OPINION: Confronting Corruption, A Road Less Travelled Part 2

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Tony Abolo

The war against corruption mantra of either APC or the Federal Government is a ruse. Institutions are so rife with graft and corruption that compromised people and institutions cannot be fighting what benefits them. Unknown to many of the other faiths and in the south, the conversations of Buhari on corruption are not political or moral but derivatives of his “Sharia” convinctions and imperatives. This is a fundamental assessment from his Tunde Idiagbon-Buhari days. It is still his learnt and perpetual thoughts. And since we are not of the ‘Umra”, how can we drive the moral and behavioural push against corruption from his perspectives? If only he had the intellectual capacity to drive the ideology of a corruption war on a national scale, driven by a national consciousness on progress, evolution, increased productivity, development and shared prosperity. Relying on EFCC and ICPC is a sheer waste of time. Wish we could learn from the Singaporeans, how they solved their “corruption” problem or the Chinese, whose zero tolerance for corruption means tying the guilty to the stakes. In Nigeria, we all want to go to heaven or ‘al Jinnah” but no one wants to die.

It therefore means we must pull ourselves by the bootstrap. The Americans simply say “it is the Economy stupid”. We should get going with the challenge of equity, fair economic distribution and improved national productivity. We are simply not addressing the fundamentals of our corruption challenges.

You cannot allow this insane wealth and reward distribution manner in a Third World country and expect corruption to stop. The President earns N1million a month, but with others perks and security vote (more on that later) and you leave the average paid worker on N30,000 a month. What do you expect to happen of the least paid worker? You have asked him to steal, cheat and do all he can to make-up his needs deficit. This is a country of nearly 80 million unemployed graduates of various educational levels and they see the politicians living well and big and their children are enlisted into CBN and NNPC. What system of fairness is that ?

FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Confronting Corruption, A Road Less Travelled

And again, the unemployment level is so high that we are leaving gaps for corruption and crime. Added to COVID-19 lay- offs, with no succor in sight, are we not promoting the environment for corruption? There is no recipe for ending and stopping corruption, than an economy that works for all. An economy that is visibly seen to grow and can capture the poor; 100 million of them at the moment, according to an NBS statistics, and improve employment opportunities for the millions. We need to improve the internal investment climate, and stop expecting FDIs which in a post COVID era, is a will-o-the-wisp. With so much being stolen by the politically exposed class, you would think, investment in productive ventures, that would resolve unemployment should strike them. But then, that is – waiting for Gordot.

This is a country whose potentials are being undermanaged and whatever comes out is mismanaged and siphoned. So with the economy in a minus growth, the country can only reap corruption in an ascendant proportion. At national and state levels, we have mismatches between responsibilities for the economy and the managing personnel. Fancy at the national level, a lawyer Professor is in charge of the National Economic Council. And at the National Finance and Economic Planning office, the two at the helm have other trainings and experiences, outside of economic management.

To compound our woes, Buhari seem focused on a Sharia economic philosophy of “ZAKAT” and hence his hell bent approach on a “Social Investment Programme” to distribute public wealth (which is not growing and dwindling) on the poor, who incidentally are more of the unskilled, and untrained “talakawas”, which can never recycle the wealth nor expand our GDP base or the economy. So with the corruption question, “it is the economy stupid”.

Many are underpaid, under rewarded and unmotivated in the present system. Corruption is the net effect. We either pay the right living wages, and provide appropriate rewards and incentives or we reap the rich dividends of corruption. It is to be maintained that if the rightest wages and salaries were offered in the system, there would be less to steal or to be corrupted with, either in the public service or the private sector.

However, should we be interested in stemming the haemorrage of corruption, four key institutions must be handled differently in what I would style as the bastions and anchor to stem corruption in a backward integration methodology.
A whopping N241.8 billion ($670 million) is being spent annually by the Federal Government as “Security votes” (This Day, August 7th, 2020, p. 15) “The Executive of the Federal and States channel their security votes into political activities or outrightly embezzle them” so states the Transparency International Defence and Security and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre. The States spend an average of N6billion to N7 billion annually on security votes. These sums are spent without any accountability on issues that have nothing to do with the security or welfare of the people. The security vote is a sore issue as the Federal Government and States are granted the discretionary spending rights which is the ”letter” of “security votes” in the constitution.

But the “spirit” is that office holders will exercise this discretion with utmost fidelity in the public interest. It turns out that for public office holders, the security votes have become a clever way by which they in collusion with security agencies defraud the public. This same syndrome sadly is found in academic institutions. This profligacy must be remedied constitutionally, through appropriation, Fiscal Transparency systems, public auditing systems and proper reporting and accountability systems.

Security votes are the reasons for why many desire public officers and why they want “second terms”. The constitution must be reviewed on the issue and civil societies, like SERAP and ANEEJ who stand for anti-corruption, accountability and transparency must drive the process to end this officially sanctioned graft.

FROM THE AUTHOR: Turning The Tide: Resetting Nigeria Economy, Post COVID-19 By TONY ABOLO

No monies as humungous of this magnitude in our corruption stories moves within and outside Nigeria in form of money laundering and transfers without Banks and Bankers in the know. We now need to fasten the noose, legally and constitutionally on the Bankers to cause them to spill the beans. If with money laundered outside of Nigeria, we have through International co-operation and anti-laundering measures, forced the hands of foreign bankers and Governments to return “our stolen assets” or famously called “the loot”, we must force our Bankers to reject by Law, any co-operation for corruptive assistance with politically exposed or high net worth individuals on public monies that is suspect. This pre-supposes that we have scaled up national values and consciousness to drive this new behaviour.

The EFCC and ICPC were set up, albeit, with a public interest intentions and with anti-corruption in mind. But they have, like all things Nigeria, turned to be political institutions. No one says EFCC Chairmen and operatives must come from the Police, a derided institution by all national accounts. Why can the constitution not empower, the citizens to so choose who chairs and who works in both institutions and make them accountable to the public and the society. As long as the Chairmen come from the Police and from a particular religion and from a particular section of the country, EFCC remains an untrustworthy institution. These critical institutions, EFCC and ICPC must be made national institutions. Their funding, to ensure their independence, could cease to come from the budget and be sourced from concerned Nigerians with higher values and national purpose.

If ending corruption is our objective, can we ‘delete’ accountants in all of our enquiry into finding alternative institutions that can withstand the corruption behemoth? If accountants are faithful to their callings, in terms of proper, clean and fair reading of values of any organization and have them audit and query appropriately, without caring whoever is involved and with an eye on integrity, addressing national values, posterity and value for money, books will never be cooked, thereby enabling the public to readily have a fair and true value of any public or private institution who must account to the public or the shareholders. The sorry details of the NDDC only came to light too late. If only the accountants were faithful to their calling!!!!

To complete the tripod for a new, cleaner and a better society, where the society has people of good conscience, imbued with uprightness and a desire to make a difference, any suspect wrong doing, can easily be exposed through the dual role of “whistle blowers” or the “investigative journalists”. That these are not budding in the system, or entrenching in the society, hence what may have escaped the eagle eyes of the Accountants, Bankers, or the new EFCC, gets caught in the web of whistle blowers and the investigative media.
Just about some ways we can talk of building enduring institutions that are nationally value laden and are morally free; the way and road to a less corruption free Nigerian society, so that we can breathe, and have funds for real development.

FROM THE AUTHOR:Opinion: Random Musings On A Lazy And Failed Country, Nigeria

Pa Tony Abolo is an ace broardcaster, doyen of journalism and a frontline media consultant.

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