The State of Transparency and Accountability in Nigeria: Issues for Media Digest and Understanding
Lead Speaker Presentation at the Media (Tweet) Conference and Dialogue on Transparency, organized by the International Press Centre (IPC) in Lagos-Nigeria, and delivered by Jake Okechukwu Effoduh, Program Officer, representing Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, The Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC).
Tuesday 31st of May 2016
IPC Congress Hall, House 11, Dideolu Court, Ogba-Lagos
- May I on behalf of Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, The Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in whose capacity I humbly present this paper, thank you for the opportunity to speak at this third edition of the media (tweet) conference, especially on such a relevant issue: ‘The State of Transparency and Accountability in Nigeria: Issues for Media Digest and understanding.’
- Transparency and accountability are fundamental pillars of any democratically elected government. These qualities are significant in measuring the successes or otherwise of such a system, and this is where the media comes in: as a catalyst for nation building and as an anti-corruption watchdog.
- The role of the media in promoting transparency and accountability in a country’s democratic process has been demonstrated by the progressive rise in the use of various information technology tools worldwide. As such, the media has a very important role in assisting Nigeria to reposition itself as a country with a strong commitment to good governance by playing an important role of making public officers accountable to the Nigerian people.
- The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria confers this responsibility on the media in section 22 where it obligates the mass media to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people. What this simply means is that the expectation of the media with regards to their contribution to the promotion of transparency and accountability, lies in their ability to put the government under close watch and monitoring.
- I must say that the Nigerian Media, though limited in resources, have managed to keep up to its constitutional mandate quite remarkably. The media has reported corruption cases extensively, and as a result, today, the government is more accountable to its people. Also, citizens have gained insights from the continuous featuring of corruption stories, and the publication of government’s anti-corruption efforts. Notwithstanding these wins, there’s more to do.
- At this point where we are as a nation, we need the media to ceaselessly disseminate information about the developmental costs and evils of corruption in our society. We need the media to anchor its direction towards its famous status as “Fourth Estate of the Realm.” (Meaning the fourth pillar in support of the essential tripods of government). We need the media to re-embrace its fundamental role, not only of performing checks and balances on the other three arms in the process of governance, but to also interpret the activities, programs and policies of government to the citizens.
- Social media has effectively challenged the communication monopoly of the government as well as huge media corporations. Irrespective of the negative vibe some people may have about social media, it eliminates several obstacles faced in the fight against corruption and has elevated citizens from being mere observers to news reporters. For example, on a few occasions, Nigerians have captured images and visuals of policemen and other government officials soliciting and receiving gratification, and in some of these instances this forms part of journalistic material. In fact, it has sometimes led to the sanctioning of some officials. Whistle blowers in the media industry should emulate this in cases of large-scale corruption.
- Now on the Federal Government’s commitment to transparency and accountability in Nigeria, it is certain that the concepts of transparency and accountability are at the heart of many recent high-profile initiatives, ranging from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability. Promoting transparency and accountability by exploring innovative solutions, new technologies and strengthening international cooperation, will help in substantially reducing corruption and bribery in all forms. Against this background, to foster transparency and accountability, the Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to the following:
- One, the Federal Government of Nigeria has signed the Open Government Partnership initiative making it the 12th African nation to join this partnership. The Open Government Partnership would ensure transparency in the management of natural resources and public funds as well as strengthen citizen engagement in the activities of government.
- Two, the Federal Government of Nigeria has also committed to the Open Contracting initiative, an approach whereby transparency frameworks are applied to procurement systems in obligated countries. This initiative would increase beneficial ownership transparency. What open contracting does is that it ensures accurate and timely basic and beneficial ownership information is collected, available and fully accessible to those who have a legitimate need for it.
- Three, the Open Contracting initiative would involve the establishment of a public central registry of company beneficial ownership information and an Open Contracting Data Standards system, which Nigeria is committed to doing. Beneficial ownership information can be used effectively to detect and fight corruption. Ultimately, this will help in identifying several individuals that are hidden behind corporate vehicles, while laundering public funds in offshore territories.
- Four, The Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to the implementation of the new 2016 EITI standards. TheEITI Standard outlines the requirements applicable to countries implementing the EITI. FGN, together with the UK, Switzerland, Nigeria, Norway, Australia, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Germany have committed to the need for extractives trading transparency. This will enhance company disclosure regarding payments to government for the sale of oil, gas and minerals and to explore the scope for a common global reporting standard on extractives trading.
- Five, the President has called for the establishment of an international anti – corruption infrastructure that will monitor, trace and facilitate the return of the country’s stolen assets.
