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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

US Report Classifies 'Nigeria as Corrupt’


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John Kerry
  •   Due process saves FG N95.7bn in fourth quarter
Nduka Nwosu in Washington and James Emejo 
Nigeria has been classified as a corrupt country with a poor governance record, while discrimination against women, the less privileged, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is common place.
This is coming on the heels of the disclosure by the Director-General, Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Mr. Emeka Ezeh that N95.79 billion was saved through the implementation of due diligence in public contracting and procurement in the fourth quarter of last year.
United States Secretary of State, John Kerry made the corruption allegations on Thursday in his well- advertised “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” which he presented at the Press Briefing Room of the State Department in Washington.
Kerry warned that the US was not acting out of arrogance but to plug the pitfalls arising from its experiment at home and help the human race against making avoidable mistakes.
“Even as we come together today to issue a report on other nations, we hold ourselves to a high standard and we expect accountability here at home too.  And we know that we’re not perfect. We don’t speak with any arrogance whatsoever, but with a concern for the human condition,” the Secretary of State said.
This year’s report, he stressed, “is especially timely coming on the heels of one of the most momentous years in the struggle for greater rights and freedoms in modern history.”
Confirming an earlier report by THISDAY that the US would give Nigeria a minus in its country report on gay rights and extra-judicial killings, Kerry said: “From Nigeria to Russia to Iran, indeed in some 80 countries the world over, LGBT communities face discriminatory laws and practices that attack their basic human dignity and undermine their safety.
“We are seeing new laws like the Anti-Homosexuality Bill enacted by Uganda and signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni earlier this week, which not only makes criminals of people for who they are, but punishes those who defend the human rights that are our universal birthright,” Kerry said
The more than 20,000 words document  touched on virtually every aspect of Nigeria’s constitution while most of the time scoring the country poorly for its performance, taking a huge swipe on the anti-corruption agencies-the EFCC, ICPC and the Police.
The report which ranked the EFCC’s commitment to the anti-corruption war higher than that of the ICPC said Ibrahim Lamorde’s efforts at prosecuting offenders were frustrated along the way.
“The anticorruption efforts of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and EFCC remained largely ineffectual. The ICPC holds broad authorities to prosecute all forms of corruption, whereas the EFCC is tasked with handling only financial crimes. Despite this wider mandate, the ICPC had achieved only 68 convictions since its inauguration in 2000.”
Repeating its earlier disapproval of President Goodluck Jonathan’s pardon of former Bayelsa State governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, it noted that Police corruption remained rampant. “In January, the police released a new code of conduct, which includes provisions on officer integrity. The police did not report any enforcement actions related to the code of conduct.”
It condemned the impunity with which officials of the Nigerian government allegedly frequently engaged in corrupt practices at all levels with the police and security forces factored in, wondering why the constitution provides immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for the president, vice president, governors, and deputy governors while in office.
On the issue of declaration of assets, the country report did not spare President Goodluck Jonathan for not disclosing his assets.
Financial disclosure law, it said, requires public officials, including the president, vice president, governors, deputy governors, cabinet ministers, and legislators (at both federal and state levels), to declare their assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau before assuming and after leaving office with violators risking prosecution. However, it lamented, cases rarely came to conclusion.
“The president had not published information on his assets as of year’s end,” insisting the law required declaration of assets but not publication of the report.
The report listed an array of cases left hanging including that of former Bayelsa State governor Timipre Sylva for allegedly laundering over N5 billion; the yet to be tried John Yakubu Yusuf who is alleged to have embezzled N2 billion from the Police Pension Fund; Farouk Lawan who was also alleged to have solicited bribe from Zenon boss Femi Otedola.
Lamorde, according to the report, seemed to have been constrained “by the fact he is being tele-guided by those that put him in office, on who to arrest and prosecute while his efforts at trying 12 prominent public officials met a brick wall with several frustrating setbacks during the year.”
The report continued: “Despite the arrest of several high-ranking officials by the EFCC, including Dimeji Bankole and Hassan Lawal, who have been left off the hook, allegations continued that agency investigations targeted individuals who had fallen out of favour with the government, while those who were in favour continued their activities with impunity.”
In conclusion, Kerry summarised once more the reason for his country report exercise: “This is about accountability.  It’s about ending impunity.  And it’s about a fight that has gone on for centuries, as long as human beings have been able to think and write and speak and act on their own.
“And so, the United States of America will continue to speak out, without a hint of arrogance or apology, on behalf of people who stand up for their universal rights.  And we will stand up in many cases for those who are deprived of the opportunity to be able to stand up for themselves.”
The Director-General of BPP was speaking in Abuja yesterday while receiving a delegation from the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), said the amount saved could boost the provision of critical infrastructure in sectors including education, energy and health amid high expectations for quality service delivery in the country.
Eze further explained that the money was generated through the discharge of the agency's responsibility of regulating the process of public procurement to ensure contract awards were transparent and competitive.
In a statement signed by its spokesman, Mr. Tommy Odemwing, President of NIESV, Mr. Emeka Eleh, however, commended Eze for transforming the public procurement process in the country.
He also urged the BPP to ensure that non-registered estate surveyors and valuers were excluded from functioning as facility managers and estate agents.
He further urged the procurement agency to demand personal income tax certificates from surveyors and valuers in place of company tax clearance certificates for procurement of contracts.
Meanwhile, Ezeh had in May last  revealed that a total of N572 billion was saved through due diligence in public contracting system since it was established in 2007.
He had told journalists that about N122 billion was realised in 2012 while about N450 billion was saved between 2007 and 2011.
He said: “We are gratified as a nation that we have embraced the path of procurement for our socio-economic and political development. More than 10 years after the commencement of the reform, and barely five years after the public procurement Act, 2007, we have continued to consolidate on our gains, while charting new paths to the institutionalisation of methods in the public contracting process.
According to him: "As stakeholders in the implementation of the Act, we have to establish a synergy so that we can properly ensure that all hands are on deck in our bid to stamp out corruption through best procurement practices."
“This responsibility enshrined in section 5(h) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, expects the bureau to maintain a national database of the particulars of federal contractors and service providers for ease of information sourcing and analysis and in conformity with the needs of the new Information Age," he added.

ThisDay

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