Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The rally against graft

The recent rally by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and some civil society groups in protest against the parlous state of the economy has added a fresh dimension to the increasing disenchantment of Nigerians with graft in public places. The NLC had stormed the streets of Abuja to protest the poor state of the economy and seek a resolution of the probes currently going on.According to the group, their mission was to compel President Umaru Yar’Adua to go beyond the administrative steps taken so far and substantially address corruption through the establishment of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry. Such an inquiry, the NLC insists, should comprehensively look into corruption, recover mismanaged or embezzled funds, bring all culprits to book and generally restore people’s confidence in government and governance.The position of the NLC on the matter is understandable especially given the mind-boggling revelations at the probes currently going on in the country. The probe on power has been particularly revealing as it has mirrored very vividly how our leaders squander our collective patrimony while a preponderance of our people wallow in avoidable abject poverty. Therefore, as stakeholders in the nation’s economy, the NLC is very justified to have shown more than a passing concern to the unbridled looting of the nation’s resources by public functionaries and the relative ease with which they get away with it. This is more so as the executive has not shown sufficient concern about the probes.The NLC deserves commendation for being sufficiently challenged by the high level of corruption in public places such that it had to take to street protests to more poignantly drive home its point. It is also very instructive that it has placed the responsibility of checking corruption squarely on the shoulders of the executive. This is more so given that the powers of the probe panels will end at the level of recommendations to the executive on those who are found to have run foul of our laws for possible prosecution. What therefore the executive makes of these recommendations will make or mar the war against corruption in public places. It will also be a measure of the temperament and commitment of this administration to make graft a very dangerous and unattractive enterprise on our shores. The point that has been raised in the instant case is clear. And it is that the executive must not only identify with this fight but must take concrete steps to bring to book all those that may be indicted by the probe panels. Otherwise, the huge resources ploughed into these probes would have come to naught and our nation will be the worst for it. It is good a thing that the NLC came up strongly to underscore its zero tolerance for corruption. It is equally heart-warming that the body has started re-inventing itself such that it wants its impact seriously felt in a matter of this nature. That is the way it should be. Such an organized opposition to check corruption is very vital for the overall success of the war. Corruption has wrought so much havoc to this nation that it requires the collective efforts of all and sundry to stem the dangerous tide. There is no doubt that our inability to join the league of developed nations has in the main, been linked to the monumental corruption that has been the sad experience of our governance framework. It is no longer news that over the years, Nigeria has continued to perform abysmally low on the corruption index. Definitely, a serious labour organization that has as its prime concern the overall welfare and well being of the common people, cannot afford to shut its eyes to the scandalous looting of our collective patrimony by very greedy politicians.In this wise, it is important that the NLC must wake up to the reality of garnering self respect from the point of view of the government and the larger society. It must work itself to the realm of self respect such that when next it issues warnings and threats, they are taken seriously by all and sundry.But beyond these, this nation cannot effectively fight corruption through the frequent setting up of ad hoc probe panels after the harm has been done. An all rounded war against corruption will require that all the statutory bodies charged with that duty must, at all times, be alive to their responsibilities. It will require that all relevant institutional frameworks should be reactivated to prevent the unbridled looting that goes on in public places and punish infractions accordingly. But all those indicted by the current probes must be made to face the laws of the land.

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