Four civil society organizations, including Media Rights Agenda (MRA), have launched a campaign to check impunity in all sectors of the Nigerian society. The Campaign was launched at a grand ceremony at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre in Abuja on May 16, 2013.
Tagged the “Stop Impunity Nigeria” (S.I.N.) campaign, the project is a collaborative effort by a multi-stakeholder group led by the four civil society organizations, in partnership with religious bodies and a Federal Government agency, which is aimed at re-orienting Nigerians and promoting new ethical values to free the country from the debilitating effects of impunity.
Other civil society organizations involved in the project are Human Development Initiatives (HDI), Community Life Project (CLP), and the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The four organizations are working in partnership with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA).
The Campaign was officially launched with the unveiling of the S.I.N logo by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, who gave a goodwill message as well as endorsing the campaign.
In his welcome address, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, the Executive Director of Human Development Initiative and Coordinator of the project, pointed out the ills and dangers of impunity and how it is destroying Nigeria more than corruption is doing.
He said: “Impunity has weakened the institutions of government. Impunity reigns when those entrusted with power use and abuse this power for personal gain.” He outlined how the campaign intends to run its activities to achieve desired goals saying that a campaign of this nature cannot be run without the collaboration and support of the Nigerian government and its agencies, commissions and departments.
A short documentary on the state of impunity in Nigeria was shown to guests at the launch which was followed by presentations from Nigerians on each of the campaign’s thematic focus namely; Public Finance Management, Rule of Law, Electoral Process and Patriotism, Ethics and Civic Responsibility.
Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) who spoke on the Rule of Law emphasized that government must play a major role in curbing impunity saying: “It is government responsibility to lead by example in the fight against impunity.” Mr. Falana encouraged the S.I.N Campaign Implementers to collaborate with agencies on ground to bring people to justice. He encouraged the campaign to advocate for institutions and mechanism that provide checks and balances within the society and government.
Engineer Emeka Ezeh, Director General, Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) represented by Chief Pascal Igwe in his presentation on Public Finance Management stated that BPP is happy to be identified with a reform program such as the S.I.N campaign He encouraged civil society groups to play prominent roles in getting government and its representatives to comply with the law especially the Public Procurement Act as a means of combating impunity.
Professor Attahiru Jega, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) represented by Dr Chris Iyimoga, National Commissioner INEC said the commission agrees that impunity is perpetrated at various stages and by various persons or groups in the electoral process.
“Impunity can manifest in different forms from underage voters getting registered, buying of voters cards, campaign disruption, disturbances during voting or collation, bribing voters, security or election officers and specific persons taking advantage of the power they wield and deploying machinery of government to their favour” he said.
Flowing from Mr. Falana’s presentation, Dr. Iyimoga agreed that the Judiciary plays a great role in curbing impunity in the electoral process. “Sanctions for electoral malpractice need to be meted out in time and befitting to the crime”, he said. He encouraged purposeful and strategic collaborations with stakeholders in combating impunity and electoral malpractice in Nigeria.
Professor Ayo Atsenuwa, noted that a sense of Patriotism, Ethics and Civic Responsibility by citizens is very important and asked the public to question and unload, at the formal and informal level, using institutions, concepts and attitudes that will dismantle impunity.
The launch ended with vote of thanks given by Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and a member of the campaigns steering committee. Mr. Ojo thanked the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for sending his representatives and for making available members from his cabinet for the event. “This can be taken as a public commitment to join the campaign” he said. He also thanked and appreciated the partners, sponsors, key speakers and contributors to the campaign and encouraged individuals and local philanthropist to join the campaign saying; “Areas spoken on are just the focus for the campaign; each citizen can translate the concept and fight impunity in his/her own sector”.
There were over 278 stakeholders who attended the launch. They included representatives of civil society groups, journalist, government officials, professional groups, trade unions, religious groups, private sector and the general public among which were Comrade Gloria Okolugbo, Delta state Commissioner for Multilateral Relations at the FCT who represented the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Professor Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, Chairman, National Human rights Commission (NHCR), Mr Sam Amadi, Chairman, Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Mr Chris Kwaja, Director General, Centre for Good Governance, Plateau State, and Mrs. Nkemdilim Ilo of Public and Private Development Centre.
The launch was chaired by Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) while Mr Anyim Pius Anyim, The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, represented the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, GCON who was invited as the special guest of honour. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Research and Documentation, Mr Ferdinand Agu who gave a goodwill message also endorsed the campaign.
Other dignitaries that endorsed the campaign through goodwill messages are: Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, Regional Representative for West Africa, The Ford Foundation; Mr Mike Omeri, Director General, National Orientation Agency; His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, Sultan of Sokoto and President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs represented by Ustaz Amin Uwegbe, Director of Administration NSCIA; and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) represented by Reverend Dr. Musa Asake, General Secretary, CAN.