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Obasanjo vows to step on more toes

Posted by The Punch on 2005/03/20 | Views: 437 |

Obasanjo vows to step on more toes

President Olusegun Obasanjo has said he will not hesitate to take on more prominent Nigerians in his war against corruption.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has said he will not hesitate to take on more prominent Nigerians in his war against corruption.

He acknowledged on Wednesday that corruption was endemic in the developing countries, particularly Nigeria. But Obasanjo said his government would not give up on fighting the malaise as long as he held the reins of power.

Speaking shortly before inaugurating the new headquarters of Transparency International in Berlin, Obasanjo noted that ministers, directors-general, and recently a foremost police officer had been implicated and dealt with for corrupt practices.

Although the President did not give the names of the indicted officers, he told his audience that Nigeria under his leadership was doing everything feasible to give the anti-corruption war a better bite.

It was to this end, according to him, that the country recently signed on the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.

"Deep seated corruption would not go over a short time; you will be stepping on toes and will face warnings, blackmail, threat and intimidation," the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday quoted Obasanjo as saying.

He warned however, that he would not be threatened or intimidated.

The President said, "Of what use is my life at this age if I do not do what I believe in?"

He challenged IT to expose companies in western countries that collaborated with corrupt officials in the developing countries, since it took two to tango.

According to him, some top companies in western nations have been implicated in corrupt practices in developing countries.

He particularly noted that a top foreign company involved in the national identity card scam in Nigeria was yet to be indicted by its home government.

Obasanjo, a foundation member of the TI, said the watchdog agency’s annual report would be better if it also exposed names of companies involved in corrupt practices.

In his view, taking such a measure would greatly enhance TI’s credibility and also encourage developing countries to fight corruption.

Obasanjo said the corruption syndrome was so deep seated in developing nations because some corrupt administrations and even companies agree to play ball by evading tax.

He said that in the last five years, his government had done a lot to curb corruption in Nigeria.

He however lamented that the bite in the anti-corruption Act of 1999 had been thoroughly weakened by the National Assembly.

He did not elaborate.

Obasanjo said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act was strong and working, pointing out that the "young man" at the EFCC was equal to the task.

He also 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 added 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 agency.

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

He commended Nigeria for the bold steps it was taking to reform, adding that TI had great hopes that Kenya would reform and deal with corruption.

The TI had consistently rated Nigeria low on its corruption index in the last three years; topping the list in 2002 and 2003, and coming second in 2004.

In London where he delivered the Commonwealth Day lecture on Tuesday, Obasanjo said the organisation saved him from death during the regime of the late General Sani Abacha.

"On a more personal note, I recall the stance which the Commonwealth took when the leadership of my country fell under the command of a brutal military despot under whose regime I suffered.

"While I have no regrets for the stand I took in the struggle for democracy at that time, I know that but for the reaction of the international community which was spearheaded by the Commonwealth, I probably would not be alive today," he said.

The President recalled that it was the organisation that first sensitised the international community to the excesses of "the regime that preceded mine, but one," adding that this contributed in no small measure to the restoration of democracy to Nigeria.

The Commonwealth lecture, sponsored by the Commonwealth Foundation in collaboration with the Commonwealth secretariat, was the eighth in the series.

Previous speakers included former Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien; and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan.

Obasanjo’s lecture with the theme, "The Commonwealth in the 21st Century: Prospects and Challenges," also touched on the performance and the future of the organisation, which he described as bright.

On the conflicts afflicting Commonwealth member-nations, Obasanjo advocated "the establishment of an early warning system."

According to him, this would make for stronger presence of the body, at least in areas suspected to be crisis prone.

He urged the Commonwealth to pay more attention to prevention of conflicts rather than managing it.

"Taking pre-emptive action in potential conflict situations will certainly make your assignments easier," Obasanjo advised.

The President, who is the Chairperson-in-office of the Commonwealth, commended the organisation for strengthening and stabilising democracy around the world.

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