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Anti-graft: Okonjo-Iweala Indictment of EFCC/ ICPC And Matters Arising

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By: Ifeanyi Izeze
When the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Tuesday 17 February 2015 at the Catholic Caritas Foundation Forum in Abuja said corruption has persisted in Nigeria because the country lacked the institutions, systems and processes to prevent it, she set out to strike a chord of patriotism. However, because she spoke the truth in half, what she said was actually an outright indictment of the government particularly the one she is currently serving as she unknowingly placed the responsibility of the deliberate undoing of our anti-graft institutions at the door steps of those that have been in power or its corridors in our immediate past as a nation.

According to her, the absence of the relevant systems and institutions that will help check corruption has created opportunities for people to engage in the act.

Her words: œThis thing has been with us and we must crack it. This is not something that started in this country today; but it is something that we must crack. Fundamentally, we have to ask ourselves, why has this continued to be a problem? I am convinced that it is because we constantly look at the symptoms and not the cause of the disease.

If this submission had come from an opposition politician in this election time, it would have been dismissed as another mud throwing venture of a bunch of angry people. Now that it is coming from the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, it carries some weight of credibility and should not just be casually dismissed as it sounded more like a wakeup call or rather an alert of obvious government impotence in addressing the spate and magnitude of corruption by the government people against the Nigerian people.

For a minister and indeed the star minister to say ˜people would be compelled to do the right thing always if the appropriate systems were in place to block and prevent corruption, was a frank and open acceptance that government has failed the people.

What has Okonjo-Iweala been doing in this government for six years now plus the other years she spent with Obasanjo during his time? Is six years not enough to strengthen our weak anti-graft institutions? Or is she trying to justify the failure of this government and its complacency in corruption by saying œit is not our fault there is just no system to fight corruption.

The coordinating minister alarm obviously some issues that should be of serious concern to the Nigerian people. We all know that this country has in place several anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC); amongst pockets of others.

First, if anti-corruption systems and institutions are deemed non-existent in Nigeria, why do we continue to pay salaries to officers of ICPC, EFCC, Auditor General's office, Police and the entire judiciary?

Do we still need to argue that with this submission from the Finance minister and the coordinating minister for the economy, the roles or rather usefulness of institutions and systems like EFCC, ICPC, FRC, Office of The Auditor General and even the Police and the entire judiciary are seriously in doubt. Let us wait and see how heads of these institutions will respond to the super minister indictment.

The EFCC, ICPC and the police are there to investigate corruption. The attorney general is there to prosecute cases and the Judiciary is there to make findings of facts. Auditors are there to determine whether moneys are missing in a government department or company or any other place. The issue is why are these institutions not doing what they were statutorily mandated to do in the first instance? And who disabled them?

Is it not absurd that our country has systems and institutions that can catch and punish petty œsmall small thieves but cannot detect or punish heavy corruption? This is what you get when a people are not sincere to themselves. When it affects another person, it is a crime but when it affects some others, it becomes political victimisation and ethnic agenda.

The Finance Minister may have said the truth but it smacked of gross incompetence and insincerity even on her part as she has been part of the this same government system since the Obasanjo presidency and has not been able to set up adequate mechanisms to block the alleged loopholes and leakages before now that we have elections coming in few days time. Was she not Obasanjo administrator of finance and now the co-ordinating minister of Jonathan economy?

It is too sad that the same executive that rendered these constitutional institutions impotent is now publicly castigating them for total failure in preventing, detecting, and punishing corruption.

Institutions are what the rulers and their political cronies make them. So we should be blaming the people that have misruled the country right from Obasanjo administration to the present era and not the institutions as organs. By the way, how were the heads of these allegedly failed anti-graft institutions appointed? How do you expect a corrupt leader to appoint someone who is not like him to head agencies that would fight corruption? You see where the problem lies?

How do you reconcile the situation where the state governors have absolute control of all the Local Government allocations in their respective states and so they spend according to the whims of the governors? Why should the governors have absolute power to do what they please with local government funds in the states? What agency or institution do we use to block this daylight armed robbery?

When the National Assembly pays itself salaries and allowances that is a mockery of similar public service in advance economies such as the US and others, was this a result of non-existent institutions to block such drains? The National Assembly unilaterally increased its own budget by four times under the Yaradua government because it has the power to approve or disapprove budgets, will you blame the EFCC or ICPC for not being able to block the leak?

We were recently told by our president that œstealing is not corruption. How does the public interpret such mentality? The real problem may not actually be as a result of weak institutions but the culture of impunity those in power flouts all over the place. When the head is rotten, it takes the grace of God for the entire body not to be rotten. Abi no be so?

(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)

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