Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday proposed an eight point plan of action to achieve success in the ongoing anti-corruption crusade of the present administration.
According to the Senate President, what must be done to succeed in the fight against corruption include ensuring transparency in government processes and procurements, reduction in bureaucratic bottlenecks, education and technology adaptation. Others are the adoption and enforcement of sensible rules and reduction of discretions, neutral application of sanctions, capacity building and oversight and monitoring.
Saraki articulated the plan while presenting his address at the opening of the “National conference on the role of the Legislature in the Fight against Corruption” jointly organized by National Assembly and the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in collaboration with the European Union (EU), United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) and the African Development Studies Centre (ADSC) in Abuja.
He said: “We must ask ourselves, what have other nations who recorded success in the battle against corruption around the world done to achieve the result they have? What do we need to do differently to achieve better and different result?
Saraki said: “The fight against corruption must remain driven by a well articulated and delivered strategy. One that is robust, multifaceted and driven by leadership across all aspect of our political and social systems.
“It cannot be the fight of one man but rather the vigilance of everyone of us in our various sphere of influence. Let me share some of my personal experiences with you to shed light on some of the strategies that I have utilized in the past.
“In the 7th Assembly, I remember personally leading the charge to expose the corrupt fuel subsidy arrangement that was in place. Through a motion on the Senate floor, the Senate uncovered a mind-boggling corruption going on in the federal government subsidy management scheme.
“This led to the indictment of several individuals and companies who were exploiting the weak institutional structures in the design of the scheme to the detriment of millions of Nigerians to enrich themselves. This motion alone saved the Nigerian government over 500 billion Naira, in the first year and in my opinion would have saved a whole lot more afterwards as a result.
“These are just several examples of arms of governments successfully operating within their jurisdictions and mandates to further our collective cause as a nation and bring an end to the pervasive corruption that exists in our society,” he said.
One of the reasons government create institutions, Saraki said, is to ensure that they act in such manner as best preserves the welfare and security of the people.
“I believe that institutional integrity and capacity holds the key to sustainable success against corruption. This is so crucial as ordinary Nigerians must be convinced that the problem of curbing corruption is being treated seriously by the government, and not in an opportunistic manner.
“This is especially so for our public accountability institutions. Therefore, if we must make significant inroad against corruption we must strive to protect our accountability institutions from the virus of political interference no matter how well meaning they may be.
“They must be enabled to operate in an atmosphere of political neutrality, efficiency and fairness as envisaged under the constitution. This in my view means that while these institutions work in collaborative form, there must be minimal intrusion in the operation decisions and working of our apex institutions — like the EFCC, the ICPC and the Police Force — that are tasked with ensuring accountability in our affairs,” he said.
He noted that history has shown that it is not enough “to simply round people up forcefully and throw them in jail under the guise of a successful anti-corruption fight, as a government and as a people, we must do more on the prevention and perception side of the anti-corruption war.
“Perception is key in this fight. The anti-corruption drive cannot be undertaken as a media glitz. This is why governments across all levels must work to strengthen the capacity of our agencies to make informed decisions and be inclined towards good knowledge of the law, rigor and transparency in all their doing. The more open and transparent the process, the less opportunity there will be for abuse of office,” he said.
He further stated that a lot more can be achieved with greater civil engagements, adding: “Unless we achieve a wide citizen participation and belief in the fight against corruption, it will continue to be easy to erode successes recorded.
“This is why I urge sensitization of our community leadership and the wider local communities to join the fight through the denouncement of corrupt individuals and those who normalize dishonesty, bribery and exploitation; and those who clearly live far and above their commensurate earnings. This must be incentivized by government paying workers a living wage”, he said.
He said while the fight against corruption cannot be fought and won on the basis of prosecution of offenders alone, a greater effectiveness can be achieved by applying preventive measures across the public spectrum.
“Such preventive measures must include adequate education, ethical reforms, adaptation of technological support systems for better auditing and public procurement systems that help cover loopholes for corruption.
“For example, in order to reduce the risk of corruption and increase the effectiveness of public procurements, electronic tenders should be used more widely where possible,” he said.