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Show Leadership, End Corruption, SERAP Tells Jonathan

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ABUJA, January 06, (THEWILL) - A human rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has told President Goodluck Jonathan that “rooting out high level official corruption, ending impunity of perpetrators, and turning around Nigeria will take more than mere promises and preaching of decency," adding " It requires strong leadership at the highest level of government.”

In a public statement dated January 6 and signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said “President Jonathan’s New Year statement, promising that his administration would move faster in 2013 to meet the basic needs of the citizens, is rather routine and rhetorical."

According to SERAP, " What is required now is for this government to act more and promise less," adding " The President must show strong leadership and lead by example if he is to earn the trust of Nigerians and convince them that he is truly committed to the fight against corruption.”

The statement said further: “Half measures which avoid public scrutiny of the President’s own asset declaration, and effective prosecution of corruption cases when they involve those connected with this government are utterly inadequate and tend to throw the government into disrepute.

“The lack of accountable leadership – together with the deficit of transparency in the management of public finances and public spending –has continued to exacerbate the country’s growing poverty and underdevelopment.

“Ultimately, the responsibility for sorting out Nigeria rests with President Jonathan. The buck stops with him. Nigerians will judge him not by the number of promises he has made but by the number of roads repaired, decent hospitals established, and how much difference he is able to make to ensure the enjoyment of other basic necessities of life for millions of impoverished Nigerians.

“Genuine fight against corruption can’t happen unless President Jonathan wants it, and leads by example."

According to SERAP, “We are concerned that this government has continued to deny the endemic nature of corruption at the highest level of government. This attitude is aptly illustrated when in response to the courageous statement by Bishop of Bomadi Catholic Diocese, Vicarage Hyacinth Egbebor underscoring the systemic nature of corruption in the country, President Jonathan recently claimed that ‘most of these things we talk about corruption are not even corruption. It is true that most cases we talk about corruption as if corruption is the cause of most of our problems.’”

“We applaud Bishop Egbebor’s statement. He deserves a national award for standing up for millions of impoverished Nigerians and speaking truth to power. But we are concerned about the President’s response. Despite its corrosive effects on the well-being of millions of Nigerians, this government has failed to understand that the biggest problem confronting Nigeria today is the monster of corruption and impunity of perpetrators.

"It is indeed the root cause of the country’s absolute poverty and underdevelopment and the consequent denial of citizens’ economic and social rights."

The organisation therefore advised that “This government should be concerned about the 2012 Failed States Index published by the United States based Foreign Policy Journal which placed Nigeria in the 144th position of its annual ranking of 177 countries; and the 2012 United Nations' Human Development Index, which rated Nigeria 159th out of the 172 countries polled."

According to SERAP," This shows low quality of life across the country brought about by the systemic denial of access to safe water, health and educational infrastructure, among others.

“Therefore, doing better in 2013 and meeting the basic needs of the citizens will require President Jonathan to prioritise and demonstrate his expressed commitment to fight corruption by urgently ensuring the effective prosecution of those suspected of massive corruption in the fuel subsidy system and fully recover stolen public wealth and resources."

Maintaining that leadership by example also means that President Jonathan should move swiftly to declare and publish his assets for Nigerians to see, the organisation advised that "All outstanding corruption reports, including the House Committee report on the subsidy racket must be fully implemented and perpetrators effectively punished," adding "This should be the road-map for the government in 2013.”