Ndubuisi Francis, This Day, Wednesday, September 18, 2013
President Goodluck Jonathan has stated that beyond strengthening the anti-graft agencies, the most potent way of fighting corruption in the country was through the contributions and collective efforts of all Nigerians.
He insisted that as long as the citizenry refuse to condemn and frown on suspicious and ill-gotten wealth, corrupt tendencies would continue to thrive in the country.
Jonathan, who spoke in Abuja Tuesday, while declaring open the 54th Nigerian Economic Society (NES) conference, said efforts should be made to discourage things that create room for corruption and which act as incentives for people to steal from both the public and private till.
He noted that corruption had no barriers but cuts across those operating in the private and public sectors of the economy.
According to him, if Nigerians refuse to ‘reward’ those who acquire wealth that are obviously beyond their legitimate earning, the tendency to be corrupt would be discouraged.
“In addition to strengthening the anti-corruption agencies, we believe that we should not create an environment where people will be tempted to steal what belongs to the public. If all of us don’t reward corruption, people won’t be corrupt. I want a situation where we will all frown on corrupt people in our midst,” he said.
The president said his administration was building institutions rather than relying on individuals, irrespective of how strong such individuals were. “I know of some countries where their president will be sick for almost a year and people may not really know because the institutions are working,” he said.
According to him, soon after he assumed office as president in May 2011, his administration introduced a number of economic programmes and processes encapsulated in the Transformation Agenda, adding that some of these programmes and policies were through public-private sector initiatives which placed emphasis on macro-economic stability.
He said the measures his administration had taken and would continue to take were aimed at creating an enabling environment for private sector investment, and ultimately foster overall economic growth for the benefit of all Nigerians.
“Underlying the implementation of the Transformation Agenda is the unwavering commitment that reforms must not be centred on individuals no matter how strong they are but processes and institutions. Rather, we recognise that for reforms to be sustainable, they must be strong, sound and effective mechanism, processes and institutions. Our focus is on strengthening our institutions and we are committed to doing that,” the president said.
Jonathan stated that in every sphere of national life, his government had introduced reforms, stating that institutional reforms were aimed at stamping out obsolete ways of doing things.
The president further added that innovative ways of public financial management have become the hallmark of his government, adding that for many years, the process of managing staff salaries had been largely manual, paving way for corrupt leakages.
This, he said, gave way to many ghost workers and pensioners, pointing out that his administration had put in place a modern, efficient and foolproof payroll system of managing government’s payments and finances.
“In sectors such as power and agriculture, we are building strong institutions, citing the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc otherwise known as the Bulk Trader, which have been strengthened to work towards repositioning the power sector in order to give Nigerians uninterrupted power supply.”
He also cited the agricultural sector, where the electronic wallet system had been introduced to curb corrupt tendencies associated with fertilizer, thereby assuring the availability of fertilizer to the farmers who are the end-users.
Jonathan added that his administration had also waged war against corruption through the instrumentality of the rule of law as well as repositioning and strengthening the anti-corruption agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related offences Commission (ICPC).
He said in order to discourage the temptation for public officers to corrupt tendencies, the administration embarked upon mass housing and the provision of other incentives.
The president also stated that the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act was also aimed at opening a window for Nigerians and civil society organisations (CSOs) to petition against public office holders found or suspected to have indulged in corrupt practices.
He said there was also reforms in aviation, seaports, housing, power, and petroleum, assuring that his administration was committed to enthroning strong electoral and judicial systems, among others, for the country.
The president commended the conferment of the fellowship of the Nigerian Economic Society on a former Minister of Health, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
He described Okonjo-Iweala as the “best World Bank President the world missed.”
The guest speaker at the Nigeria Economic Society 54th conference, Prof. John Ohiorhenuan from Columbia University, United States of America (USA), who spoke on “The Invisible Hand of Corruption in Nigeria,” over the last 40 years, corruption has been the prism through which the global community measured Nigeria, adding that the nation also lost an estimated $300 billion to corruption within the period.
He cited professionals of the society often cited to be corrupt as judges and the police, among others, noting that the recently uncovered huge fraud perpetrated in the fuel subsidy regime added another twist to corruption.
Ohiorhenuan advocated the strengthening of key institutions of state to curb corruption, a robust parliamentary oversight and proactive legislation as well as taking the fight against corruption beyond the government to non-state actors, among others.
In her remarks, after being conferred with the NES fellowship, Okonjo-Iweala recalled that her sojourn into the world of economists dated back to 1957 when her father and the Obi of Ogwashi-Uku, Prof. Chukuka Okonjo, himself, a fellow of the NES, used to flood their living home with the NES journals.
Expressing her appreciation for the conferment of the fellowship of the society on her, she said the NES epitomised an enduring institution having lasted for over five decades.
The minister noted that the icing on the cake on her conferment was the presence of President Jonathan, stressing that she was particularly pleased that in spite of his very tight schedule, the president was present for the conference and witnessing her induction into the NES fellowship.
“I think it is a mark of respect he has for the NES and for the participation. I think Mr. President also recognises that all politics is economics,” she said.