EFCC-Civil Society Interactive forum held on July 20, 2012 at Westown hotels, Opebi Lagos.

 

Background

A national consensus regarding the destructive role of corruption in our body-polick today point to the inescapable fact that unless the various communities of the nation: the state, the private sector, and the civic society, work strategically to stem the growth of this cancer, the future of the nation will be spelt as a dismal doom.

In an attempt therefore to help salvage the nation from this systemic cancer, the challenge of repositioning the anti corruption campaign was considered a primal change.  Thus, over 100 members of the civil society from different sectoral groups comprising of youth, women, People with Disability, community based NGOS with strong bias for good governance, transparency and accountability met with the EFCC Chairman at a one day interactive session to re-examine the anti-corruption initiative in the country, the integrity challenges facing state and the opportunities open to non-state actors in this challenge.

Observations

The interactive session acknowledged that corruption remains a major threat to good governance and the important enterprise of nation building.  The session further acknowledged that to contain the damaging impact of corruption and disrupt the complicated networks that feed and sustains it, the following conditions are need be created:

1       The political will to confront corruption;

2       A strong and independent enforcement regime;

3       An efficient adjudicating institution in the judiciary.

4       A vibrant and ethical civil society.

Recommendations:

The Interactive Session expressly recommends that successive state-led anti corruption initiatives have historically played their modest role but have consistently come short of dealing with the problem of corruption in a serious, tangible way. For this reason, the session made the strong case that civil society must see this new opportunity as its chance to lead the initiative in a constructive, knowledge-based, but ethical way.

The session therefore proposed that as a pre-condition to a new movement, those who come to equity must come with clean hands and as such ensure that both anti corruption and civil society officials insist to promote professionalism without compromising their core mandate and to ensure a solid code of conduct of high integrity at all times.

The Session also recommends that:

ü Members of the Bar have a seminal role in this new initiative, and should not subvert justice by prolonging trials through frustrating applications including adjournments.

ü Members of the Bar should promote professionalism by shunning sharp practices in the interest of their client against the society.

ü The Bench should be proactive, transparent, and fair in dispensing justice without delay.

ü The Bench should be contemporary in adopting best practices in other jurisdictions.

ü The National Assembly should realize that the effort at building an enduring democracy cannot succeed in a regime of rapacious corruption, and that it should partner with anti-corruption agencies in realizing their mandate of zero tolerance to corruption by passing ‘sunshine’ laws such as ‘the Civil Forfeiture Bill’ pending before it.

ü The government should establish a trust fund, in line with models proposed under Article 79 of the Rome Statute for the establishment of separate trust funds into which criminal penalties and asset forfeiture proceeds are paid. The fund would be comprised of present and future civil asset forfeiture proceeds to be paid, ultimately to a future benefit of the people of Nigeria. As a practical matter this would mean payment to an independent body, which would, subject to anti-corruption safeguards, in turn spend the money on public social goals like health or education in the country.

ü There is the need to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders in terms of training, re-training on a continuous basis.

ü Anti-corruption agencies become independent in terms of funding, operations in the execution of their duties; and that the independence of the agencies be strictly maintained and protected against current campaigns and proposals to merge them and therefore dilute their mandates.

ü Active collaboration be nurtured between national anti-corruption agencies and the Nigerian Civil Society Groups and their international peers.

ü There is the need to promote and sustain public education and enlightenment on the negative effect of corruption in our daily lives.

ü There should be an engagement process that will be a buy in for school going children in their curriculum development on corruption and anti corruption issues.

ü The need to embrace information technology in the fight against corruption. Stakeholders need to appreciate the centrality of networks in forging new communities and employing new strategies and tools such as website, hotlines, etc where vital information and best practices of fighting corruption can be shared amongst themselves.

ü National Anti-Corruption Day (Dec 9), should be used to reward people of integrity and promote transparent values.

ü Faith-based groups, ethnic nationalities, professional groups i.e. (doctors, lawyers, accountants, business groups, women etc, should consciously be engaged to stand and speak against corruption at all times.

ü Current merger talks of the EFCC with other anti corruption bodies with parallel mandates fall into the context of moves to weaken the anti corruption fight and dilute the institutional mandates of the bodies prosecuting the fights.

ü Given the grave danger that corruption poses to the sovereignty of the nation today, nothing is more important than enhancing the funding and operational independence of national anti corruption bodies.

ü There should be a continuous process of engagement between EFCC and civil society organization

ü There should be further synergy and coordination between the EFCC, NDLEA, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, the Police as well as other anti-corruption entities in the country.

 

Conclusion

The forum observed that it is not enough to talk about corruption in Nigeria and if we must curb corruption, we must consistently get engaged in a relationship that will build confidence in our people and the stakeholders.