These are only but a few key examples of the government’s commitment to accountability and transparency.
- In concluding this address Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe the media can still play a more effective role in the quest for a transparent and accountable government especially by following professional standards. In particular, the media needs to show more commitment to the universal ethics of the profession with strong attachment to the sacredness of facts. As an important mechanism for achieving transparency and accountability in any democratic system, the media should not be selective in their reporting rather they should strive to maintain objectivity and verify facts before publishing any story.
- Our people say that wisdom is like a baobab tree – no one individual can embrace it. It is against this background that we must all work together as partners to establish a more transparent and accountable Nigeria. I thank you all for listening.
FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION: WHAT THE PUBLIC AND THE MEDIA SHOULD KNOW BY SAMIN AMADDIN, HEAD OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, EFCC LAGOS OFFICE
Let me begin by saying a very big ‘Thank You’ to the organizers of this event for this privilege given me, which I deeply consider an Honour to contribute my view on the fight against corruption in Nigeria. I also want to thank them for this demonstration of concern to our present national plight by raising a platform like this for people to rub minds on the way forward to winning the war against the corruption scourge in our country , Nigeria.
The topic ‘Fight against corruption: what the public and the media should know’, is very apt and timely, especially now that our nation is in dire need of direction, information and ideas that can help in taking us out of the present socio – economic quagmire, even the economic recession.
ISSUES OF CORRUPTION
Corruption is a word that has been widely discussed. Defining corruption these days is like spreading a common rumour known to everyone in the community. It is no longer news that corruption is a concommitant of economic and financial crimes. It is well known that corruption is related to dishonesty, illegality and immoral behaviour by persons entrusted with authority, especially when such powers are used for personal gains. It can aso be perpetrated by persons without authority or trust.
Corruption is about perversion and subversion of established rules and regulations and the deliberate disregard for or outright negation of values of honesty, transparency, accountability and probity.
The ICPC Act 2000 links corruption with bribery, fraud and related offences like gratification, including offer or promise or receipt or demand of money, donation, gift, loan, fee, reward, valuable security, property or interest in property with intent to influence such a person in the performance of his or her duties.
Whereas the EFCC Act 2004, further widens the scope of corruption, as it encapsulates economic and financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit fraud, cyber crime, contract scam, etc.
From the above, three things come to the fore;
- That, corruption is a dishonest act, wicked and bad
- That corruption is immoral and anti – thetical to the positive virtues of society.
- That corruption involves abuse and misuse of authority and society.
As a nation, Nigeria has seen the worst of corrupt practices by those appointed into public offices; those operating in the private sector; by wayward youths and everyone that has acted in ways and manners contrary to public good. Everything that is not working around us are not working owing to corruption. Everyone that is also not delivering on our expectations are not delivering solely because of corrupt practices.
Today, our infrastructures are fallen and those not yet fallen are dysfunctional. We are subjected to all manner of stress and frustration everywhere we turn because we have sacrificed our God given resources on the altar of corruption. We are struggling to live not because the Almighty creator designed life to be a matter of struggle but because we have abused the principles laid down for our welfare and comfort. This is the reality of our situation.
Looking at our economy, should we have been in recession at all? Should we have been a debtor nation? Should hunger, unemployment, starvation, poverty, insecurity, terrorism and other evils be an experience we battle on a daily basis? Should our children be out of school at all because of prohibitive tution fees? Should our roads be gutters and craters of death? Should the sick battle additional sickness of comatose health facilities in our hospitals? Should our life expectancy be so low as it is now? All these are the wages of corruption. They are the avoidable evils we are bringing upon ourselves by breaking rules of truth and integrity.
Now, let us take a step forward:
What are the things the public should know about corruption? The public should know that:
First, corruption is a war against our nation. Why is it so? It is so because, corruption causes desolation, misery, deprivation, destruction and death in the way war does. Poverty is as a result of corrupt practices in our midst. Is any evil more heinous than poverty? By stealing and appropriating public resources into private uses, we make the rest of the nation poor. We subject the rest of our people to unnecessary discontent, all becasue of corrupt tendencies. The onus is on all of us to fight the monster of corruption because we are all suffering its unsavoury effects.
Two, corruption shrinks space for growth and development. But for the corrupt acts of some people in our midst, Nigeria would have become a global player. Resources needed to expand the productive base of the economy are no longer available because of their theft by those disposed to corruption. As members of the public that have a stake in the development of our nation, we have a responsibility to check any form of corruption around us.
