria.
The level of graft in Nigeriahas gone digital during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and it involves ministries, government departments and parastatals as well as the private sector.
”From local government level to the Presidency, the governments have shown no efforts or political will to fight corruption. The situation is getting out of hand. The government knows all the corrupt groups but nothing is being done to tackle them.
Government officials condemn corruption during the day but patronize and engage in it during the night. The situation is so bad that politicians now use and spend Dollars instead of Naira which is our national currency. No wonder foreign exchange business is booming everywhere in Abuja. In fact politicians now collect bribes in foreign currency.
”President Jonathan has no capacity to fight corruption because he has corrupt elements surrounding him and the situation is truly bad. We have not had it so badly.”
Earlier in his reaction, Senator Abe had said,‘’I think there are gaps in the implementation of some of these laws. We have to look very closely with what we are doing.
‘’There may be some gaps in what we are doing,” even as Senator Emodi insisted that Nigerians had some roles tp play in the anti-graft war by reporting persons who are corrupt to the anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related offences Commission, ICPC, among others.
According to her, some critics do not see anything good on the side of the government which she stressed was the most annoying in the entire scenario.
According to her the appointment of the pioneer Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu as chairman, Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force set up by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Dieziani Alison-Madueke was one of the outstanding achievements by the administration.
This was even as Senator Kunlere said that there was no reason for Nigeria to be tongue-lashed now with the 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices that the Federal Government was not implementing anti-corruption laws, having failed to blow the whistle when the nation’s wealth was being carted away by Nigerians to their countries.
’’The arrest and trial of some former governors, ex- Inspector General of Police, former Minister are indications that Nigeria will get it right one day,’’ Kunlere added.