Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Staying Power to Fight Corruption

The United States media carried the story of a former Illinois Governor George Ryan (pictured) that was found guilty earlier this year for receiving kickbacks for awarding state contracts.

Mr Ryan, age 72, was jailed on August 6, and will serve the next six and a half years in prison
"On April 18, after a nearly six-month trial, a jury convicted Ryan of 18 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud and other offenses involving favoritism and kickbacks for state contracts and property leases that enriched Ryan and his friends."--Reuters
No nation is free of corruption. The tendency to be corrupt is a default human trait that cannot be removed by the most stringent measures. What is important or needed is having a system that works and puts this trait in check.

The Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced several months ago that it will publish names of individuals that have stolen from the national coffers. There are some indications that several of the sitting and past governors and top officials will be on this list. I wonder how useful this list will be, since this is not a guarantee that those accused would be prosecuted, talk less of being convicted.

In Nigeria, a sitting President, Vice President, Governors and their deputies cannot be prosecuted for any reason because there is a constitutional clause that grants them immunity. While this immunity extends only to the executive, several top government officials and political party members have also somewhat tapped into this power because of their connections and political affiliations.

Since it took about 15 years for Mr. Ryan to be brought to book, and at a time that was well beyond his tenure as governor, it is my wish that the EFCC continues compiling the necessary evidence and at the appropriate time inflict the "Ryan Treatment" on all the erring personalities that currently hide under the cover of the executive immunity clause.

The question is does the EFCC have the staying power to fight the battle even if there is a change in its leadership? Would the new administration coming in 2007 offer the agency the financial and political support it needs?