Nigerians don’t want to Fight Corruption – Obono Obla

Nigerians don’t want to Fight Corruption – Obono Obla
“What is the challenge? Nigerians do not want to support the fight against corruption. The judiciary does not want to support the fight against corruption. The legislature does not want to support the fight against corruption. It is as if only the President and the Vice President are in support of the war against corruption.”

These were the words of Chief Okoi Obono Obla, Chairman, Special Presidential Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, this morning on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television program. He was speaking with Maupe Ogun, on a joint survey by the National Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations Agency who have concluded that Nigerians paid bribe amounting to four hundred billion naira between 2015 and 2016. That report submitted that Nigeria Police and Judges are the highest bribe-takers in Nigeria.

We invite you to read excerpts of Chief Obono Obla’s remarks below:

Justification of Perception of Nigerians as Uninterested in the Fight against Corruption

“We see a lot of political gimmicky. They tell us ‘oh, the fight against corruption is selective, it is targeted against political opponents’ which is not true. But we have fought corruption within two years of this administration and we are still fighting corruption. The Committee that was set up or the panel that was set up which the Acting President appointed me Chair, that law has been existing since 1983. It came into effect in 1983. But that law has not been used by successive governments because those governments don’t have the will, they don’t have the commitment,  they don’t have the dedication to fight corruption and the law is very very strict. Maybe that is why successive administrations did not manifest any commitment to use that law to fight corruption. That law predates EFCC Act, ICPC Act. That law is Recovery of Public Properties Special Provisions Act CAP R 4 laws of the Federation of Nigeria.”

Perspective on Alleged Corruption in the Judiciary

“…Court Registrars would insist that you give them something to move your file maybe from the Registry to the Office of the Chief Judge who would assign the matter. Then if an order is issued by the court, they would insist that you must give them money before they can type that order, to take it to the Judge who issued that order. Then if the Bailiff who wants to go and serve a process, assuming the person who sued in Abuja is living in Lagos, they would insist on getting about two hundred thousand naira from you to take that process from Abuja to Lagos.”

“Even within Abuja, they would insist that you give them money to take that process from Maitatma to Gwagwalada…. Sometimes, we don’t want to admit this. But I am just telling you about what happens in the courts. The court that is supposed to be the paragon of decency, of justice, of fairness, of transparency, of accountability. So I am not surprised. That is why I am saying we have seen that corruption is bad. Corruption compromises national security. All of us must join in this fight against corruption. All of us!”

Corruption

Response to Why Corruption is Endemic in Nigeria and Why it is Difficult to do Business with Government without Payment of Bribe

”I would not want to say Nigerians are pathologically corrupt. Corruption is everywhere. But the difference between what we see in Nigeria and what obtains in the United States and United Kingdom is that in those places, if you are caught you would be punished drastically. If you are a member of a political elite and you are caught, you would be punished by the political elite. But in Nigeria, we see that the political elite do not want to be accountable at all. If you want to punish them, they would begin to say ‘oh, because I am a Nupe man, you are Kanuri man. I am an Hausa man, you are an Ibo man, you are a Yoruba man.’

Look at what is in the judiciary. Look at the esprit de corps we see among judges. Judges who were arrested, who were tried, and then you ask them ‘go and sit’. These are Judges whose integrity has been impeached. So if we have a NJC (National Judicial Council) that is serious, that is committed to fighting judiciary (sic), what they should have done was, list all those Judges, send their names to the President. Ask them, retire those Judges, they no longer have the integrity. They no longer have the honor to sit as Judges.”

Response to if the State or Government can be Excused for Corruption that Exists at Lower Levels in Nigeria

”For some of the cases like bribery…. Some of these cases are not even reported. Like the one against me, I didn’t report it because most times when you go to the anti corruption agencies to make such a report, they don’t take it really serious. So, most Nigerians suffer everyday from these outrageous acts of corruption but they don’t report…. But at the lower level, I even think the corruption there is more endemic than at the higher level. Even go to the Filling Station and you want to buy fuel, they would want to extort some money from you. Everywhere you go to, the lower people who are at the receiving end of the corruption of our higher ranking government officials, they still indulge in this corruption.

So maybe we need to carry out a national orientation, a social revolution to really fight corruption, just as what is happening in South Korea. In South Korea there was so much corruption. So the women of the high-ranking government officials who are raking money out of the government coffers, started a revolution. They confessed: ‘My husband took fifty million US dollars. I am ready to return that money.’ And they returned all the money. But that would not happen in Nigeria because most of our elites, our political elites don’t see corruption as destructive. Our judges do not see corruption as destructive, our Police men, everybody. And the pressure they mount on public officials by the ordinary people! They ask for money for weddings, for birthday parties, for everything under the sun.”

