Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, Monday, criticised President Goodluck Jonathan over the way he handles corruption cases, saying ‘the president’s body language’ seems to be encouraging corrupt practices in the country.
Fielding questions from reporters in Abuja after delivering a lecture on ‘Role of the legislature in the fight against corruption in Nigeria,’ at a one-day roundtable, organised by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), to mark the international anti-corruption day, Tambuwal expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Jonathan administration has been handling high profile corruption cases.
The speaker explained that actions taken by the federal government in respect of corruption cases investigated by the National Assembly have undermined the nation’s commitment to fighting graft.
He said the federal government’s dithering in the fight against corruption, especially when very influential Nigerians are affected, had shown the lack of commitment of the administration to tackle the menace.
“Take the (fuel) subsidy probe, the pension (scam), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe and recently the bulletproof car cases.
“After the House of Representatives did a diligent job by probing and exposing the cases, you now see something else when it comes to prosecution.
“In some cases, you have the government setting up new committees to duplicate the job already done by the parliament. Take the bulletproof cars case, the NSA, with all the security challenges confronting the country, should not be burdened with a job that can best be handled by the anti-corruption agencies.
“The government has no business setting up any administrative committee in a case that is clear to all Nigerians. What the president should have done was to explicitly direct the EFCC to probe the matter. With such directives coming from the president, I am sure we still have good people in EFCC who can do a good job.
“By the action of setting up different committees for straightforward cases, the president’s body language doesn’t tend to support the fight against corruption,” he added.
Tambuwal also lamented how pervasive corruption has become in Nigeria and its effects on the nation’s economy.
“For us in Nigeria, the reality that no greater challenge than corruption confronts us as a people is not in controversy. Indeed if the roots of the overwhelming majority of our woes were traced, they are sure to terminate at the doorsteps of corruption. This is a commonplace fact known to all Nigerians and requiring no corroboration. Yet for the avoidance of doubt, it is important to state that in its 2012 Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by the global corruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranks Nigeria as the 36th most corrupt country globally! Nigeria placed 139th of the 176 countries assessed scoring 27 per cent in contrast with the least corrupt countries; Denmark, Finland and New Zealand which scored 90 per cent.
“A list of manifestation of corruption especially in the public sector of Nigeria is legion ranging from direct diversion of public funds to private pockets, contract over-pricing, bribery, impunity, nepotism, general financial recklessness, fraudulent borrowing and debt management, public assets striping, electoral fraud, shielding of corrupt public officers among others.
“It is a well established fact that corruption thrives well in any environment or society where there is community indifference or lack of enforcement policies. Societies with a culture of ritualized gift giving where the line between acceptable and non-acceptable gifts is often hard to draw. Societies in which values have been overthrown by materialism, societies in which laws are observed more in the breach.
“It would appear that these environmental preconditions are all prevalent in the Nigerian society and no wonder therefore that corruption has found fertile soil to blossom,” Tambuwal noted.
Speaking further, Tambuwal stated that corruption would have reduced in the country if the provisions of legislations passed by the National Assembly were diligently enforced.
He told the gathering that the House was working on some proposals for the reform of the laws with a view to reinforcing the independence of anti-corruption agencies saddled with implementing them.
He, however, absolved the legislature of blame in the growing incidence of corruption in the country, saying: “It is important for me to stress once again at this stage that the mandate of the legislature is to expose corruption. It does not have further mandate to prosecute. That mandate of prosecution lies with the executive and judiciary.”
“I have heard public comments to the effect that the public is tired of investigation by the legislature since the people indicted in their findings are never prosecuted and sanctioned.
“Let me reiterate that the legislature will not abdicate its responsibilities on the account of inaction or negligence of another arm of government. If nothing else, we will at least continue to name and shame,” he added.