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World anti-corruption Day: Need to reposition anti-graft agencies

Corruption is one of the complex social, political and economic viruses that affect all countries worldwide.

Also, corruption attacks the very foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires where social institutions are riddled with acts of soliciting for bribes in kind or cash rather than making morality and integrity the standards for operation.

It is, as a matter of fact, one of the monsters that slow down social-political and economic development in any society, undermine democratic institutions, and contribute to the instability of government.

To all intents and purposes, corruption is the root cause of conflicts in society and a monster that inhibits peace processes, because it undermines the rule of law, which in turn heightens poverty levels, facilitates illegal use of resources, and finances armed conflicts.

As a consequence, the United Nations General Assembly, in October 2003, set aside December 9 every year as the “International Anti-Corruption Day”.

The aim was to raise awareness on the negative impact of corruption and the role that the UN General Assembly can play to combat, if not prevent, corruption.

Since the International Anti-Corruption Day came into being, the General Assembly has been encouraging all member-countries, as well as competent regional economic organisations, not only to ratify the UN Convention against Corruption but, more importantly, to ensure that it is implemented.

If anything, it is incumbent on the global community to recognise that preventing corruption, promoting transparency and strengthening anti-graft institutions is crucial if the targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be met.

The 2022 International Anti-Corruption Day seeks to highlight the crucial link between anti-corruption, peace, security, and development. As such, government officials, civil servants, law-enforcement officers, media professionals, academics, private sector operators, civil society organisations and youths alike all have a role to play in uniting the world against corruption.

According to the 2021 Corruption Perception Index reported by Transparency International, Nigeria ranked 154 out of180 countries. The latest ranking saw the country five places below the 2020 Corruption Index.

Unfortunately, corruption is mostly being reported among public   officials and institutions in Nigeria but is also prevalent within the wider society.

For the avoidance of doubt, corruption, one of whose by-products is compromise, is in large measure responsible for insecurity, high unemployment and conflicts across Nigeria.

The theme of this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day, which is “Recover with Integrity”, is indeed apt, as it calls on relevant anti-graft agencies to investigate all allegations of corruption and expose the culprits irrespective of political   affiliation, tribe or creed.

It is also necessary to point out the fact that the same people who seemingly exhibit deviancy, recklessness and profligacy in their conduct at home in Nigeria, suddenly become law-abiding when they travel abroad, where such negative traits are discourage.

What does that tell us?

It clearly shows that the proverbial magic wand that is thought to be responsible for such radical turn-around in behavior when some Nigerians find themselves outside the shores of this country is nothing but the functionality of our institutions.

In fact, it speaks volumes of the capacity, or incapacity, of relevant institutions to enforce laws and mete out punishment where necessary.

Ethical standards

It is high time that Nigerians began embracing ethical standards that promote hard work, discipline and diligence, as such values are key to driving the psycho-social ethos of the country. That, as a matter of necessity, should also cascade to all levels of   Government.

Similarly, there is the need to properly reposition anti-graft institutions, like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices (and Related Offences) Commission (ICPC), the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the judiciary, to facilitate the arrest and prosecution of corrupt persons.

More funding

Again, a financial crime prosecutor once posited that forensic account investigations do not particularly come cheap as they require careful planning and a huge amount of logistics. For this reason, proper funding of anti-graft agencies is key to bringing about the much-needed prosecution of financial crime offenders.

In the same vein, the National Assembly should speed up deliberations and passage of relevant anti-corruption laws, or amend them where required, in order to strengthen the war against graft and related practices.

Presidential assent

Some Nigerians have equally complained that a delay in signing legislation into law by the executive has had its own negative role to play in the anti-corruption war.

Indeed, while the president should give his assent to such laws once they are passed, he, however, should do so only in the best interest of the people.

Additionally, Nigerians need to be adequately sensitized on the evils of corruption as well as its retrogressive impact on the nation’s economy, their own lives, the future of their children and even generations unborn.

Also, all stakeholders, cutting across every political linning, religion or ethnic grouping, must leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the “war against corruption” is not only won, but is totally eliminated from the society.

Writing by Nehemiah Anini; Editing by Annabel Nwachukwu and Tony Okerafor