Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, the Special Adviser to the President on Justice Reforms, says for the fight against corruption to succeed, there must be a change of attitude by Nigerian political leadership.
Mrs Ibekaku-Nwagwu said this in a lecture entitled, `Corruption as a National Development Challenge: Eighteen Years of Legal and Policy Initiatives by the Federal Government’ at the 9th Foundation Day of Godfrey Okoye University in Enugu on Monday.
According to her, no matter how perfect or excellent the constitution or other instruments for ensuring accountability and checking corruption in the country may be, all will come to naught unless the political leadership class shows the political will to abide by and enforce them.
She also urged the citizens to brace up because the world would not be destroyed by those who did evil, but by those who watched them without doing anything.
The presidential aide identified lack of independence of investigation and prosecution agencies as major factor hampering the fight against corruption.
Mrs Ibekaku-Nwagwu, who is the Enugu West APC senatorial candidate, said that the capacity of investigators, prosecutors and judges in tackling corruption had often been called to question.
She stressed the need to invest resources in the training and retraining of these officials on national and international standards so that they would be guided in the execution of their responsibilities.
“Integrity of officers working in this sector is of paramount importance, as you cannot send a thief to catch a thief.
“Most often, the public has complained of lack of trust of anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria. A lot more needs to be done to build trust and work with citizens to realise the goals and objectives of the anti-corruption policies.
“This is what the Open Government Partnership sets out to do. It is hoped that with time, citizens can engage more constructively with the government in the fight against corruption,’’ she said.
She further decried the absence of whistle blower and witness protection laws as another major challenge in the anti-corruption agenda.
Mrs Ibekaku-Nwagwu said that the whistleblower protection Bill had been in the National Assembly and was still awaiting passage into law, adding that the Proceeds of Crime Bill had also been in the National Assembly since 2016.
“These are laws that will support anti-corruption efforts. The Nigerian citizens have the right to hold their legislature accountable to ensure the early passage of anti-corruption laws,’’ she said.
She added that cultural issues/norms that gloried unexplained sources of wealth was also a clog on the fight against corruption.
Mrs Ibekaku-Nwagwu recommended that Nigeria should explore any available means to curtail its ranking on the global corruption perception index.
“Government should work closely with Civil Society Organizations, Organized Private Sector, Trade and Labor Unions, Youth groups, Faith Based Groups and the Media.
“Their roles are to continue advocating strong political participation and continuity of public sector reforms, through their various fields of operation,’’.
She also recommended capacity building and sensitisation on policy reforms and pleaded with Nigerian universities to join hands in developing training programmes and research findings on how to tackle corruption.
The presidential aide urged the government to involve the Legislative and Judicial Arms in all its reform processes, from the commitment stage to the implementation processes as this would speed up implementation processes.
She suggested the taxing unaccountable wealth and criminalizing illicit enrichment.
“There is need to expedite the process of developing a public register of beneficial ownership of shares to increase transparency and reduce the capacity of the corrupt to launder money,’’ she said.
She called for the passage of the Proceeds of Crimes Bill and for the legislature to rise up to its oversight responsibilities as well as purge itself of all corrupt tendencies.
“The enforcement of the directives on the designation of special courts and practice direction to fast track the trial of cases of corruption is something that the judicial authorities should take serious.
“There is need to allow anti-corruption institutions to enjoy the autonomy and independence required in carrying out their functions while putting in place adequate monitoring measures to avoid the breach of rule of law principles,’’.
She said that there was need to build a culture of honesty, establish a tradition of selflessness and patriotism in public service.
“The Nigerian public servants should embrace the culture of openness and transparency in the management of public resources. This will reduce conflict and build public trust in government at all levels.
“Without effective systems of checks and balances that can tame the presumptuous power of the government, African states and indeed, Nigeria will remain vulnerable not only to corruption and abuse of public office, but also to the reversal of democratic principles and values.
Prof. Christian Anieke, the Vice Chancellor of the university, said that Godfrey Okoye University is a divine project built on solid trust.
“Because we are divine, purity of the bedrock of the management of the institution,’’ Mr Anieke said.
He said the institution which was founded on October 2015 started with a student population of 2,015 and two faculties.
The vice chancellor said that the student and faculty population had expanded and the university now hoist post graduate programmes.