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Foreign firms fuel corruption

Posted by CHINWE MADUAGWU with agency report on 2005/03/20 | Views: 2557 |

Foreign firms fuel corruption

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has fingered foreign firms doing business in developing countries as largely responsible for rampant corruption in the affected areas even as he reiterated his readiness to quit office in 2007.

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has fingered foreign firms doing business in developing countries as largely responsible for rampant corruption in the affected areas even as he reiterated his readiness to quit office in 2007.

He also reaffirmed his administration commitment to intensify its current war against corruption, asking "of what use is my life at this age if I do not do what I believe in?"

Accusing Western companies of official involvement in corruption in Africa and elsewhere, Obasanjo fingered the firms in shady deals in the developing countries , stressing that despite evidence they are not punished by their home governments.

The president spoke in Berlin, Germany, shortly before inaugurating the new headquarters of Transparency International (TI).

He cited the multi-million dollar national identity card scam uncovered by his administration involving some Nigerians and a French company, Sagem, as one clear example where foreign nations failed to act.

He stressed that the TI annual report would be better if it also exposed names of companies involved in corrupt practices.

He said that taking such a measure would greatly enhance TIís credibility and also encourage developing countries to fight corruption.

The President said that it was not easy to fight corruption in the Third World because the practice was usually deep-rooted.

He pointed out that some corrupt administrations even made provisions for tax exemptions to companies that agreed to play ball.

He said that in the last five years, the Federal Government had done a lot to curb corrupt practices in the country and, however, lamented that the bite in the Anti-corruption Act of 1999 had been thoroughly weakened by the National Assembly.

Further, the president said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act was strong and working, pointing out that the EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, was equal to the task.

He said that ministers, judges, directors-general, and recently, a top police officer, were implicated and dealt with for corrupt practices.

The president therefore assured that so long as he was in charge, his government would not condone corrupt practices.

Obasanjo also said that the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), of which the country had also signed on, was another landmark achievement in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

"Deep seated corruption would not go over a short time, you will be stepping on toes and will face warings, blackmail, threat and intimidation," Obasanjo observed.

He said that he was happy to be associated with the take off of TI, an institution that had transformed into "a world renown institution" in the last 13 years.

The president said that he would not mind returning to work with TI when he completed his term in the next two years.

According to him, he is happy to see that both corrupt and non-corrupt nations anxiously await the annual report of the international corruption monitor.

Chairman of TI, Mr. Peter Eigen, while welcoming President Obasanjo to the new complex, said that the president had done a lot to change Nigeria for the better.

He said that he had tremendous respect for the president and many of the aides working for him.

Eigen said that success in the fight against corruption was not easy anywhere in the world especially in Africa.

He therefore commended Nigeria for the bold steps that it was taking to reform the country.

He said that TI had great hopes in Kenya to reform and deal with corruption but because the menace was deeply rooted, the new administration seemed to be losing steam in the fight.

Meanwhile President Obasanjo has said that recurring conflicts in the country were not usually caused by ethnicity or religion.

According to him, the conflicts are caused by poverty and injustices by past military administrations.

"I do not know of any faith or religion that advocates violence, domination, exploitation, the president told a gathering of scholars at the centre of Islamic studies at the Oxford University on Wednesday.

In the lecture entitled: "Religion and the common good: the Nigerian experience," Obasanjo said that the then recurring strifes were the "reproduction of poverty and the suppressing of creativity and productivity."

He, however, said that the strifes waned out because his administration had restored hope to the populace.

He said that for a long time, Christians and Muslims had co-existed peacefully in the country.

"Until the end of the Civil War and the advent of huge oil revenues following the 1973 OPEC oil price increases, religious differences were not part of our national discourse," he lamented.

"It was the advent of oil, military rule, contractor consultants and the expansion of the web of corruption, fiscal profligacy and financial indiscipline that precipitated distrust, manipulation and violence on religion and other exploitable identities," he said.

"Between Christianity and Islam in Nigeria there is no disagreement and no quarrel," he stated.

Obasanjo noted that reports in the foreign media on such alleged disagreements had always "confused the substance with the reality."

Both religions are not religions of violence, and do not seek to eliminate or dominate each other," he said.

He stressed that in both the northern and southern parts of the country, Muslims and Christians had lived together for ages.

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