Stakeholders proffer solutions to corruption in local councils

A cross-section of participants at the event

A cross-section of participants at the event

THE event was another effort by Lagos-based social rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) at reducing corruption and other inappropriate practices at the local council level as well as improving access to public services, especially for the vulnerable and marginalized sectors of the population such as the poor and women.

Before now, anti-corruption project at the local council level was abysmally poor with greater attention placed on the federal and states governments, even though a lot of corrupt practices occurred at that tier of government.

However, President Mohammadu Buhari’s inaugural speech on the need for the Federal Government to monitor and address corruption at the local council level seemed to be the needed fulcrum upon which the event revolved.

At the event held on Monday in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to discuss the policy statement contained in the inaugural speech, stakeholders drawn from anti corruption agencies, Civil Society Organisations, Community Based Organisations (CBOs), the judiciary and the media called for the establishment of anti-corruption units at the local council level.

They also called for a good public financial management, public procurement and accounting systems to stem the tide of corruption in the local councils.

According to them, there are a lot of leakages in the system that you find it difficult scaring anyone from a leaking or burst pipe.

Apart from the need to block the leakages, the stakeholders also sought a collaboration with civil society organisations to ensure the implementation of extant laws on corruption as well as a security check for aspiring office holders in the local councils.

Stakeholders, who spoke at the event include Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), representative of Ekpo Nta, the Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Head of Investigations of the Commission, Kayode Adedayo, Yomi Giwa, a retired Magistrate and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s Head of Prosecution Lagos office, Gholahan Latona.

For Adedayo, there was the need to strengthen the nation’s institutions as well as improve budgeting and budget control to tackle corruption in the country.

The ICPC investigator, who spoke on “Approaches/Strategies for combating impunity for Local Council Corruption: The Role of ICPC”, regretted that lack of finance and manpower has hampered the operations of the commission, which had between 700 to 800 officials to serve 200 million Nigerians.

He called for the independence of the local council and the abolition of the State/Local Council Joint Account system to allow for effectiveness since most of the funds due to the local council rarely get to them.

Latona, who represented the Chairman of the anti-graft agency, complained that the EFFC is under- funded with less than 5,000 field officers out of the 10,000 personnel to render service to the millions of Nigerians.

He, however, said the agency is working despite all the bottlenecks inhibiting the effectiveness of its operations.

In his remarks, SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said: “Nigeria’s anti-corruption project especially at the local government level is characterized by a general public apathy, and low citizens’ participation in the fight against corruption and in achieving transparent and accountable governance.”

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