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I am not corrupt, says Ezekwesili

Published by Guardian on Fri, 21 Jun 2013

NIGERIA'S former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, has dismissed insinuations that all Nigerians, especially those who have held or hold public offices, are corrupt. Using herself as an example, the former Vice President of World Bank's Africa Division, who was a co-founder of the Berlin-based Transparency International, declared that she was not corrupt.Ezekwesili said this Thursday in Abuja at the launch of Anti-Corruption Internet Database (ACID), a new initiative in the fight against corruption brought about by West Africa NGO Network (WANGONeT) and funded by Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).'I was in government. I was not corrupt. I can go anywhere with this statement', she declared while also refuting that corruption was embedded in the African culture.While she admitted that the Nigerian society is grossly affected by corruption, Ezekwesili noted that the insinuation that all Nigerians are either corrupt or benefit from acts of corruption is a way by which the corrupt make it seem as if nothing can be done about corruption in the society.The former minister, in an interactive session with participants at the event, identified reasons why corruption must be done away with.The reasons include the fact that corruption is a tax on the people and is unsustainable.She explained that corruption causes a breakdown in rendering basic services to the people.Participants also pointed out that corruption destroys merit and encourages people to cut corners instead of following due process, besides breeding impunity.Ezekwesili, therefore, suggested a three-prong approach to solving the problem of corruption, which are massive re-orientation, prevention and introducing consequence for bad behaviour. To prevent corruption, the government will have to reduce opportunities for corruption such as the reform of the critical sectors such as was done in the telecommunications sector.She was of the view that if the same is replicated in the petroleum sector, corruption will be reduced.She also encouraged the populace to demand good governance from their leaders, which she said, ACID is about.'Demand for good governance is the missing link. Citizens must demand for accountability. The cost of corruption to citizens demand an urgency of now and more so, an urgency of how. And to link this is ACID', she said.Initiator of ACID, Tunji Lardner, said in the welcome address that corruption is the absence of good governance and that the programme was initiated to track corruption cases and to give whistle-blowers access to report corruption cases under protection.He said that corruption should be viewed as a system and that ACID will provide a means of holding leaders accountable. 'The societies that fail are those that fail to hold their leaders accountable', he said.Later in an interview, Lardner explained that the cost of corruption was enormous and should not merely be viewed in terms of the figure. He explained that the ACID programme is an Internet-based portal that serves as a resource to track the different corruption cases with the nation's anti-graft agencies and also provide avenue for Nigerians to report corruption cases.On the portal is a tool called corruption calculator, which gives the real cost of funds stolen.While trying to explain the magnitude of the cost of corruption, Lardner gave an example of what happens if an individual is accused of stealing N32 billion; this means 48 per cent of budget for the education sector, the real cost is that thousands of children are denied access to education. He also stated that the same amount represents over 700 per cent of ICPC's budget, meaning that the single individual who has stolen this amount can conveniently fund ICPC for seven years.He, therefore, encouraged Nigerians to use the website www.antigraft.org to report corruption, assuring that information sent to the portal are first vetted for authenticity to prevent mischief before they are posted on the portal.
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