Three, corruption exposes the nation to insecurity. We all know what security challenges we have as a nation. Kidnapping, abduction, armed robbery and terrorism are results of corrupt practices. Criminal elements seeking redress in their own ways are encouraged by the corrupt acts of many of us. Ordinarily, Nigeria ought not to be in this precarious security state. Social inequality, caused by corruption, is at the root of all kinds of insecurity in our nation. Again, as members of the public suffering the deleterious effects of these crimes, we have a duty to confront their primary cause which is corruption.
Four, corruption by public office holders is fueled by unrealistic and fraudulent expectations by the public. Most times, we make absurd demands from public office holders and expect them to meet those demands. How will such demands be met? Why should we base our expectations on such office holders? For example, what do we mean by national cake in Nigeria? Who is baking the cake? Who should share the cake? These are all questions we need to answer as members of the public. Politicians are meant to be representatives of their people. They are not meant to be soldiers hunting for spoils of war.
What should the media know?
The place of the Media in the anti corruption context is like that of the Bini king, made from heaven. Although regarded as the 4th estate in constitutional recognizance, its position is unshakable as the other three have unpredictable life spans. It is not by accident that the Contitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria obliges the Media with the responsibility of fighting corruption in society. The constitution also allows the executive, legislature and judiciary such roles; but conscious of the ‘JP Clark’s Abikuness’ (coming and going these several seasons) nature of these three arms, bestowed on the Media the power of the Watchdog! Section 22 clearly states, “.. shall at all times be Free to … uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”. It went further insection 39 to state that, “every person is entitled to freedom of expresion including freedom to hold opinion, receive and impart information without interference”.
Our concern here, is to ask, how has the media fared with this authority. What, where, why, who, when and how has it used this power? Or is it a case of the child who does not recognize his princely heritage and decides to mingle with and be treated like the slave? Where and when did it go wrong?
The relevance of the media to our survival as a nation cannot be under – estimated. The me must begin to assume its role of setting the agenda for anti corruption through investigative journalism and validation of stories whether leaks or scoops.
There should be more collaboration among journalists in order to have a formidable front against our common enemies, those powerful individuals and groups who have been manipulating the media, capitalizing on the weakness and disunity of media institutions and practitioners.
As gatekeepers, the media must be involved in all phases of national development, in which the fight against corruption is central.
The public relies on media reports and commetaries to form opinions. We must not fail to inform and educate rightly; to mobilize the people to embrace the fight against corrption
WINNING THE WAR
The next important question should be ‘how do we, as a people overcome this pervading problem’. Our focus as citizens, should be what roles we can play in order to win the war against corruption.
We should not forget too quickly to commend the democratic dispensation of Olusegun Obasanjo administration which commenced in 1999. The government demonstrated a strong political will to fight corruption, economic and financial crimes, by instituting several reforms to revitalize the economy and reposition the country in the path of sustainable development. Such efforts led to the creation of some agencies like the ICPC, SERVICOM, EFCC, DUE PROCESS OFFFICE, BUREAU OF PUBLIC PROCUREMENT, NEITI and strenghtening of others like the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal, to mention a few. Irrespective of whatever cynics of that regime adjudge, it is pertinent to agree that the attempt midwived the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, whose activity or operation today, is now regarded as the begining of wisdom in some circles.
Corruption cannot be sufficiently tackled by anti-graft agencies or other security agencies alone. Every member of the public must see the anti- graft war as their fight and key into it. Until we develop a collective sense of responsibility to confront corruption, we may not succeed in destroying its evils in our midst. Since corruption affects all of us and make all of us vulnerable, it is expedient that we fight it together.
We need to treat whistle blowing as a responsibility, not a favour to security agencies. By so doing, we will not be demanding for gratification of any form from the agencies. Every information we have about a corrupt act around us must be made available to anti-graft agencies. By so doing, we will be helping them to do their jobs better. The outcome of every successful act of whistle blowing is a blow against corrupt practices and we should desire such a blow all the time.
In conclusion, we cannot over- do any anti- corruption work. Fraudulent people across the globe are proactive and inventive. Their methods of criminality change every moment. To beat them, therefore, we must be painstaking and tenacious. This is the only winning magic.
We can overcome fraud and shadiness. We can overcome greed and graft, but we can only overcome if we build strength against them together.
We will win, only if we fight together.
Thank you and God bless Nigeria
MEDIA AND TRANSPARENCY
Transparency in Nigeria: Reviewing the Frameworks for Sustainable Anti-Corruption Campaign.
