Chukwudi Nweje, Lagos
Human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Femi Falana has accused European countries and the United States of America of nurturing and sustaining corruption in the third world.
“Corruption is nurtured and sustained by capitalism. Any capitalist country, USA, Britain among others is corrupt. The bulk of the stolen money is warehoused by these countries. When you are bringing the stolen money, they turn the other eye because they want to use the money for development. Because there is no colonialism again, they encourage criminals all over the world to bring their stolen wealth and keep to the detriment of our people and generations unborn,” Falana said.
Falana was speaking in Lagos at the launch of ‘A Compendium of 100 High Profile Corruption Cases in Nigeria’, a book written by Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) with support from the MacArthur Foundation, to mark the World Anti-corruption Day, saying corruption thrives in Nigeria because the government has failed in its responsibilities.
“The resources of our country were spent in setting up public enterprises in the 1960s and 1970s. Under the General Ibrahim Babangida’s administration, the International Monetary Fund told us that government has no business doing business, so these public enterprises were sold at give-away prices to so called investors. They bought our assets and engaged in assets stripping and sold them off,” he said.
He also blamed the structure of governance in Nigeria for the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria, and called for fighting corruption through structural changes.
“If we want to fight corruption, we must look at the roots. When you don’t pay workers their salary for months, you are telling the workers to steal. When workers see pensioners, who are not paid and the plight they go through, you are telling them to steal for the rainy day,” Falana added.
He blamed the political class, who he said practise politics devoid of ideology, and urged Nigerians to do away with them.
“Lateef Jakande was governor in Lagos State for four years. He lived in his own house in Illupeju, there was no State House gulping millions of naira. Now, we have a gulping N100 billion under this era. So, if you want to know why there is so much corruption in Nigeria and why we are so poor, my suggestion is that beyond the production of this book, we must now begin to ask political questions, we must not leave the politics of the country to professional politicians without ideas take us for granted,” Falana stated.
Falana accused the US and the UK of nurturing and sustaining corruption in Nigeria.
Earlier, Mr Shina Odugbemi, who represented the Executive Director of HEDA, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, said there is also need to beam the searchlight on the judiciary.
He decried the lengthy time it takes the courts to dispose of corruption cases involving the political elite, even as they are allowed to keep ill-gotten wealth through plea-bargains, while those involving ordinary citizens are rushed.
In his review of the book, Mr Adeola Soetan, Chairman, Democracy Vanguard, described the book as “an ugly diary of how the ruling political elite misgovern Nigeria.”
He said, “The book reveals how that stealing by those in authority is easier than stealing by the ordinary man. Stealing of public funds is worse than stealing of private property.”
He also called for a reduction in the time spent of treating corruption cases and condemned plea bargains, which he described as “an elites’ toll to get the law work in their favour.”