Esteemed ladies and gentlemen here present this morning, it is with pleasure that I welcome you all to this press conference in commemoration of the International Anti-Corruption Day.
2020 Anti-Corruption day celebration comes with mixed feelings. It is the first Anti-Corruption Day within a global pandemic which has largely threatened the theme for this year celebration which is “United against Corruption.”
It has been a uniquely challenging year and the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed even more corruption vulnerabilities across Nigeria and put them on the agenda in an unprecedented way.
The word unison is peculiar because of our inability to come together to fight this scourge called corruption. The pandemic has further exposed governance weaknesses in Nigeria. Poor governance, corruption, weak institutions and insecurity have only worsened because of the pandemic and its economic consequences.
Inspired by the theme for this year’s Anti-Corruption Day and the connections with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) looking towards 2030, it is very unlikely that Nigeria will be able to deliver on most of the 17 SDG goals. The absence of accountability and focused leadership presents us with the fact that achieving zero hunger and zero poverty in Nigeria by 2030 nears to an impossibility.
For CISLAC, the International Anti-Corruption Day is a call on both the Federal and State government to convince the public about their seriousness in fighting corruption. As a Nigerian, I speak for many in stating the obvious: We do not need anti-corruption rhetorics, we need anti-corruption action with tangible results!
Corruption can be defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain” and Nigeria has been an example of how corruption undermines democracy, creates unstable governance, and sets country backward economically. Despite enormously successful Nigerians in the diaspora, natural resources unlike other African countries and enormous ‘human capital,’ most Nigerians struggle with basic needs.
The International Anti-Corruption Day is an opportunity to shed light on the devastating effect of corruption, and to reaffirm our commitment to act against it.
The recent discovery of undistributed palliatives which was kept in various warehouses in most states across the country is worrisome and scandalous, especially because these materials were donated by groups of well-meaning Nigerian businesspersons, corporate entities, development partners and others under the Coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID). This well-meaning group was shocked along with the nation by inexplicably undistributed palliatives. While we are still investigating the true extent of the scandal, we resolutely condemn the laughable excuses of some politicians and the inability of the Federal and State governments to admit a failure.
This condemnable act is a clear abuse of entrusted power for personal gains – the very definition of corruption. Let me say clearly – No government official has any business storing public property in private quarters! These actions cement the pervasive culture of the lack of accountability so characteristic of some Nigerian elite.
In addition, CISLAC unequivocally condemns the high rate of insecurity ravaging the length and breadth of the country. Lives and properties are no longer valued and secured. We also condemn the actions of some individuals who took advantage of the peaceful #ENDSARS protest to raid public and private properties; we see all of these scenarios as a lapse in governance at one point or the order. Equally important we strongly oppose any attempt by government to deny Nigerians the right to peaceful protest or assembly to express their concerns over the state of insecurity, corruption and human rights abuses.
Since the start of the pandemic, CISLAC, as the national chapter for Transparency International, has been at the forefront demanding for transparency and accountability in the distribution of the palliatives in the context of the devastating economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, through our activities/ projects such as the Anti-Money Laundering project, CRIMJUST project, Illicit Financial Flows and of course the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) we contribute towards the fight against corruption and achievement of some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We are not doing this in isolation but in partnership and collaboration with institutions who are state and non- state actors. Building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions as well as providing access to justice is very important.
Having said that, I would like to commend the anti-corruption agencies, human rights organizations and other institutions that have been collaborating with us, some of which are represented here today, for their support and cooperation. I also urge them to put in more effort towards upholding their mandates for a more secure and corrupt free Nigeria.
In addition and to underscore that anti- corruption progress is not fast enough, we just received data from our colleagues in London. Nigeria has not delivered on the commitment made by President Muhammadu Buhari in the London 2016 Anti- Corruption Summit. 0% of the commitments have been completed as of today. We have made some progress on on-going commitments, 70% but 20% are inactive. We move forward but the part is uneven and too slow.
Finally, corruption and the presence of insecurity in any environment constitute a threat to human existence and economic development. Therefore, the display of monumental arrogance bordering on corruption and insecurity in Nigeria should not only be condemned, but should be investigated by relevant anti-graft agencies, the National Assembly and all other relevant stakeholders. Above all, these individuals have to apologize to the public and face the consequences of their actions.
In Abuja, 9th of December, 2020