Stakeholders comprising representatives of civil society organisations, academia, the media and government institutions at a strategic roundtable have harped on the need to mobilise the masses to fight corruption.
The strategic dialogue roundtable held at Citiheight hotel, Ikeja Lagos on September, 28, 2017, saw stakeholders discussing extensively on the need for Nigerians to ask questions from the government because, according to them, silence tolerates corruption. They identified the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 as a very powerful tool that Nigerians should to fight corruption.
The chairperson of the event, Dr. (Mrs) Olajumoke Akiode, the Executive Director of Centre for Ethics and Sustainable Development (CESD) in her opening remarks said that mobilizing the public on an anti-corruption initiative calls for asking of questions. She said the culture of not asking questions increases and aids corruption. According to her, the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011 is a very powerful tool given to Nigerians to use to ask questions and to prevail where there is secrecy.
Akin Oyebode, a professor of International Law and Jurisprudence at University of Lagos made presentation on how to mobilize citizens to demand anti-corruption reforms and end impunity for grand corruption in Nigeria.
Speaking on the pernicious nature of corruption, the Professor said “Despite all the hue and cry over the debilitating consequences of corruption on the country’s socio-political fabric, it is sad but true that the virus has continued to fester in leaps and bounds and if not curtailed it may lead to the mortality of Nigeria”.
Defining corruption, the professor said that anyone familiar with the story of the three blind men attempting to describe the elephant would understand very well the predicament attending efforts to define corruption, he noted that it is impossible to define it but we know it when we see it.
He said corruption connotes unlawful and illegitimate demand by a service provider for payment in cash or kind for action or inaction as an inducement in connection with a service for which he is officially remunerated.
Speaking on how to cage corruption, the professor said International law has come to assist in the anti-corruption crusade through a network of anti-corruption instruments such as the UN Convention against Corruption, 2003; the AU Convention on preventing and combatting corruption, 2003; SADC protocol against corruption, 2001; the ECOWAS protocol on the fight against corruption, 2001, etc.
It was however resolved that the role of the people in relation to the struggle to contain corrupt practices in Nigeria is imperative. Although the imperative of ongoing anti-corruption war is not in doubt, the practical implementation of relevant laws is fraught with considerable difficulty; there is nevertheless the need for mass enlightenment on the various laws with a view to eliciting the understanding, support and collaboration of the public.
Going forward, Professor Oyebode recommended that people must be made aware of the nexus between corruption by the political leadership and their miserable circumstances; and the people must be enlisted in the war against corruption by encouraging them in mass action through their participation in mass rallies, street demonstrations, public debates etc.
The professor added that knowing that corruption is an ongoing anomaly, on a regular basis, CSOs should hold meetings in order to galvanize efforts at sensitizing opinion molders and agenda setters so that they can join the ranks of forces fighting against corruption in the society.