Eminent lawyer and human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has asked those who are influential in Nigeria to use their positions to rescue Nigeria from its current social and economi crisis. Addressing a select group of businessmen and women, captains of industries, politicians and activists at the inauguration of The Political Economy Social Group at the weekend at the Oriental Hotel, Lagos, Adegboruwa told the audience that once good people keep silent and refuse to talk, then evil will reign on and triumph in the land.
Speaking on the topic Fraud and Corruption in Nigeria and Impact on Economic Development, Adegboruwa defined fraud and corruption as any conduct that is lacking in integrity and is tailored deliberately, to mislead an innocent party, in order to gain an advantage. He said there are many legislations in Nigeria already, that can be deployed to tackle this menace but the 1999 Constitution has entrenched corruption by concentrating all items of value and resources, in the hands of the Federal Government, and by extension, civil servants. The renowned lawyer traced corruption as common to mankind, starting from the very period of creation, up until this time of our life.
“Corruption is more manifest in Nigeria because of the concentration of wealth in the hands of government, such that it becomes possible for public office holders to abuse the trust reposed in them to manage our national resources. The subjects listed in the Exclusive List of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution coupled with section 251 (1) of the said Constitution has made the Federal Government to become the centre of attraction, with power over currency, aviation, mines and minerals, oil and gas, power generation and distribution, admiralty, railways, aviation, police and the armed forces and indeed all matters that fetch money for the country.
This is why it is possible for ministers and other public officers to loot the national treasury, which nobody is responsible for. Had these items to be in the hands of the private section, there would be close monitoring and supervision, which would surely minimize the incidences of fraud and corruption that are the lot of the public section. This we can readily confirm with our experience in the telecoms and power sectors. ”
He then identified the impact of fraud and corruption on the economy as absence of social infrastructure, poverty of the masses, absence of investments, underdevelopment, increase in crime and criminalities, since the resources that should go into the welfare and prosperity of the common good would have ended in private hands.
Mr. Adegboruwa then suggested that the government should empower and strengthen all the institutions created to fight fraud and corruption, rather than build them around strong individuals. Citing the United African Company, UAC, as an example, the activist maintained that once there is an established pattern or structure in place, individuals will fall in place and adjust. He also advised that the war against corruption should be holistic and total, since a selective war will only create disaffection within the people, who themselves know all the corrupt people.
Using the release of former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori as a clear example, the lawyer stressed that once government gives the impression that some people are untouchable whilst others can be demonised, then corruption has become relative, depending on your political location, and in that case, those who are convicted for corruption may still end up being celebrated by their people, as a way of protesting such selective fight. He lamented that the Buhari administration has shown its lack of will power to fight corruption in its own doorstep, given the attempt by the government to cover up the allegations against the Secretary to the Federal Government and the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Still dwelling on the impact of corruption and fraud, Mr. Adegboruwa stated that this particular government was not strategic in its fight against corruption, as the hurried implementation of the Treasury Single Account TSA accelerated our descent into recession, knowing well that the global price of crude oil had dwindled and production was already at its lowest, due to the crisis in the Niger Delta region.
He then advised on the proper management of anti-corruption dividends, in such a way that properties and assets subject of interim order of forfeiture will not be left to rot and businesses will not have to die on account of the alleged fraud of their promoters, since innocent employees and partners may be affected negatively.
He then advocated consistency in policy formulation and implementation, noting that the present government officials lack synergy.
The group was hosted by Otunba Yemi Lawal, a businessman.