NBA, Sagay back US, say graft thrives in Nigeria

Prominent Nigerians and groups on Sunday reacted to the United States’ classification of Nigeria as a corrupt country.

The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr.  Okey Wali, SAN, and another senior lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, in an interview with one of our correspondents,  said that the US classification of Nigeria as a corrupt country was not surprising.

The Anti-Corruption Network and Initiative for Public Policy Analysis, which also agreed that the classification was in order, urged the Federal Government to take the anti-graft war seriously.

In the “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,”   presented by the Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Washington, on Thursday, the US classified Nigeria as a corrupt country with a poor governance record.

The document also accused Nigeria of discriminating against the less privileged, especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Commenting on the report, Wali said it only re-emphasised corruption and human rights issues in the country.

“They are not telling us anything that we don’t know. We have corruption and human rights issues in this country,” he said.

The NBA president said that there was the need to create strong institutions in order to address corruption in the country.

Wali said, “What is important is how we address these issues. That is why the NBA is always advocating strong institutions as a way of addressing these issues.

“We need strong anti-corruption and human rights institutions in this country. We need a strong judiciary.

“It doesn’t have to do with what the US said.  John Kerry hasn’t said anything that we do not know in this country; so that should be no news.”

Sagay also said, “I don’t think the classification is any surprise. We are all aware of the level of corruption in this country and even if you are not aware of that, what of the latest incident where Mallam Lamido Sanusi (Central Bank Governor) was suspended for exposing corruption?”

Sagay also pointed to reports of fraud in the management of the fuel subsidy as another evidence of high level corruption in the country.

According to him, the level of corruption in the country is overwhelming.

“The level of corruption in the country is simply overwhelming; it is suffocating, so that (the US report) is not an issue,” he said.

Commenting on the country’s classification as a nation which neglected the rights of its citizens, Sagay said the right of expression was being fully observed in the country.

“We are not very good at observing human rights – we have some lapses but in terms of right of expression that one is observed,” he said.

However, the  Executive Director of the  IPPA  Mr. Thompson Ayodele, told one of our correspondents that so long as the present administration continued to treat the issue of corruption with levity, the country would continue to be classified as a graft nation.

He said, “When you look at the body language of this administration, it is not ready to fight corruption. You have those who want to blow whistle being intimidated. How many high profile politicians have been jailed?

“It should not be a surprise that Nigeria is classified as a corrupt country. This administration is a lame duck when it comes to dealing with corruption. What are noticeable from this administration are more talks and less action.” Punch


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