A Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, University of Lagos, Akin Oyebode, has lamented that despite the much talk about fight against graft under President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, that “Corruption is now thriving more than ever before” in Nigeria.
Oyebode has therefore warned that “if drastic measures are not put in place urgently to contain it, corruption might ultimately result in the mortality of Nigeria as a nation-state.”
He added, that “Corruption is now thriving more than ever before, despite the ongoing fight against it. However, international law has really helped with a plethora of laws against corruption, it now behoves on citizens to take advantage of this laws to fight against corruption.”
He stated this when he spoke on Thursday at a roundtable organised by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), held in Ikeja, Lagos State.
Oyebode who made his position known while delivering a paper on “Strategies for mobilizing mass action to demand anti-corruption reforms and an end to impunity for grand corruption in Nigeria” insisted that “mass action by the citizens is urgently needed to put pressure on authorities to end impunity for grand corruption in the country.”
Part of Oyebode’s paper read, “It is not enough to have fanciful anti-corruption laws. More important is the need to get the generality of the popular masses wedded to the crusade in order to make it a success. The reticence and lethargy of our people generally would need to be confronted. Without the cooperation and collaboration of generality of the people, the anti-corruption bodies might end up little more than paper tigers.”
According to him, “The people must be enlisted in the war against corruption. Nigerians should start anti-corruption clubs in schools, radio jingles should be put in place to fight corruption, carry placards, go outside, organize sit ins like SERAP is doing presently, Nigerians should be mobilized against corruption and now take their destiny in their hands. The fight should not be left alone to organizations like SERAP and when the State wants to attack organizations like SERAP, the masses should fight for them.”
He also argued that “the recent attempt by the National Assembly with the NGO bill to control, monitor and eventually sequester CSOs all because of the excuse that some CSOs are corrupt should not be allowed. Cutting off the head is not the cure for headache, the bill is an overkill. If they cage organizations like SERAP, who will fight for the masses. The government do not want anybody to act as impediment to their thievery activities.”
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), who was represented by his Senior Assistant Abiodun Aikomo said, “The disconnect between our prosperity and where we are is corruption. We have to be patriotic, only Nigerians can do something about corruption. To file paper in court, you have to shake body. Corruption has unfortunately attained legitimacy in Nigeria, we are all encouraging corruption that is killing us. Imagine a million citizens fighting against corruption, we have a government committed to the fight. Let us all fight it and shun greed”
Human rights lawyer Femi Falana SAN in his contribution said that, “We must stop our lawyers from terrorising our courts and judges. We must get our judges to take charge of their courts.”
According to Falana, “Religious leaders should stop confusing our people. Our churches and traditional rulers should stop praying for thieves. This is how low we have sunk. What are we as individuals doing to stop these politicians, let’s start with Lagos, let’s start asking our legislators how much they are being paid for doing what? Let our church stop conferring honours on criminals. Also our universities should be encouraged to join in the fight.”
Participants at the event included: Chief Barr. O.M Bakara- representing HRM, Elegushi of Ikate Land Mr Osita Nwajah, representing Ibrahim Magu the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; Rabiat Umar ICPC; Chief Abayomi Sunday and Chief Moshood Onikoyi, representing Oba Onikoyi of Ikoyi & Imoba Land; Padma Igbabe Ford Foundation; Dr Dayo Ayoade, Faculty of Law UNILAG; Marijke Petri Wife of the Netherlands Ambassador to Nigeria; and Depo Adeniran, Coalition against Corrupt Leaders.