By Mac Malachi of Committee for the defense of Human rights (CDHR)
One of the greatest threats to the economic and political development of any nation is corruption. The challenges of corruption remain a major issue facing many African countries including Nigeria. Since the return of the country to civil rule in 1999, the Nigerian government has taken several measures to address the problems of corruption and bad governance in the country. These measures include public service reform through reduction of waste, reform of public procurement, establishment of anti-corruption enforcement agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission. Even with these measures, corruption remains a major problem in Nigeria. Against this backdrop, this presentation will attempt to discuss the role of the media in ensuring that a suitable and sustainable framework is adopted in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
The United Nations Global Programme Against Corruption (GPAC) defines corruption as an “abuse of power for private gain”. In other words, use of official position, rank or status by a public servant or someone in a position of authority for personal benefit. Essentially, it is an act done with the intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others.
Following from this definition, examples of corrupt behaviour include: (a) bribery, (b) extortion, (c) fraud, (d) embezzlement, (e) nepotism, (f) cronyism, (g) appropriation of public assets and property for private use, and (h) influence peddling etc
EFFECT OF CORRUPTION
- Corruption undermines human development and democracy. It reduces access to public services by diverting public resources for private gain.The real costs of corruption were highlighted by the UN Secretary-General in his 2009 statement for the International Anti-Corruption Day:”When public money is stolen for private gain, it means fewer resources to build schools, hospitals, roads and water treatment facilities. When foreign aid is diverted into private bank accounts, major infrastructure projects come to a halt. Corruption enables fake or substandard medicines to be dumped on the market, and hazardous waste to be dumped in landfill sites and in oceans. The vulnerable suffer first and worst.”
- Corruption hinders economic development by distorting markets and damaging private sector integrity for example the LIBOR Scandal in the US and Europe.
- Corruption also strikes at the heart of democracy by attacking the rule of law, democratic institutions and public trust in leaders. For the poor, women and minorities, corruption means even less access to jobs, justice or any fair and equal opportunity.
To combat this global menace of corruption, the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly through Resolution 58/4 in 2003. UNCAC is the first legally binding instrument against corruption.
It presents a comprehensive set of standards, measures and rules that all state parties to the convention should apply to strengthen their legal and regulatory regimes to fight corruption. Nigeria is a party to the convention. Nigeria signed the convention 9 December 2003 and then ratified it on 14 December 2004.
To give effect to the convention, the Nigerian government under Obasanjo established the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). However, corruption has continued to grow unabated and is still an issue in Nigeria. There is no doubt that Corruption is prevalent on all three arms of government in Nigeria. For example, various state governments and past leaders in Nigeria stealing from the public purse or accepting bribes, Farouq Lawan and Otedola case, recent arrest of judges for corrupt behaviour in office etc.
ROLE OF MEDIA IN FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
There are three major pillar in every democratic society, providing checks and balances on each other. They are, the Legislative, executive and judiciary. These pillars conduct, regulate and control the democratic nation. In addition to these pillars, the media serves as a fourth pillar of democracy. The media serves as a watchdog and monitors the working of various private and government institutions. The effect of this is that a greater level of accountability and transparency becomes the norm.
In ensuringa sustainable framework is adopted in the fight against corruption in Nigeria, the media should be bold in exposing corrupt practices through investigative journalism, public debates etc. Legislative change and institutional oversight are important cornerstones in the fight against corruption. However, no law will change society if it does not become part of a country’s culture and people’s everyday lives. Corruption is not a legal issue alone; it is also an issue of society. It is a social, political and economic problem. In order to fight corruption, we need to change the culture that enables corruption, not only the laws that prohibit it. Corrupt practices are often embedded in institutional practices and everyday lives. The problem this creates is that people become tolerant to corruption, incompetence and unethical behavior by public officials, from petty everyday corruption to minor deviations from the rules for thebenefit of an individual or a small group of people. This breeds an entrenched culture of corrupt practices that becomes a norm in our country.This is where the Media’s role as the 4th pillar comes to play by exposing corrupt practices and educating members of the public of their rights. The media influences our perceptions of what is right and what is wrong. They make politicians pay attention throughwidespread coverage in various social media outlets.
Furthermore, the media can provide a platform for citizens to voice their opinions and demand accountability from those in power. In the modern media environment, the effects of traditional media on our norms and culture have been enhanced by new communication technologies in the form of social media such as twitter, facebook etc. There is no doubt that information and communication technologies have become an integral part of today’s media sphere. In many cases, traditional and new media reinforce each other and amplify each other’s effects: Television takes up stories from the web and brings them to theattention of a larger audience. New stories from the traditional media are discussed online thereby reaching a larger audience. It is therefore important that the agencies set up by the government i.e.the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), in the fight against corruption work with the media to gain public support for their work, and to work towards changing perceptions, norms, behavior and culture.
