The host governor, Sir Ikedi Ohakim did not mince words when he called for the establishment of special courts to try economic and financial crimes cases.According to him, “ the war against corruption is unwittingly sabotaged by the state if the EFCC and ICPC have to queue in regular courts with their cases. If this war against corruption must be won, the federal government must, as a matter of urgency, establish special economic and financial crimes courts for speedy prosecution and conviction of offenders. There are just too many people who should be behind bars, but who are roaming the streets, strutting across our political landscape and causing confusion! Desperate situations demand desperate solutions.”
Beside the call for special courts, Ohakim also called for an effective tax system as a means of curbing corruption in the country. “ It is my candid opinion that if the EFCC must succeed, there must be an effective tax system in the country. Most countries with low level of corruption have very effective and stringent tax systems which moderate people’s social behaviour and reduce the incentive for obsessive acquisition, conspicuous consumption and vulgar display of wealth. Indeed with effective tax system, it will be difficult to hide stolen wealth and the job of the EFCC will be made easier.
“ If you do not pay tax, it is regarded as economic crime and the EFCC sends you to jail. If, as an organization you collect income or withholding tax and do not remit it to the government, your organization is sanctioned while you go to jail. If, on the other hand, you donate to charitable causes, foundations or endow chairs in the universities, you get a tax break. This way, it becomes more difficult to hide or spend stolen or even legitimately earned wealth without the society taking it off you!”, the governor argued.
Speaking in the same vein, the immediate past president of Ghana, John Kufuor and former vice president, Dr Alex Ekwueme challenged Nigerians on the need to see the war against graft being championed by the EFCC as theirs if the future of the country is to be secured.
While delivering the keynote address at the occasion, President Kufuor commended the EFCC “for its foresight and vision” in insisting that nothing short of the public ownership of the war against corruption would succeed in tackling the menace of corrupt practices. The solution to corruption, he said, “must rest with the entire population, not leadership alone”, adding that “Citizens must demand accountability from public office holders.”
According to him, “in doing this we must recognize that fighting corruption is not an event but a process and the starting point must be the national constitution. The constitution must be the supreme law and the reference point of the social order. As such, it must guarantee the rule of law and due process to protect human right and the equality of citizens before the law.
“Whilst the enforcement of the anti –corruption regime must be done by independent state institution which are set up for the purpose, the role of the individual in triggering and sustaining the process cannot be underestimated.
“In this regard, every citizen must be a watchdog in exposing corrupt practices. This will be possible when the state follows up in earnest and takes the necessary measures to see the process through while protecting the individual.”
While also commending the EFCC for the initiative, Kufuor said, “that the Commission has found it necessary to describe the campaign as a revolution, shows how concerned the people of Nigeria are to the fight, the perceived widespread canker within the community. By this launch, Nigeria is declaring its commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder with the vanguard of nations and organizations that have pitched in against the threat to the wholesome development of nations and societies.”
“This theme (The Imperative of Citizens Involvement in Anti- Corruption Crusade) captures the fact that corruption occurs at all levels of society and in all fields of human endeavour, and that the search for its solutions must rest with the entire population and not leadership alone. I believe that this point is being made very forcefully to the good people of Nigeria by the hosting of today’s historic function in Owerri, instead of Abuja, the federal capital. I congratulate the EFCC, and in particular the organizers of the programme on their foresight. I do believe that henceforth, the people of Imo state and Owerri will have a special sense of ownership of this national crusade and be at the forefront of it.
“This is because for any anti-corruption crusade to be successful, it is indeed imperative that the citizen is involved. Whilst a constitution based on the basic tenets of the rule of law, due process and multi-party democracy is the starting point for the establishment of a society of integrity, the role of a citizen in bearing his or her civic responsibilities and also in electing good and responsible people into government at all levels cannot be overemphasized. The citizen must also demand accountability from elected officials and public officers. Such officials and public servants must in turn appreciate that they are in a position of trust and are there to serve the public and must therefore avoid situations of conflict of interest”, he added.
Also in his remarks, Chairman of the occasion, former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme lauded the EFCC for the ANCOR concept. He said that the revolution was relevant at this point in the life of the nation because “most Nigerians agree that corruption has deprived Nigeria of resources that could have been used for national development.” He explained that greed and lack of contentment are responsible for corrupt practices and that a revolution of the form and mould of ANCOR would go a long way in sensitizing Nigerians to the evils of corruption.
Babafemi is of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)