Unarguably, the fight against corruption in Nigeria since independence in 1960 has been contentious and scary.
Transparency International ranked Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt country in the world in 2012, confirming the general belief among many Nigerians that the rate of increase in the incidence of corruption is growing since independence.
Observers note that the outcomes of the commissions of inquiry on alleged corrupt practices involving public officers from 1960 to date also confirm the long standing history of corrupt practices in the country.
According to them, corruption comprises dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority and misuse of political and economic power for selfish interests.
As a method of checking corrupt practices, some panelists at a national dialogue on corruption in Abuja suggested the replication of war against corruption at the grassroots, states and local government areas.
At a two-day dialogue organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption in collaboration with the Office of the Vice-President, the participants emphasised the need to remove all obstacles to fighting corruption effectively.
Mr Peter Adeyemi, the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), commended the Federal Government for the arrest and ongoing prosecutions of suspected corrupt leaders across the country.
“However, this situation is not the same at the state and local government levels where it is business as usual as far as corruption is concerned.
“For instance, the management of bailout funds released by President Muhammadu Buhari to some states for the purpose of settling arrears of salaries is questionable.
“Recently, there has been this refund of the Paris Club loan deductions to a quite a number of states, but some of them have not been able to utilise these refunds well.
“So, if we are seriously fighting corruption as a nation, we must ensure that all strata of government are also brought to book,’’ he said.
Further to this, Dr Femi Odekunle, a professor of criminology at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said that the anti-corruption fight must also be extended to the private sector.
He called for the adoption of a comprehensive approach including the involvement of the population in the crusade.
According to him, the legalistic approach currently being pursued by the government has inherent limitations as evident in the frustration of corruption cases in court by lawyers and judges.
“We must recognise that the fight against corruption is not a party, but a series of battle in a war and that every stakeholder must be involved.
“The government must consider and adopt a complementary approach to accompany this legalistic approach that has been failing us.
“Now, they have started this whistle-blower policy which is just a subsistence of a larger system that shall be put in place.
“But even that single subsistence has become a little bit more effective in terms of productivity,’’ he said.
In his view, Mr Quadri Olaleye of the Trade Union Congress said the anti-corruption crusade should be holistic, stressing the need for the campaign to be replicated at the grassroots level for effectiveness.
Supporting this view point, Prof. Itse Sagay, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory argued that the level of corruption among public office holders was high.
“The recklessness with which public officers spend public funds is insensitive to the point of insanity. The level of insensitivity has become pathological.
“Why should a person loot what he cannot spend in his lifetime thereby exposing the rest of the population to misery, hunger, poverty and wretchedness,’’ he said.
He also accused lawyers of contributing to the problem by using different delay tactics thereby causing the nation great embarrassment.
However, irrespective of the challenges of fighting against corruption, concerned citizens believe that the fight is yielding positive results with the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Dr Fredrick Fasheun, the President of the O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), applauded the EFCC for beaming its searchlights on finances of some individuals that had once held public offices.
He said the arrest of the former Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr Andrew Yakubu and with the recovery of 9.8 million dollars and 74, 000 pounds from him was a major breakthrough.
Fasheun commended the final forfeiture of more than N66 billion linked to the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke to the government.
The OPC leader said the forfeiture of the said money by Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court Ikoyi, Lagos, was an indication that the agency did its home work very well.
Fasheun, therefore, urged the EFCC to continue to defend the interests of the nation and fight corruption to a standstill but advised it against selective arrest.
Similarly, Dr Yunisa Tanko, the National Chairman, National Conscience Party, commended EFCC for its fight against corruption but advised it to use scientific means of investigation to recover stolen money.
He said that EFCC should ensure timely arraignment and prosecution of anybody found culpable in looting the treasury.
Tanko said that the arrest of some public office holders were long-overdue and implored the anti graft-agency to extend its searchlight to other past political office holders.
He recalled that a recent human rights report noted that the EFCC had arraigned just few prominent political figures on corruption charges since its inception.
He insisted that many of the corruption cases against the political elite had made little or no progress in the courts.
“There have been few convictions to date and those convicted have faced relatively little or no prison term.
“Some of the other big political figures who have been widely implicated in corruption have not been prosecuted,’’ he said.
Also, Mr Saminu Abdullahi, a trader, advised EFCC to acquire modern technique of operations and urged the judiciary to expedite action on corruption related cases.
According to him, for EFCC to succeed, the judiciary should be ready to work hand in hand with the anti-graft agencies.
In the same vein, Mrs Abigei Nze, an accountant, applauded the EFCC for the recent arrest of some public office holders.
He called on the National Assembly to show commitment towards the effective administration and anti-corruption war of the agency.
All in all, analysts note that although it is difficult to estimate how much Nigeria has lost to corruption since independence, the anti-graft agencies have, to some extent, checked the spread of corrupt practices.
They urge states and local governments to set necessary mechanism in motion to set up anti-corruption agencies at the grassroots to ensure a good fight against corruption.
Omolade writes for News Agency of Nigeria.