Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President said yesterday that if corruption must be nipped in the bud, it has become imperative for the abolition of security votes presently being enjoyed by State governors and the executive. He also called for the minimum wage paid to government workers be pegged at N50,000.
Ekweremadu was not happy that State governors and executives could pocket as much as N2 billion under the cover of Security Vote. Such huge amount could be paid to the executives as security vote while the poor workers suffer a minimum wage was of N18,000 per month.
He also called for the urgent decentralisation of the war against corruption, if the war must be worn and it must be decisively done too.
Ekweremadu spoke in Ibadan at the weekend, where he delivered the 4th National Public Service Lecture of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, on the theme: “Federalism and The Legal Framework for Combating Corruption in Nigeria.”
He called for the decentralisation of the federal anti-graft agencies and urged the 36 states in the country, to make conscious efforts at setting up anti-corruption agencies, so as to complement the efforts of the federal anti-corruption agencies, in the fight against corruption.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Uche Anichukwu, the Deputy Senate President noted that a situation where the two major anti-corruption agencies in the country, Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, do not have presence in the entire country, made the fight against corruption ineffective, adding that for instance, that the ICPC had just six zonal offices and nine state offices, in addition to its headquarters in Abuja, while the EFCC had offices in only eight states, apart from its headquarters in Abuja. Ekweremadu insisted that “these do not scratch the surface, as they are grossly inadequate for a vast area like Nigeria and leave the agencies highly overstretched.”
On the way forward, he said: “We need a far-reaching and in-depth reorientation. Importantly, Nigeria being a federation, the war against corruption must itself be devolved, and federalised, not centralised as is currently the case. “To this end, I wish to make the following suggestions: Decentralisation of federal anti-corruption agencies, establishment of State anti-corruption agencies, domestication of anti-graft laws, enthronement of fiscal federalism, decentralized policing, establishment of State orientation agencies, State social intervention/security schemes, State prisons, true economic reforms and public participation in the anti-corruption war. “Sadly, only Kano state currently has a state agency to fight corruption- the Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Commission.
This should be emulated, and urgently too, if we must make a headway in the war against graft. “Similarly, a Code of Conduct Bureau should be established in the states with a Code of Conduct Tribunal to handle cases of civil servants in the states and local government councils. Beside setting up such agencies, there is also the need for the states to domesticate auxiliary federal laws such as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), Fiscal Responsibility Act, among others, to help curb corruption. Rivers, Oyo, Anambra, Enugu, Ekiti, Lagos, and Ondo are the only States that have so far adopted the ACJA”.
Ekweremadu who urged the country to discard the current arrangement of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ to make the war against corruption more effective, since people are more likely to show more interest in how the money they truly worked for was being spent, than one thrown on their laps, for doing little or nothing, said, “Entrenching fiscal federalism will replace the current ‘feeding bottle’ arrangement where the centre holds tightly to the purse string and feeds the components, with a better arrangement that is predicated on self-reliance, hard work, enterprise, resourcefulness, ingenuity, taxation, transparency, and accountability.
“In the various kindred/family meetings, the illiterate farmer or palm wine tapper becomes literate when it comes to how the fines and levies he contributed were spent because it is the product of his sweat, not a windfall from anywhere”. Listing the various mineral resources in the 36 States of the country, Ekweremadu noted that “The good thing is that every State of the federation is sufficiently endowed to survive from its own resources and sweat. “When a man who earns N18,000, cannot buy a bag of rice, how then can such a person take care of his family? Does it make sense to him if you tell him not to find alternative means of catering to the needs of his family? “Is it not also possible to abolish the Security Vote and replace it with Contingency Vote so it can be appropriated and accounted for”, he queried.
The Senate President observed that “while it is easy to point accusing fingers at the governing elites in public and private sectors, we must all embark on individual soul searching from the highest to the lowest rung of the social-economic strata” he said.