From Judex Okoro, Calabar
The anti-corruption fight seems to be gathering momentum as religious leaders, traditional rulers and the political class recently brainstormed in Calabar, Cross River State capital, on how to tackle the menace.
The event was organised by Inter-Religious Coalition Against Corruption in Nigeria (ICACN), under the leadership of Bishop Emmah Isong. The group has been promoting accountability and anti-corruption through behavioural change approaches (2021-2024).
This year, a one-day public sensitisation workshop, supported by John D. and Catherine T. of MacArthur Foundation, and the government of the United States of America, was attended by several inter-faith groups, local communities, members of the diplomatic corps and some top government officials committed to campaigning against corruption in society.
The public sensitisation conference, with the theme “Amplifying Anti-Corruption Messaging through Interfaith and Traditional Engagements in Nigeria,” was to further enlighten the public against social vices in the country. The event also witnessed the launch of th website www.reportmagomago.com as a feedback mechanism between the organs and the public to report corruption and crime-related activities.
Some stakeholders present at the event were Janine Lewis, a political officer with the United States Consular General, Emmah Isong, chairman, Cross River State Anti-Tax Agency, and national publicity secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Imam Shefiu AbdulKareem Majemu, co-coordinator Inter-Religious Coalition Against Corruption in Nigeria (ICACN), Edet Oqua, Cross River State Commissioner for Transport, Ani Esin, Deputy Chief of Staff, Etunom Amb Nya Asuquo, Prof. Itam Hogan, the Muri Munen of Efut and paramount ruler of Calabar South, clerics and representative of the media.
Some of the participants called for the re-introduction of religious and moral education at the primary and secondary school levels to foster behavioural change in the fight against corruption as well as constitution review to define roles for traditional rulers.
They also called on government to desist forthwith from the use of the holy books during swearing-in ceremonies of political office-holders, adding that it was deceitful to swear with the holy books when t know you are going to defraud the people. Rather, they suggested that the government should make swearing-in of political office holders by the constitution.
The participants advised the electorate to deepen democracy by electing quality people to represent them rather than playing money and ethnic politics capable of truncating the fight against corruption.
Isong urged traditional and religious leaders to join the fight to reduce corruption at all level of governance in Nigeria, noting that for Nigeria’s effort against corruption to yield positive results, the greatest influencers must work closely with one another to instill moral values and norms in the people.
He noted that traditional and religious leaders were closest to the people and wielded the greatest influence on the people.
He said: “We notice that apart from the government attempting to fight corruption at the level of governance, religious leaders from both divides (Christian and Muslim) are very important as religious influencers.
“We speak to the minds of the people and therefore we can begin to address certain anomalies in the society. We need to see a corruption-free Nigeria because corruption is the bane of our society and it is a pivot upon which other social vices revolve.
“Corruption has set Nigeria behind; smaller nations have overtaken Nigeria because corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of our society. Corruption is systemic and to fight it, we must join forces like the corrupt people do to commit crimes.”
He commended the United States of America and the MacArthur Foundation for supporting Nigeria’s fight against corruption and impunity.
Also speaking, Majemu pointed out that impunity was also one of the bane of corruption in Nigeria, which has brought about moral decadence at every facet of life.
Majemu, who is also the founder of the Strength in Diversity Development Centre, said impunity start from the home, where parents pay more attention to material gains than the moral upbringing of their children.
He said: “Parents no longer have time to care for their children, rather they leave their children to the care of those, who have no moral stake in the society, to raise the children. These people send the children out to do all sorts of illicit acts and they do that because there is no better person to control their actions.
“Parents need to work on themselves, on their own behaviours as husbands and wives. The school is another institution we have a lot of impunity because the teachers behaviour also is a cause for concern and examination malpractice is another sources of worry. So, these are part of the impunity we have seen in our society and this organization is trying to correct that within its limited resources.”
In his contribution, Prof. Hogan Itam, the Muuri Munene of Efut, and paramount ruler of South, said there was the need for the re-introduction of teaching and learning of history in Schools.
He said that it would help the younger generation to know their roots and their culture, adding: “You have to know your past in order to plan for your future.”
At the unveiling of the organisation’s website “reportmagomago.com”, a political officer at the United State Consulate General in Lagos State, south-west Nigeria, Janine Lewis said: “W would be hosting the official launch of the ‘reportmagomago.com website with a reception at the US Consulate.
“Additionally, we can connect people with other agencies that promote anti-corruption activities. So, we are definitely a tool and resource; and we look forward to helping Nigeria tackle probably one of the most difficult challenges that any nation can face.”
Also contributing, the commissioner for transport, Mr Oqua Edet, said the fight against corruption in Nigeria needs a holistic approach
“We need to go back to the basics in our education to teach morals at the primary education level.”
He accused the traditional institutions and religious leaders for contributing in elevating corruption in the society, adding g that they do this by crowning alleged criminals as chiefs while church leaders give prominence to corrupt officials.
“The government is fighting corruption through media trials and that is why there have been no tangible results. We have observed that religious leaders and traditional institutions are closer to the people and they listen to them so they also have a significant role to play,” he said.