A human rights activist, Femi Falana, on Monday said the extensive corruption that has eaten deep into Nigeria’s fabric could be reversed if citizens speak out against the practice.
Mr Falana spoke while delivering the keynote address at the launch of ‘Upright for Nigeria; Stand Against Corruption Campaign’ by the Center for Communication and Social Impact in Lagos.
The campaign is one of the projects of Strengthening Citizen’s Resistance against Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C), an initiative funded with aid from the UK government and designed to help reduce corruption in the Nigerian system.
“The constitution has imposed a duty on the government to eradicate corruption and abuse of office and with respect to this, if corrupt officials are exposed and public funds are channeled towards infrastructural and human capital development, Nigerians will live a life of integrity,” said Mr Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“The federal government has been compelled to enact some welfare laws for the actualisation of the socio-economic rights of the Nigerian people such as Education Bank Act, Compulsory Universal Basic Education Act, Pension Reform Act, National Health Insurance Act and others but sadly, the federal government has consistently breached the provisions of these welfare laws.”
Mr Falana said instead of providing funds for public schools, the government had continued to encourage the establishment of private schools for the education of the children of the elite.
“Also, with respect to the provision of basic healthcare for the people, the government has failed in carrying out her duties, as we have public officers and their family members flown abroad for medical treatment in foreign medical centres,” he said, while people are left to die in ill-equipped hospitals in the country, he added.
The Upright for Nigeria initiative seeks to build public demand and attitudes for anti-corruption through strengthened and organised collective and individual actions and voices.
The organisers said the campaign would have national- and state-specific engagements in Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Enugu, Borno and Akwa Ibom states to increase citizens’ capacity to resist and fight acts of corruption.
Citizens would also be encouraged to refuse to participate in corrupt activities, refuse to take bribes or gratifications before carrying out services, speak against corruption, recognise and report corrupt activities among others.
Richard Akinola, a lawyer, called for a change in mindset in order to effectively combat corruption.
“Corruption starts from the individual and to fight corruption, everyone must first change his mindset, until we change our individual mindset, nothing will change,” said Mr Akinola.
“Corruption is not just about stealing, even if you subvert a process, it is corruption. This is a challenge to many people in the society who cannot see anything wrong in any office holder they are interested in, this mindset has to change.”
Dolapo Adeniran, a representative from the Public Affairs Directorate of the Economic and Financial Crime Commissions, urged parents to monitor their children and instill good attitudes in them.
“The fight against corruption is not just about the government, it starts from the individual,” she added.
Babafunke Fagbemi, the Executive Director for Center for Communication and Social Impact and the convener of the campaign, said the media would be a useful tool to encourage Nigerians to shun corrupt practices.