FREEDOM OF MEDIA
To avoid some of the common difficulties faced by the media in the fight against corruption, the government through the Jonathan administration introduced the Freedom of Information Act. The Act guarantees the right to information within the control of public institutions to all Nigerians. The effect of this is that, journalists can obtain the facts they need to do their job. This protects the media as they can have evidence of the statements they are publishing.The Act in effect is a viable tool in the hands of the media in holding the government to account, which in effect encourages a greater level of transparency. However, it is important to note that there are some drawbacks to the Act
- for it to be an effective tool in holding those in authority to account, the Acts needs to be implemented by all states in Nigeria.
- The public needs to be made aware of the act. Access to information represents the basic tool for development and good governance. It empowers members of the public and the spillover effect of this is that it encourages individuals to actively participate in public policydebates, public services delivery, and the monitoring and management of public goods and services.
- The process of applying and obtaining this information can involve a bureaucratic, cumbersome, and relatively expensive process for members of the public. It is therefore important that the media lobby the government to ensure unnecessary red tapes in terms of the process is done away with.
Article 19 of the universal declaration of human rights states that “The right to freedom of opinion and expression includes the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Freedom of information is a cornerstone of democracy, participation and good governance.When more information is available from the government, it is less likely to be able to act illegally. Open public sector information enhances social welfare, as citizens become better able to make informed decisions about their daily life, how to access public services which they are entitled to and knowing how to seek redress when those in authority deny them of those social services through for example diverting funds meant to supply those services. The media may not necessarily be the traditional tools in the fight against corruption. However, they are crucial in achieving the cultural change that must accompany any legislative change to make laws and institutional changes sustainable. The Media can amplify the effect of anticorruption legislation by:
- a) reaching and mobilizing a broader audience through social media platform such as twitter, facebook,Instagram etc
- b) Challenging political leaders to act, and
- c) facilitating a cultural change that will improve the sustainability of change thorough investigative journalism.
The Media have an important role to play in terms of changing people’s beliefs about the prevalence of
Corruption in Nigeria and the need not to accept it as the way things are done. The media’s ability to change perceptions, norms, and behavior is at the core of their relevance for the fight against corruption. Every society is built on norms as it regulates the way we interact with each other. Research has shown that behavior is influenced mainly by our perception of norms: the norms that we accept for ourselves and the norms that we believe the people around us apply to their ownbehavior. Whether people accept corruption, go along with it, or stand up against it depends on whether we are aware that corruption is wrong and whether we believe that other people think that corruption is wrong too.
Access to information increases public awareness of government policies, reforms, initiatives, and service delivery
mechanisms. The media can help facilitate public access to information through reporting on issues and policies which have effect on people’s lives. This effectively empower members of the public with the knowledge they need and encourages a greater degree of accountability from the government in terms of their actions and performance.The Media can put pressure on government to reform the capacity of its public information systems, for example through making public information centers accessible to members of the public. Information produced by public servants should be available to the public. Any formal exceptions preventing citizens from accessing public information should be well justified. The governments should expand access to public information resources and reassess existing policies and practices for making information more available. All publicly funded organizations should provide open access to publications and public databases as a process of engaging the public and the media can be a driving force for this by lobbying the government to ensure this happens.
There is no doubt that the media has an important role to play in the fight against corruption. The media effectively serve as the nation’s conscience/moral compass through its role as the 4th pillar of our democracy by scrutinizing the three arms of government and holding those in authority to account. Through investigative journalism, the media provide a platform to fight corruption by exposing bad governance, social injustice and breach of rights of individuals. In effect, the media serve as a watchdog. Given the important role the media plays in terms of combating corruption in Nigeria, their ability to effectively carry out this important role is not without hiccups. We live in an era where the various means of communicating is very quick and the issue of competition within the media industry effectively favours speed. The effect of this is that some of the information provided by the media becomes fragmented and leaves no time for detailed and in depth analysis. This can be a problem given that in reporting on issues of corruption, the media do certainly influence the opinions of the public on these issues. The recent US election provides a perfect example where fake news had a negative impact on how people voted.There is therefore an implied duty of care on the media to ensure that in fighting against corruption, the information put out there must be correct and thoroughly researched even in this age of fast media.
The advocacy role of the media in terms of holding the government and those in office accountable, could be compromised as some of the proprietors of these media outlets have always been involved in politics and power struggle, which may call into question the integrity of the media and its ability to be objective in reporting/exposing issues of injustice, political transgressions of those in authority, etc., and as such, there needs to be a balance.