….British Council: EFCC, ICPC need institutional framework to fight graft
Key civil society groups on Monday berated the National Assembly for failing to support the Federal Government’s fight against corruption by passing key anti-graft bills into law.
The groups, including the Socio – Economic Right And Accountability Project (SERAP), Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) and Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) accused the lawmakers of failing to pass into law key bills that would have strengthened the anti-graft agencies in the fight against corruption.
Some of the legislations before the lawmakers include, the Whistle Blower Bill, the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill and Proceeds of Crime Bill.
Others include, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Bill, the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill and the Public Interest Disclosure and Witness Protection Bill.
Executive Director, SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, CACOL’s Chairman, Debo Adeniran, and CSNAC, Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, spoke separately at a stakeholder roundtable on anti-corruption bills, in Abuja, on Monday.
The roundtable was organised by the British Council under its Rule of Law and Anti-corruption Project (RoLAC) funded by the European Union.
The civil society groups accused the lawmakers of only passing bills that were in their interest.
In his remarks, Mr. Mumuni said Nigerians should not expect the current national assembly to do anything meaningful in the fight against corruption because of allegations of corruption hanging on the necks of some of its members.
According to him, some of the legislations before the national assembly posed a threat to the lawmakers as some of them had corruption cases to settle.
He said: “It depends on how you see the composition of the national assembly members presently. Most of them have corruption issues and to expect that they will do anything seriously meaningful about the fight against corruption is to expect them to commit class suicide. It does not go that way.
“No political class will deliberately take a step against itself and if you look at those six legislations, there is one covering money laundry, there is proceed of crime act, there is one talking about witness and whistle blower protection, all those bills together will be a direct challenge to the inadequacy of the present members of the national assembly.
“Unless we start putting pressure on Nigerian voters to change by voting, people that they know have pure integrity to the place, replace those that have corruption issues to settle, that is when we will be making progress.”
Also, CACOL Chairman, Mr. Adeniran, said the lawmakers had refused to pass the anti-graft bills because they knew many of them were likely to fall victims of the law if passed.
He appealed to Nigerians to ostracise them in their constituencies if they failed to pass the bills.
Mr. Adeniran said: “For several months, they didn’t look at our budget, the appropriation bill because it will not earn any one of them any incentives directly. It’s the same thing with these laws.
“These laws is not going to give anybody any direct benefit than the majority of the people who elected their representatives. They know that many of them are likely to fall victims of the laws if they pass it that is why they are reluctant. It is not because they don’t know that it is going to do us a lot of good if they passed it.
“I am appealing to the Nigerian population that if these people do not do the work which we have sent them to do, then we should ostracize them in their communities. We have to use the power of the people because a people united can never be defeated. We have to go back to our constituencies and communities to mobilize them because these are sets of laws that will safe guide our future and the future of our children.
“Several laws that could protect us are just lying fallow, they are gathering dust in their shelves. The reason is that many of them have skeleton in their closets. If we don’t mobilize the people against them, they are not going to strengthen any law that is going to satisfy our yearning.
“My proposal is that if after all the promises have failed once again, we should invite the people. We should go to their constituency offices of these people and bombard them with the desire to have these laws passed.
“We should send them text messages and emails, and bombard their social media pages. Whenever we see them, we should confront them with the assignments which they have not delivered. That is my call of action.
Also, Suraju, said the political elite in the country had never been committed to having a system where they would be victims of their own actions.
He said: “The basic truth is that we can’t deceive ourselves. The political elite has never been genuinely committed to having a major transformation of the system where they will be the ultimate victims of any laws they pass.
“If the citizens, especially the civil society, and media do not take clean attention, raising issues, asking questions, probing and prodding, then nothing will happen.
“We are at the stage where we should start setting the campaign agendas for all political office holders. We must start asking them questions.”
Anti-corruption Programme Manager for the British Council/ European Union (RoLAC) project, Emmanuel Uche, said Nigeria needed strong institutional frameworks to fight corruption.
He said: “The public citizens are not able to join the battle against corruption and crime. There is a need for framework to ensure that their voices are heard. We think that they have resigned to their fate, but it is because of the weak framework and the institutions that fight corruption are not strengthened.
“How can they fight corruption when the legal frameworks that are supposed to empower them to do their work has remained as weak as they have been even at the time of the colonial masters?
“Institutions like the EFCC, ICPC fight corruption with their blood to ensure that they stem the tide of corruption that seeks to keep us perpetually under development is stopped. Some of the laws and legal framework that we needed to change, to provide the needed acceleration force in this fight appear to have been history, and therefore we understand that it could not have been accepted at that material time.
“We need to get the frameworks to give these anti-corruption agencies the tools they need to accomplish their work.”
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