The International Anti-Corruption Day is commemorated on December 9 of every year, especially by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union (EU) and the US Embassy in conjunction with the government of Nigeria on the platform of the Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT). The IATT comprises 22 government agencies with Anti-Corruption and accountability mandates, but the menace is still a clear and present danger that must be tackled consistently.
Corruption is basically defined as dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery and it is the bane of development especially in developing countries such as Nigeria, which has been rated by Transparency International whose 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index puts the country as the 136th least corrupt country in the world.
Accordingly, records by TI show that the scale of corruption in the world is still huge as 68 percent of countries worldwide have serious corruption problems.
“Half of the G20 are among them. Not one single country is corruption-free,” it states.
Successive administrations in the country right from the return of democracy in 1999 have one way or the other failed to stem corruption in the fabric of the very existence of the country. According to observers, corruption is present in all spheres of the Nigerian society, be it in governance, religious bodies, and the private sector, among others.
The current administration in the country led by President Muhammadu Buhari has made concerted efforts in fighting corruption headlong, with many celebrated cases of trials, arraignments and investigations into alleged corrupt practices mostly from the previous administration. However, it is not yet Uhuru. The drive though commendable must go further and be domesticated at the lowest rungs of the society in order to involve even the civil servant in the ministry who resorts to collecting inducement before processing a file and the policeman on the high way who extorts monies from drivers.
It will be recalled that the Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed, gave a cost of corruption stating that 55 Nigerians stole N1.34 trillion between 2000 and 2013, and that 15 former governors and five former ministers stole N146.84 billion.
It is worthy of note that the UNODC floated anti-corruption programme in the country will go a long way in conscientiously bringing to the fore the need to abhor corruption and stem its further growth, to enhance development and growth of the nation.
As advocated by participants at a three-day Media Meeting on Anti-Corruption in Nigeria, organised by the UNODC with funding from the European Union (EU) through a reviewed 16-point communique in Lagos on Monday, July 3, 2017, Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) were charged to develop strategic communication plans for their operations, government urged to establish special courts to tackle corruption matters, and that the fight against corruption should not be limited to the federal level but should include states and LGAs.
The resolution also also underlined the need to further give emphasis to the importance of value re-orientation of citizens in the fight against corruption, promote the need to curb institutional corruption through systemic reviews, and urged the ACAs to help build the capacity of the media in the fight against corruption.
Little wonder, the National Project Officer UNODC, Nigeria Country Office, Sylvester Atere, who noted that strengthening integrity and reducing corruption has been a priority for Nigeria for a number of years, maintained that the anti-corruption sector in Nigeria currently has a reasonable quantity and quality of legislative texts, statutes and mandates to carry out its work and a number of anti-corruption institutions have been created.
However, he opines: “Though the existing legal framework could be improved further, specifically in areas relating to preventive action, incentives for reporting, whistle blowing and witness protection as it provides a fair basis for anti-corruption agencies to conduct their work, if it were fully enforced.”
Atere stresses that “the Government of Nigeria took part in the consultations leading to the adoption of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2003 which is the global framework for the fight against corruption.”
“This project builds on the achievements of a previous EU-funded project under the 9th EDF, and will support the Government of Nigeria by promoting good governance and by contributing to Nigeria’s efforts in enhancing transparency, accountability and combating corruption,” he said.
The time to fight corruption in the country is now or never if we must get out of the doldrums of economic malaise, and the quagmire of under-development for now and future generations.
By Damian Daga, Lagos