Thursday, September 10, 2015 8:31 pm
Hundreds of civil society groups staged a peaceful protest in solidarity with President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade, challenging the president to jail those who looted public funds and recover all ill-gotten wealth. The protesters stormed the Lagos State Governor’s Office on Thursday as they carried placards and banners in support of Buhari’s move to purge the nation and prosecute those who have stolen the nation’s money.
The protesters include the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). They urged Buhari not to bow to pressure from anywhere to drop his anti-corruption stance as the civil societies would back him. The labour groups called on the President to declare total war on corruption irrespective of party affiliation, jail all the looters and seize all ill-gotten wealth.
Some of the placards carried by the protesters read: “$20 billion spent on electricity (1999 -2014), no light, Buhari must ask,” “Retirees are dying. Is pension fund a scam?” “Unemployment made worst by corruption,” “Public officers must earn minimum wage,” “Security votes another means of treasury looting,” “514 days, Chibok girls still missing,” “Nigerians are not dullards,” and several others.
Chairman TUC, Lagos State, Hakeem Kasim said corruption in Nigeria took several forms like embezzlement, bribery, rituals, rigging of elections and others, decrying that corruption was highly pronounced in the Nigerian political system and public sector. In his words: “The belief is that once a person occupies any position, be it the smallest, they will use corrupt practices to enrich themselves”, he said, adding that corruption has created a very bad image for the country and its citizens, as Nigerians are viewed as corrupt and dubious people outside. Corruption prevents the provision of basic social amenities for the citizenry. The money meant for development is often pocketed by a few, thereby making good governance impossible. It has affected all the sectors –health, education, petroleum and others in the country. It has led to the collapse of the power sector and road network. Corruption has led to factory closure, retrenchment and worsening unemployment situation and under development in Nigeria. It engenders mass poverty and thwarts efforts to overcome it.”
According to him, infrastructural decay and unsatisfactory provision of amenities were as a result of corruption, saying that corruption eroded the ethical base of the society as due diligence, excellence, honesty, merit and integrity were discouraged. “It breeds all kinds of crimes and social ills such as vandalism, armed robbery, kidnapping, insecurity and others. It has led to great number of Nigeria’s best brains being driven to other parts of the world where they now spearhead development and scientific exploits,” he added.
Dagga Tolar of the DSM said that every kobo stolen by corrupt politicians “is a school, a hospital, a job and a future stolen from us all,” saying that Buhari could not fight corruption since he is surrounded by people who had looted Nigeria and called on Nigerians to prevail on him to fight corruption. Tolar stated that the president must probe arms purchase from the time of Obasanjo to that of Jonathan. “How much did Obasanjo budget for defence? How much did Jonathan budget for security? If he must be taken seriously, Buhari must probe the generals,” he said.
Responding to the protesters, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode urged the civil societies to support the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari, while commending them for embarking on such rally to garner support for Buhari. The Governor who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Tunji Bello said that Nigeria is presently at a defining moment of its democratic history which will require all hands to be on deck and support the drive of the government at the centre to return the nation to its glory days.
Bello said: “We must thank you immensely for the support that you are giving President Buhari. This is what Nigerians need. You are the leaders, you are the opinion molders, without you setting agenda, there is no way this country can progress, so we really appreciate you. All the messages you have brought on this anti-corruption crusade must be delivered to President Buhari. The Governor said I should assure you that your message will be delivered because he takes you as very important partners in progress. He is also seeking your support for all the things President Buhari and the State Governor are doing, so whatever input you may wish to offer, his doors are always open to you,” Bello said.