Oby Ezekwesili, the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, has said that one of the challenges confronting Nigeria remains transparent leadership.
She said this during a visit to her by Peter Eigen, the Visioner and Founder of Transparency International, in Nigeria.
Ezekwesili noted that fighting corruption in Nigeria required a a proactive process, building strong and impartial organisations headed by utmost professionals.
She said, “Corruption is arguably Nigeria’s most visible problem, and a war against it has been a tool for opportunistic politicians who lack the track record, political will or even technical know-how to tackle this.
“Tackling corruption requires proactive approaches. First, value reorientation, which will be led by the highest political authority in the land, being the president. Hence, ensuring the election of a credible, untainted president is critical to tackling corruption.
“Secondly, prevention through reduction of opportunities for corruption, through public sector reforms, which improves public financial management and also reduces the role of government in the economy. This means reviving the role of the audit agencies and processes across the public sector. Also strengthening agencies like the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) by reviewing and updating their laws for effectiveness.
“Finally, effective sanctions on corruption and impunity by reversing the aberrant status quo where there is freedom to engage in corrupt practices without consequences. This will require providing agencies the capacity to detect, investigate and prosecute corruption.”
The presidential candidate also expressed displeasure with the ineffectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act, saying it was encouraging poor accountability in governance.
“There are two laws that deserve significant focus because they hold significant potential to tackle corruption but have been hindered from functioning to their fullest capacity: the Freedom of Information Act and the Electoral Act. Ensuring that stringent penalties are placed on bodies that refuse to or hinder the process to release information that the public request is critical to improving transparency and fighting corrupt practices.
“We will simplify the process of making an FoI request, by allowing online applications and tracking the time that it takes to respond to them. This is an initiative that will be executed,” she added.
It will be recalled that Ezekwesili was the pioneer head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit (aka Due Process Unit). It was in this position that she earned the title of ‘Madam Due Process’ for the outstanding work she led a team of professionals to do in sanitising public procurement at the federal level in Nigeria.
As witnessed by journalists and members of the Obiageli Ezekwesili Campaign Organisation – HOPE 2019, Eigen reminisced over the years he worked with Ezekwesili to bring global attention to the menace of corruption.
He praised her for the courage of taking on anti-corruption and demand for transparency during the regime of a brutal dictatorship.
The Transparency International boas remembered Ezekwesili’s role in the innovation of TI’s Corruption Perception Index and her becoming the organisation’s global voice, “thereby reflecting how seriously citizens of African countries want the world to tackle corruption.”
He then praised her far reaching work as one who led the first country design and implementation of the EITI principles when as chairperson of NEITI, they went beyond the basic publishing of revenues received and paid between government and oil or mining companies.
“NEITI broadened the initiative to process and physical audits of NNPC/ Ministry of Petroleum, IOCs and NOCs, which were all then published on the Internet. It was for that work we were recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize,” a statement from HOPE 2019 read.
According to Eigen, he is happy that Ezekwesili is running for the office of the President of Nigeria.
He wished her success in the elections, saying, “It will be so much easier for Nigeria to be committed in tackling her systemic corruption challenge and become a model of transparency.”
Eigen added that he would be watching the elections with keen interest.