Group identifies relevant Bills to fight corruption, insists on credible legislation for anti-graft war

Posted by News Express | 12 November 2016 | 1,935 times

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The Civil Society Roundtable on Anti-Corruption Bills, organised with the aim of strengthening Nigeria’s anti-corruption war through credible legislation has identified the relevant Bills to fight corruption. The Bills are Proceeds of Crime Agency (POCA) Bill, Nigeria Financial Intelligence Centre (NFIC) Bill, Whistle Blowers Protection (WBP) Bill and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (MLA) Bill.

The two-day meeting held at Denis Hotel, Wuse 2 Abuja, which ended November 4, was organised by the Media Initiative Against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC) and Development Measures, with support from the Justice For All (DFID).

Participants at the Roundtable were drawn from civil society groups and individuals, working on anti-corruption and good governance issues, as well as the media.

Presentations were made by resource persons on ‘Corruption, Anti-Corruption and the Future of Nigeria’, ‘Whistle Blowers and Witness Protection: The Nigerian Experience’, and ‘Anti-Corruption Legislation and the War Against Corruption’.

After deliberations and contributions to the issues raised, participants made observations and recommendations on strategies, and means to strengthening the on-going anti-corruption war and make it more credible and effective.

Participants welcomed the seeming resolve by the Federal Government to more vigorously combat corruption and ensure that the commonwealth is committed to promoting national development and serving public interest and the wellbeing of all Nigerians rather than the narrow and selfish interest of the privileged minority elites.

The participants also observed: “That despite enormous efforts and resources committed to the fight against corruption, it has been more of motion without movement, sound and fury without the expected significant impact, as the number of convictions recorded and assets recovered so far is not proportionate to the enormity of efforts and the propaganda accompanying it, while the few recovered assets are not deployed to serve public interest or even satisfactorily accounted for.

“That whistle blowers and witnesses have remained endangered species in their patriotic efforts to contribute to the fight against corruption by reporting and exposing corruption; there is no legislation to protect whistle blowers and witnesses whose contributions to the fight against corruption are significant.”

They noted the widespread feelings and opinion that the on-going war against corruption is not comprehensive,  and that it appears to target only a few rather than every corrupt persons and institutions in Nigeria and that there is a tendency to rationalise the side-tracking of the rule of law in the fight against corruption;

“Participants noted the role of certain institutions and sectors, particularly, the banking sector in sabotaging and frustrating  the fight against corruption by continuing to collude with corrupt persons in public and private sectors, and serving as conduits for illicit transactions and, siphoning and transfer of looted funds;

“That the legal framework for anti-corruption remains weak , making the anti-crime war more difficult and cumbersome and the efforts of civil society towards the passage of certain  Bills such as POCA, NFIC, WBP and MA Bills which will facilitate the fight against corruption have been hampered.

“That civil society community has not been united in effort around the passage of the bills; lack adequate knowledge of the contents and purpose of the Bills; and of law making processes, hampering  constructive and effective engagement with the executive, legislature and other key stakeholders in the efforts to secure the passage of these Bills;

“That the media have not been effectively involved and utilised for the dissemination of provisions in the bills and, mobilisation of public opinion in favour of the anti-corruption Bills and the anti-corruption crusade.”

The meeting also recommended: “That the President and heads of anti-corruption agencies should be sensitive and responsive to public opinion on the administration’s approaches to the anti-corruption war in other to enlist and enjoy public confidence and support and to enhance the legitimacy of the anti-corruption crusade.

“That the anti-corruption war should be prosecuted comprehensively without fear or favour as only a credible and result oriented fight  will  guarantee public support and ensure that the commonwealth is made available to promote national development and serve the wellbeing of all Nigerians rather than the narrow and selfish interest of the privileged minority elites;

“That the on-going war against corruption needs to be prosecuted with respect for the Constitution and laws of the country, and without fear or favour.

“That the government should commit to the speedy passage of anti-corruption bills which will facilitate the fight,  with a focus not only to securing convictions but also  ensuring the recovery and accountable use of recovered assets for common good as well as the protection of whistle blowers.

“That the fight against corruption be made more effective by strengthening the legal framework guiding the process through expeditious passage of all relevant new or pending bills into law; some of these Bills were passed by the  7th National Assembly, but not assented to by the  President. Such Bills include POCA, NFIC, WBP and MA Bills.

“That civil society must unite, remain focussed and consistent, acquaint themselves with the contents and purpose of the Bills and collectively and constructively engage with both the executive and the legislature in the effort to see to the passage of these Bills; That Civil society should also be creative in cultivating principled relationships with members of the NASS without being partisan or co-opted.

“That the role of the media in the fight against corruption is very crucial and civil society must involve the media at every stage of the advocacy planning for their buy-in and effective dissemination of information and mobilisation of  public opinion in favour of the Bills and the anti-corruption crusade in general;

“That Nigerians should take deliberate steps to hold anti-corruption agencies, as well as public office holders accountable.”

•Photo shows EFCC operatives.

Source: News Express

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