Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Monday spoke on the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Saraki said the war under President Muhammadu Buhari had recorded successes and that all Nigerians must play their part to help government and anti-corruption agencies.
In a release by his media office, Monday evening, Saraki answered some questions on what the legislature was doing to curb corruption and highlighted a few things Nigerians must know.
#1 On the Relationship Between Corruption and Development:
“What got me thinking was the chicken and egg puzzle that that statement immediately raises. Do countries become more corrupt because the people are poor or are the people poor because their country is corrupt? We may never be able to answer this question to everybody’s satisfaction.”
#2 On Why Corruption Needs to be Viewed Through the Lens of ‘Human Development’:
“If the purpose of government is to improve the quality of lives of its people, then any conversation about corruption must focus primarily on how it affects human development, whether it is health, wealth or education.”
#3 On the Progress Nigeria Has Made with fighting Corruption Under President Buhari:
“…one area I believe we have made remarkable progress in the past two years of the President Buhari-led administration is that corruption has been forced back to the top of our national political agenda. Every single day, you read the newspapers, you listen to the radio, you go on the internet, you watch the television, the people are talking about it. The people are demanding more openness, more accountability and more convictions. Those of us in government are also responding, joining the conversation and accepting that the basis of our legitimacy as government is our manifest accountability to the people.”
#4 On why Governments Across All Levels Must Join the Fight Against Corruption:
“We acknowledge that if we want Nigerians to trust their government again, then government at all levels must demonstrate that we are not in office for the pursuit of private gains, but to make our people happier by helping them to meet their legitimate aspirations and achieve a higher quality of life…Nigeria and Nigerians have not accepted corruption as normal; we recognize it as a problem; that we are determined to make a break with our past and live by different rules.”
#5 On Why Deterrence is a Better Approach to Fighting Corruption:
I am convinced that we must return to that very basic medical axiom that prevention is better than cure. Perhaps, the reason our fight against corruption has met with rather limited success is that we appeared to have favoured punishment over deterrence… We must review our approaches in favour of building systems that make it a lot more difficult to carry out corrupt acts or to find a safe haven for corruption proceeds within our borders. In doing this, we must continue to strengthen accountability, significantly limit discretion in public spending, and promote greater openness.”
#6 On What the National Assembly is Doing to Fight Corruption:
“We in the National Assembly last week took the first major step in this direction towards greater openness. For the first time in our political history, the budget of the National Assembly changed from a one-line item to a 34-page document that shows details of how we plan to utilize the public funds that we appropriate to ourselves.”
#7 On Anti-Corruption Legislation Being Considered by the Senate:
“At the moment, we are considering for passage into law the following bills:
The Whistleblower Protection bill, which I am confident will be passed not later than July 2017.
The Proceeds of Crime bill
The Special Anti-Corruption Court, which would be done through constitutional amendment and;
The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill. “
#8 On What the National Assembly Intends to do Moving Forward:
“…the National Assembly is driven by the saying that “whoever comes to equity must come with clean hands.” Having demonstrated our commitment to transparency and a more open legislature, we will be operating on a higher moral ground in carrying out our oversight duties as prescribed by the constitution.”
#9 On Bureaucratic Processes and Corruption:
“We need to simplify our bureaucracy and administrative procedures. Because it is in the complexity and red-tapes that corrupt officials profit. However, I also strongly suspect, while not justifying anything, that majority of these low level corruption are largely powered more by need even more than greed.”
#10 On How Providing more Opportunities Nigerians will Fight Corruption:
“If we are able to build a quality public education system, especially at the basic and secondary level, which would not require parent to pay through their nose for their children’s education; if we are able to build an efficient public health system that provide insurance covers to ordinary citizens so that when they fall sick, they can access quality healthcare without running from pillar to post looking for money; if we are able to build a system that guarantees food and shelter to everyone; if we are able to do all these, we would have gone a long way in removing much of the driving force for corruption at this level.”
#11 On Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index:
“On the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. It is important to note… that the year-on-year report does not fully reflect or account for the progress being made in the fight against corruption. I believe the key challenge here is also because ‘perception’ is largely subjective… while relying on perception, I think it is important for TI and other such organisations to improve on their methodology by developing more robust parameters that reflect the progress that some countries are making in respect to corruption.”