For displaying integrity in his field of endeavour, celebrated journalist and former editor-in-chief of Newswatch Magazine Mr. Ray Ekpu, was recently garlanded in Lagos.
Mr. Ekpu and ten others were each honoured with an Award of Integrity by the Nigerian Association of Christian Journalists (NACJ).
The award ceremony, which is the seventh by the group, had the theme, ‘Integrity is Everything,’ was held to honour selected Nigerians who reportedly stood tall in towing the path of integrity.
Addressing the topic, ‘The Role of Integrity in Nation Building,’ Ekpu who was keynote speaker at the event, said that the topic was apt, especially now that the country was heading to its general elections.
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Describing integrity as having the right ethical values, Ekpu, who is also a columnist with The Sun, said the breakdown of ethical values in the family, faith-based organisations, media, police and judiciary contributed substantially to the decline in the nation. According to the media guru, these institutions ought to be the pillars of the nation’s renaissance.
On national development, he noted that corruption had a corrosive impact in several ways, namely political, economic and social.
“The social cost of corruption can manifests itself in the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, erosion of values, and perpetration of such crimes as kidnapping, human trafficking, illegal
migration and terrorism.”
He complained that corruption in Nigeria is also growing because public accounts are never published publicly. He noted also that there is no mechanism for ensuring that the accounts of public companies and corporations are audited and scrutinized.
Suggesting solutions to addressing corrupt practices in the country, he said: “If the country will overcome corruption, it must return to the era of competitive, transparent and accountable way of doing business.
“Institutions that can improve governance, rule of law and development such as the police and the judiciary should be strengthened in numerical strength and in resources and remuneration.
“Immunity granted to governors, deputy governors, presidents and vice presidents is in my opinion unnecessary and elevates them above the laws of the country. There is no reason that anyone in public office who commits an offence, civil or criminal, should not answer for his offence while in office. This immunity is what leads to the current impunity in the country.”
Addressing journalists, NACJ’s Secretary-general, Mr. Charles Okhai, described corruption as the opposite of integrity, explaining that the nation was in dire need of men and women of integrity to occupy the corridors of power. He asserted that the vision to raise integrity conscious men propelled the birth of the Award of Integrity.
“When we started NACJ in 2013, we looked for how we could contribute our quota to the development of Nigeria, so we came up with this product. We also felt that if our leaders are integrity conscious, they will shun corruption.
“This is a crusade we are running and we believe that we can get more of our leaders to embrace the virtue of integrity through this award,” he explained.
He further noted that the award is an annual ceremony that recognises people across religious lines, individuals that are in leadership positions and are integrity conscious.
“We do not pride ourselves that our awardees are perfect people, but they are people who have demonstrated integrity in their fields. These people need to be encouraged, and this award is given to encourage them to do more,” he noted.
He advised the awardees to continue to uphold the ideals on which the award was given and to continue to be men and women of honesty.
Some of the other awardees were: Sir Chikwendu Ukaobasi Udensi, Mrs. Ann Ihuoma-Dozie Enukora, Mr. Monda Onyekachi Ubani, Mr. Obidi Emeka Henry, Honorable Desmond Elliott and Mrs. Okoro Rita Nkiruta.
Expressing her gratitude for the award, Enukora praised the organisers for their foresight in recognizing distinguished Nigerians. She said that the award would propel her to do more even as she vowed to continue towing the path of values and integrity.