Former Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Minister Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, has declared that no sector in Nigeria is free from the cancer of corruption.
El-Rufai thus identified corruption as a major challenge facing the country.
He spoke on Sunday, 22nd June, 2014, during a national discourse organised by The Companion, an association of Muslim men in business and the profession.
El-Rufai, who spoke on the theme topic titled: ‘Corruption and the Challenge of Good Governance’, noted that “if our politics will be corrupt free there must be establishment of a representative and an accountable government.”
He wondered how a minister would spent billions on the charter of private jets and the president shamelessly defended and justified such waste on national television!
“In some if not all of these, the legislature has been silent, the anti-corruption agencies helpless while the judiciary is struggling to redeem its battered image. Impunity is the new normal in Nigeria these days,” he said.
According to him, “no one in the government seems to know what the other is doing and our welfare, progress and future of our children are the worse for it. Amidst this level of intra-governmental confusion and contradictions, we live in great fear of anarchists called Boko Haram on the one hand, and ethnic irredentists’ issuing threats of secession and break-up of our country if an incompetent and callous president is not allowed to continue whether we choose to elect him or not! Should we talk about corruption or governance at all, or something else?
“We can choose to be like the ostrich and bury our heads in the sand, pretending that all is well with Nigeria, or we can confront the miniscule minority that is misappropriating our rights, freedom, future and prosperity and push for a good society that works for everyone… Without doubt, one of the major obstacles that have consistently thwarted our national progress and the actualisation of good governance is the issue of corruption.”
For corruption to be reduced, El-Rufai advised that Nigeria leaders must avoid measures and publicity that stigmatise Nigerians as inherently corrupt, avoid using anti-corruption agencies as tools of political persecution, minimize media grandstanding and focus on diligent investigation and case-building.
“There is need for us to keep our eyes on the ball of political corruption and Nigerians should rise and insist of free fair and credible elections to ensure that we have leader that we know will perform well and be devoted,” he said.
He lamented the great distortions in the polity.
“Our natural resource lifeline – crude oil,” he said “has been selling at over $100 a barrel since 2011, and we are producing at decent levels averaging 2 million barrels per day, yet our nation is broke. Our federal budgets for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 – all contain an average of N1.5 trillion deficit annually. Our capital budgets for investment in physical infrastructure, human capital and enabling environment for job creation for the five Jonathanian years have averaged a mere N1.3 trillion – most of it borrowed by issuing bonds every single year!
“Yet, we heard from the public hearings in the House of Representatives that some companies may have collected monies in the name of fuel subsidies in excess of N2.5 trillion that can neither be justified by previous import levels nor what is possible and practical! Then a globally-acclaimed central governor was unlawfully removed from office because he dared to question the diversion of some $20 billion in federation revenues to accounts and purposes other than those allowed by the Constitution.”
He called on Nigerians to join the fight to tame the deadly cancer – corruption.
Chairman on the occasion, Otunba Abdul Lateef Owoyemi noted that the beginning of the end to corruption starts from each individual.
According to him, corruption no longer knows sex, tribe, age or religion.
Owoyemi said: “If Nigeria does not destroy corruption, corruption will certainly destroy Nigeria. Yet neither a revolution nor a successful military intervention can eradicate corruption, since those who will govern, cannot govern without employing large numbers of already corruption laden Nigerians, at all levels of society.
“It is quite instructive that the money meant for the highest placed Nigerians engaged in the ongoing National Dialogue has been reported to have somehow gone temporarily missing somewhere along the line of transmission, with no clear explanation. I strongly believe corruption has something to do with it. Insecurity, massive unemployment, Boko Haram, oil pilfering, unsolved murders, and do or die elections, all have their roots in one form of corruption or another. What then is the way forward, if any?
One of the discussants, All Progressives Congress (APC) National Legal Adviser, Dr Muiz Banire, said Nigeria is counted as one of the most corrupt nations but noted that the challenge with good governance is embedded in good leadership.
“We can’t have good leadership unless we have a fair election, it is challenging that people are yet appreciate the linkage between their lives and their votes” he said.
Earlier in his address, The Companion Amir, Alhaji Musbau Oyefeso, said the choice of theme for this year’s National Discourse “Corruption and the Challenge of Good Governance” was borne out of concern for the state of affairs in Nigeria especially since the return to civil rule.
Oyefeso said: “Whereas other nations (especially outside of Africa) with similar circumstances and which attained independence at about the same time as Nigeria have gone far ahead in all indices of development; nothing seem to be working in Nigeria and above all there appear to be little or no hope in the near future. The incidence of corruption continued to spread from public to private sector just as it moves from the economy to the polity to the social service and even religious and traditional institutions are not left out.
“In the past 10 years and beyond Nigeria has remained among the most corrupt countries in the world according to the international acclaimed ranking of Transparency International. Furthermore, and in spite of our enormous wealth including the potentials from the huge endowment of rich natural resources, Nigeria remains among the top twenty of the poorest countries in the world. Poor governance has also been identified as a factor holding the country down.”