Response to the Argument that Low Wages may be Responsible for Corruption, as Public Officals sometimes use Proceeds of Corruption to Augment their Salaries

”I do not think that that alone is enough for us to be corrupt. My father was a Civil Servant. He had so many kids. That was in the 1970s and 80s. And my father never put his hand into a government till to take money to complement his salary. My mother used to help him to pay our school fees by selling little provision. What I am saying is it is not enough to attribute the prevalence of corruption among lower level public officials to low salary…. Is there no corruption in NNPC? They earn so much and the amount of corruption there is endemic. They don’t remit what they earn to the Federation Account. So, you cannot really say it is low wages that is responsible for corruption.”

“There are other variables. Other variables are ‘I want to live like a King’. I think it should start from the home. Honor, integrity, honesty, hard work, industry. We should live within our means…. Sometimes it is hard in the face of chronic poverty, scandalous poverty, grinding poverty, to ask a man to show some honor, some commitment, some integrity. it is difficult. What we should do is all of us should put our hands together. I believe if corruption is reduced at the higher level, then we can use government resources to pay workers good salaries that would not expose them to corruption.”

Response to whether Government should be Hounding People or Understand the Peoples Problems and See how such Problems can be Solved

”The United Nations office on drugs and crimes reeled out statistics that about fifty percent of Nigerians are poor. But they still went ahead to carry out this survey on corruption in Nigeria. It didn’t say because fifty percent of Nigerians are poor, corruption should continue in Nigeria. We have to fight corruption. If you fight corruption seriously, effectively, I think we can have resources to pay police men very well, to pay the lower officials very well. These senior officials who are stealing money, some of them don’t earn so much. Some Directors in Federal Government establishments, their take home is about three hundred thousand naira monthly, but they have enormous amounts of resources. Most of the real estates in Abuja are owned by civil servants, Directors in Federal establishments….

I have talked about moral upbringing. It is not only about law. The law should be a deterrent…. In this country, we are very religious. Some are Muslim, some are Christians, even our traditional religion frowns against stealing, living above your legitimate earnings. Living a fake life. If you are a young girl who just left school and you come to Abuja to look for employment, why would you want to go and live in Maitama? Why would you want to go and live in Asokoro? When I came to Abuja, I was living in Karo because I could not afford living in the posh areas of Abuja. That is what we are talking about. Self contentment, not living above your income…. If you live above your income, you would be tempted.”

Explanation of the Law Establishing Panel for Recovery of  Public Funds

”The law was passed in 1983: Recovery of Public Property and Special Provisions Act. That law create a panel that is appointed by the President, which the Acting President has done, to investigate the assets of public officers. Even those in the private sector. Even those who are fronts or relatives of these public officials, to investigate their assets. If you look at the law, it is very clear. It is not too technical, unlike the ICPC provisions, the EFCC Act, and so on. The law is very practical. If you are a public officer and we suspect that you are living above your legitimate earnings, we should serve you a notice that you should declare your assets, those of your children, brothers, sister, siblings, and so on . When you declare, we would carry out a verification, if we find out that you have more than what you earn, then we would file charges in the Federal High Court against you.”

Difference between the Panel on Recovery of Public Funds and Code of Conduct Bureau

“The Code of Conduct does not impose terms of imprisonment. Code of Conduct says ‘look, Mr Obla, you are corrupt, you would not be senate President or you would not hold public office again’. In this Panel, if you are found guilty by the courts, you would forfeit that property and you would be sentenced to life imprisonment. Then if you under declare or you declare falsely and you are convicted, you will be liable to a twenty one years term of imprisonment. So that is the difference. It is not like the Code of Conduct where when you are found guilty, they would only take the assets and bar you from holding public office. The Code of Conduct cannot impose a term of imprisonment.”

Response to if Government would be Looking Specifically at the Judiciary and the Police, based on Allegations of Corruption against Them

‘Well, you know the efforts we are making to clean up the judiciary and we are bent on doing that, despite the frustrations. I would urge the NJC to support this quest. Since we now have the report showing that the Judiciary is number two in corruption in Nigeria, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Senior Judges should be bothered. The Police too. The leadership of the Police should be bothered. We are bothered as a government and we are going to do something to reform the Police. “

  • Cornelius Ellah

Please See Related Post: Chief Obono Obla’s Whistle and the List

4 Comments

  1. Edde Iji August 17, 2017
    • admin August 18, 2017
  2. Isaac August 18, 2017
    • admin August 18, 2017

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