The deputy chairman of the House Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation, Hon Nkem Abonta, has blasted government's war against corruption, saying it is insincere and does not have the seriousness required to address the problem.
Abonta who disclosed this while speaking to newsmen in Abuja over the weekend, went further to add that privatisation of some key government assets such as Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) have been unsuccessful because of the high level of fraud in the system.
"Nigeria is a very corrupt society and we are not fighting corruption. We are romancing with corruption; we are sleeping with corruption; we are doing our valentine with corruption and doing everything with corruption. Corruption is fast becoming a norm in Nigeria", he said.
Going further, he added that, "The problem is that the Federal Government wants to auction NITEL for peanuts. How much was the licence granted the GSM companies? It was about 280 million dollars, and yet government wants to sell the entire NITEL with MTEL and its other components for less the cost of the license given to the new companies. NITEL has the largest optic fibre network across Nigeria. It is everywhere and no country abandons such an investment in preference for the GSM companies".
The lawmaker fingered the civil service as the most corrupt institution in the country, saying that fraud has been institutionalised there and only a stricter law enforcement mechanism such as death penalty, can help matters.
Speaking on how corruption is embedded in the civil service, he said, "I make bold to say that civil servants are the worst problem of Nigeria. I call them "evil servants" because they are not civil in any way. Once you are appointed a minister, they send you one big memo; they tell you how you can buy a house where you will live. Once you sign that memo you are finished.
"Look at our annual budgets; the amount of money spent in the month of December is greater that all the money spent in the remaining part of the year. Why is it that under personal and overhead costs all the funds must be finished at the end of the year? They told us they discovered 45,000 ghost workers in the civil service. How many are the civil servants if 45,000 are ghosts? In all these no one has been punished and we have directors and permanent secretaries in those ministries. I think that something drastic has to be done."
"President Goodluck Jonathan must sit up and fight corruption; the war must start from the Villa. We need a very radical leader who will fight corruption. The Asian countries of China, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were more corrupt than Nigeria, until one day when their leaders rose to the challenge and introduced capital punishment as penalty for corruption. As soon as the law came into force anyone caught stealing public funds or engaging in any form of corruption was either hanged or shot dead." Calling for a review of the laws to make amendment to the penalties that currently exist, he said. " our laws are loose and some of us would not mind going to jail and come back to inherit 10 billion Naira. We know that you can even steal billions and just pay a paltry fine and go home to enjoy your loot."
Speaking on local government autonomy, he stressed that "if you don't grant autonomy to local government councils, they will still remain appendages of the state governors. Today, a local government chairman does not have a say in what goes on at the council. Although he is the head of the third tier of government cannot say no to the governor of the state.
"Until the two tiers are separated and each is given specific roles, the problem will remain. Most importantly, there should be financial autonomy for the local government councils and that means the State/Local Government Joint Account should be abolished."