Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, saturday in Abeokuta, Ogun State, said despite all the efforts so far geared towards the fight against corruption in Nigeria, including enacting anti-graft law, the scourge seemed to be worse now than it was in 1999.
Obasanjo spoke at a lecture on the theme: “The Role of the Church in the Fight Against Corruption in Nigeria”, at the Convention of Victory Life Bible Church International (VLBC).
However, he said the spread of corruption had also been aided more by the developed countries that serve as safe havens for stolen funds.
Obasanjo’s revelation came just as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday, beat the two weeks deadline for the submission of its report on the assets so far recovered in the fight against corruption since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office.
Obasanjo, while lamenting the spread of corruption to all tiers of government, said, “Despite all these efforts, corruption is still thriving in our country. In fact, from the revelations we are hearing, it seems the situation is worse than what I met on ground in 1999. The inference is that fighting corruption is not a one-off or one regime affair; it is an all-time and all-regime affair. If we relent, it bounces back with vengeance.”
Making reference to his days as president, the former president said, “During my tenure as a democratically elected President of Nigeria in 1999, a bill was presented to the National Assembly on prohibition and punishment for bribery and corruption and other related offences. I took that bold step then.
“How far has this actually helped in the eradication or better still, in reduction of corruption in the country? Unfortunately, the act has continued to spread like a wildfire, from federal to the states, to the local government level and to other authorities, even within the educational sector in Nigeria – from secondary to university levels.
“A student bribing lecturer for higher grades is corruption. Lower clerics have been found to be bribing their way through to be promoted even in the ‘house’ of God. Evidence also abounds in which female staff enjoys unqualified rapid promotion in many offices and organisations, particularly among the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).”
Citing President Muhammadu Buhari’s description of corruption as the greatest form of human rights violation, Obasanjo said, “In 2012, Nigeria was estimated to have lost over $400 billion to corruption since independence.”
He described corruption as systematic, and as such must be addressed systematically. Noting that corruption had been in existence in all strata of ages, Obasanjo said it would not go away easily but could be curbed.
“Since the creation of modern public administration in the country, there have been cases of official misuse of funds and resources.
“The rise of public administration and the discovery of oil and natural gas are two major events seen to have led to the increase in corrupt practices in the country. The government has tried to contain corruption through the enactment of laws and the enforcement of integrity systems, but success has been slow in coming.”
According to the former president, “Legislation alone is not enough as they are often breached by those who make them and those who should implement them.”
He said: “political corruption is a persistent phenomenon in Nigeria and there is politics everywhere, including the Church, especially if politics is seen as concerned with power, status, influence within an organisation rather than with matters of principle.
“Corruption has been in existence in all strata for ages and it cannot go away easily but it can be curbed. We all have our fair share in encouraging corruption but unfortunately, it is becoming more rampant, in the political circle and in governments in various countries, particularly among developing nations including Nigeria.”
Alluding to the international dimension in the spread of corruption in developing and underdeveloped nations, he noted that Transparency International as a global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption has though rated developing countries as more corrupt, it cannot absolve the developed countries of complicity.
“They are encouraged largely by some of these developed countries because these regions serve as opportunistic avenues for hiding or domiciling their ill-gotten riches, sometimes for greater returns when compared with being in the home or developing countries,” he said.
Therefore, to effectively curb corruption, he posited that “children, youth and adults must be given the power to distinguish between the rights and the wrongs. Schools should return to the teaching of moral education to empower children with the spirit of stewardship and scholarship, while adults live exemplary lives, reflecting truth, kindness, healthy competition, dignity in labour and integrity. It must be all hands on deck within the society.”
Meanwhile, it was gathered yesterday that the EFCC met Friday deadline for the submission of its report on asset recoveries.
President Buhari had directed the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu; the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele; Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Lawal Daura; Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Mr. Ekpo Nta; and the National Security Adviser (NSA), General Babagana Monguno; to submit detailed inventories of assets seized, including funds, vehicles, jewelry and other valuables by last Friday.
THISDAY had exclusively reported the presidential directive on Saturday. At the time of going to press on Friday, most of the agencies except the EFCC, had complied with the deadline given by the president. It was however gathered yesterday that EFCC had also met the Friday deadline.
Although details of the reports submitted by the various agencies were not known, THISDAY learnt that the presidency had began to study the reports.