I often wonder if Nigeria can be really purged of corruption, but I never get any headway because everyone around me seems to support the fact that corruption cannot leave this country. They hold this view (and I quite agree) because they believe corruption is deeply seeded even in a kid as young as five. We are all holy when we are not in a position of power, influence and money. This invariably means no one can claim not be involved in corruption one way or the other.
Finance Minister, Okonjo Iweala doesn’t seem to share the same view with me on why corruption persists, or does she?
A lack of institutions, systems and processes to block and prevent corruption, alongside the problem of impunity in Nigeria, is basically the reason that corruption has been so hydra-headed in the country and needs to be cracked and tackled, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said.
Speaking at a forum organized by the Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria under the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), with the theme, “Blocking Leakages in the Economy Amidst Dwindling Oil Revenue,” Okonjo-Iweala said that corruption in Nigeria needed to be tackled from the root causes while technology must be deployed to block leakages in the economy.
“That is what this administration is doing, tackling the root cause of corruption,” she explained. “The problem is that we have been looking at the symptoms and not the causes of the disease. The cause of the disease is that we don’t have the institutions, systems and processes to block and prevent corruption in the first place, that is the only difference between us and people abroad.
“So if we arrest people for being wrong, which we must, I believe that impunity in the country has to be tackled, but behind that impunity, if you don’t do something to stop the sources, the next set of people will also come. Today, about 14 people are standing trial over the pension scam.
“We have a system that is cash-based, but we have introduced Government Integrated Financial Management System. 14 agencies in December tried to pay more than what was programmed but the system locked them out and this led to the delay of their staff salaries until the agencies were restored manually. We have been able to weed out 62, 892 ghost workers and saving about N209 billion.”
Earlier, the CBCN Secretary General, Rev Fr Ralph Madu, observed that the negative reports about the nation’s economy call for concern, and that Nigeria will not turn into a failed state, stressing that the government needed to collaborate with the church in areas of comparative advantage.
Also speaking, the Executive Secretary, Caritas Nigeria, Rev Fr Everistus Bassey, argued that economic progress should not be measured solely by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Rather, but the well-being of a nation should be measured by a series of indicators linked to social protection systems.
Such includes access to quality services, decent work, adequate, safe and nutritious food, adequate housing, personal safety and basic income security, as well as a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”
“I am not saying that 2.7 is a good score, Nigeria needs to move to 6 or 7. Even if we don’t have perfection, we must not sell to our children a score of 2.7, we must fight to move that number.”
Okonjo-Iweala explained that a growing economy that does not touch people’s lives is not the type desired. However, she noted that if the economy does not grow, poverty cannot be addressed. Therefore, “we must focus on centres that create jobs, that is the way to tackle poverty.
“Agriculture promises to be a sector that could be used to address poverty but it has to be made attractive. Housing has a social impact – it puts a roof over your head and gives you a stake. We need to create an institution that would pump in liquidity into the housing sector.
“We want to create about 200,000 mortgages annually, we need evidence-based discussions in the country, we need to promote entrepreneurship; 5,400 entrepreneurs have been created by the present administration. We are also supporting the manufacturing sector to create decent jobs.”
More so, “the Nigerian economy as at today is diversified, what is not diversified is the source of income as oil contributes 70 per cent of the nation’s revenue. We need to broaden our tax base, audit and look at those abusing exemptions. We gave ourselves a target of recovering N70 billion but recovered over N100 billion. That is an example of how we are blocking leakages.”
On excess crude account, the minister said: “They said we should not save, that the rainy days are already here and we should share the excess crude money.”
What do you think?