Ugo Aliogo writes on efforts by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre in supporting the fight against corruption.
As part of efforts to contribute its quota to the anti-corruption fight especially through strengthening legislative mandate in the fight a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) recently organised a policy dialogue engagement which brought together members of the Advisory Committee on Strengthening Legislative Accountability and Anti-Corruption Mechanisms (SLAAM) to proffers solutions to improve the work of the legislature at the federal and state level towards curbing corruption in Nigeria.
The event which was held in Lagos was sequel to the reports on corruption cases in Nigeria, which was launched recently in Abuja.
The report was published to serve as an advocacy tool for improving legislative role in the fight against corruption.
At the meeting, the advocacy group identified and enumerated some challenges hampering effective performance of the legislative oversight to curb corruption.
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, explained that the limitations of the press corps at both chambers of the National Assembly (NASS) to embark on investigative journalism, to expose corruption in the performance of oversight; rotational transfer of committee clerks affects the quality of legislative input at the committee level, non-participation of the public in the process leading up to the passage of the budget; the non-existence of a performance appraisal to spur to legislators to their mandates, insufficient capacity on the part of CSOs to meaningfully engage the legislature for a positive change and poor funding of the committees to effectively carry out oversight functions.
Rafsanjani further stated that the meeting became imperative, adding that there is no single sector of the economy that is spared from menace of corruption in the country.
The CISLAC ED argued that from education, to agriculture, health, to environment, oil and gas, public finance sector, corruption continues to thrive thereby hampering the collective desire for prosperous and developed nation.
He cited the 2018 Annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of Transparency International, which tagged Nigeria as a country with a high level of corruption.
Rafsanjani remarked that the 2018 index places the country at 144 out of 175 least corrupt countries in the world, adding that the ranking comes in the wake of the federal government's posturing of fighting the menace.
According to him, "The CPI ranking is a clear indication that government must move beyond talking corruption to actually operationalizing extant laws as well as strengthen institutions to fight the scourge. The country's laws, policies and institutions must be the guiding instruments upon which the fight against corruption must be based.
"As part of CSOs contribution to curbing corruption in Nigeria, CISLAC last week launched a publication on analysis of media reports on corruption cases in Nigeria. The analysis report which was published in two volumes show extensive reportage on corruption cases, most of which have gone unpublished.
"This meeting is a strategic meeting to engage national assembly and relevant committees on corruption to be able to pick up media reports on corruption cases. This include corruption in the oil and gas sector, as audit reports carried out by NEITI from 1999 to date has produced about 10 audited reports with serious indictment of so many companies not paying taxes and nothing has been done on non-remittance to the government covers.
"Also, in the areas of education, a lot of few cases have been reported and nothing much is done about it even by both anti-corruption agencies as well as relevant agencies in the National Assembly. A lot of ministries and parastatal have been receiving allocations from the federation accounts since 2015 and no audited reports are submitted to the auditor-general.
"We have also have a lot of issues on procurement which the media reported severally and not much has been addressed by either anti-corruption agencies and national assembly particularly lack of inauguration of procurement council continues to pave way for corruption in the procurement sector. Also, corruption in the judiciary has continued to erode confidence among Nigerians about access to justice and integrity in the electoral system, which has continued to tamper with political integrity in the political system.
"In order to ensure that the leadership of National Assembly is involved in this fight, we are engaging the Speaker, his office and Members of the House of Assembly on how we are going to organize a national summit on Anti-Corruption.
"Through this media rappouter, we have been working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practice Commission (ICPC) to pay attention to some of the reports in the media. There is the need for these agencies to work together to ensure that corruption cases are investigated and those involved should be prosecuted. So the role of the media and CISLAC in the intervention cannot be over-emphasized."
In its recommendations, the advisory committee suggested that the fight against corruption requires the conscious building and enhancement of strong institutions, including collective leadership as an institution.
The committee added that the capacity of the legislature to undertake professional, effective, efficient and quality oversight function be invested in and enhanced, adding that the ICPC must be empowered to recruit and deploy ACTU officers across all public institutions, agencies and entities across all levels and arms of government.
The committee explained: "CSOs and the media should develop and deploy a cogent and mutually reinforcing strategy for engaging with the legislature on the anti-corruption struggle.
"Above all, that both civil society organizations and the media should persistently insist on the public declaration of assets by elected legislators and all other political office holders. It added the meeting that while a lot is already being done in the anti-corruption struggle, a lot more still requires to be done to ensure improvement in the efforts and make sure that we achieve a culture of zero tolerance for corruption in Nigeria."