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The chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof Chidi Odinkalu has called for the scrapping of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CBB) saying it is a complete waste of time and government funds.
Prof. Odinkalu made this statement, yesterday, December 7, in Abuja at a media-CSOs roundtable on accountable governance for justice and security sector organized under the Access Nigeria Project by Institute of War and Peace Reporting, CLEEN Foundation, Centre for Citizens Development, Public Private Development Centre and BudgIT.
“It (CBB) is a waste of time. In my view we should abrogate them and find other mechanisms to verify assets. And I also do think that every public officer should make their assets public. That is the only way people can verify this person is a thief and this person is not.”
In one of the sessions on ‘Bridging the Gap and Strengthening the Relationship between the Civil Society and the Media in the fight against corruption in the security sector’, Odinkalu who chaired the event wondered why the CCB has not done any verification of his assets since December 2011 till date and yet will deny access to asset declaration forms when they need help in the first place in verifying these assets.Odinkalu also questioned why the CBB seems to be protecting people who are there to serve the public adding that the bureau knows that it is protecting the people who are corrupt.
“From the 5th of December, 2011 until date the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) has not done any verification. They have not contacted me and no asset declaration is verified. They preclude public from having access to declaration because they want to protect themselves and protect the people in office.
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“Why do you want to protect people who are there to serve the public? And will the CCB be precluding access to asset declaration forms when they need help for the verification of assets. And they do this with every iota of muscle they can muster because they know they are protecting the people who are stealing our money. Period. And I am on record you can say I said,” the professor said.
He also went further to posit that the country might as well forget about anti-corruption war if the issue of assets declaration and recovery under the CBB Act and the proactive disclosure provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act can’t be explored.
In his words: “And if we are not doing that under the CBB Act we should do it under the proactive disclosure provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. But if we don’t want to do that then let’s shut up on the issue of anti-corruption and go to something else. I really do think that opening up the asset declaration and verification process is central to altering perceptions and processes on the question of corruption in Nigeria.”
Dwelling more on the need for synergy between the CSOs and the media, Kemi Okeyondo, a security sector and governance expert said that there are obvious gaps as citizens are not being engaged and do not see the need to be engaged and involved in reforms and initiatives pushed by the media and civil society.
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“There is a gap and that gap is based on the fact that citizens are not being engaged. The way we engage the ordinary man is not too coordinated and if the ordinary man does not have a say in whatever reform or whatever initiative that is going on it will continue to be at the periphery,” she said.
Kemi Okeyondo reiterated the need for the CSOs and the media to do away with unhealthy competition and get to work adding that the brown envelope system is also one of the reasons the media and CSOs don’t get along very well.
“And for those of us that work in this sector (security) and let’s be real with ourselves Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the media are lacking in what we are supposed to be doing. We find a situation of unhealthy competition even among CSOs.
“I remember when Access Nigeria (AN) was at its inception, I had to think of who are the people, groups of like minds that when we bring them on board they will not go about thinking how can I help CLEEN foundation to be achieving its own objectives. If we want to engage media we were thinking who our friends in the media are because we don’t have a budget. We don’t have a lined item for media in this project. Why? Because you have to put the brown envelope system. I don’t know if this true they say some NGOs collect them too,” the security expert said.
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She also admonished CSOs and the media to find reasons to network, collaborate in a way that would facilitate easy identification of the possible loopholes that could exist in the country so as to prevent some people from taking advantage of them.
“The issue of policy formulation, collaboration, engagement and participation by the CSOs and the media is very important…….Finally, the United Nations convention against corruption has also reiterated the need for collaboration between CSOs and the media.
“I was a meeting in Dakar and we were talking about corruption within the security sector and the colleague from Transparency International said it’s not as clear cut as others because you need to understand the process. And that overtime what they have tried to do is to try and identify the possible loopholes that could exist and how are these loopholes been taken advantage of in this country.
“Is there even a process of oversight to ensure that there is firm scrutiny? Closely linked to that is the issue of… I ask myself if we are also not too clear and we don’t have a full understanding, how do we sensitize the public?” she wondered.
Meanwhile, a popular Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye, has been reported to have violated Nigeria’s law.
An online newspaper recently reported that the Senator who has been an anti-corruption crusader had been illegally operating bank accounts in the United States.
It was reported that the bank statements obtained by the online media showed that the Senator has been operating the said accounts since 2010. Melaye who is the self-styled anti-corruption activist allegedly opened two accounts; a current account and a savings account under the guise of a student named “Daniel Din Melaye.”
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