President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on Wednesday, called for a non partisan approach to rescue the country from the strangle hold of corruption.
Saraki, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, in Abuja, made the call in his presentation at the opening of a two-day policy roundtable discussion on the future of the anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria, held in Abuja.
The event was organised by the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD) in collaboration with Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) and the Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training (CEDDERT).
He lamented the recent downward slide suffered by the country in the global Corruption Perception Index, a development he described as worrisome and an opportunity and challenge “to redouble efforts geared towards the anti-corruption campaign.”
He said the report should rather make the country more determined to strengthen anti-corruption institutions and processes, “so that we can fight the good fight without let or hindrance.”
Saraki who spoke on the theme: “The National Assembly and the Challenges of Combatting Corruption in Nigeria,” said: “If we look critically at our system, one factor remains a constant, and that is the lack of a sustainable plan of action for the institutions charged with responsibility in this area.
“We can no longer point to the fledgling nature of our democracy as justification for any ineffectiveness in the fight against corruption.
“The tenets of anti-corruption should be built on a platform where issues are addressed holistically and without bias. As we approach the milestone of the second decade of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic next year, the time is ripe – if not overdue – to work up an achievable roadmap run by competent officials and instruments unfettered by external or political influence or interference.
“As the legislature, we believe that to restore our economy and society, corruption has to be combatted frontally. It cannot be a lopsided or compromised campaign; and any anti-corruption efforts should emanate from a well-articulated platform, the integrity of which must be unassailable,” he said.
He noted that since the inception of the 8th Senate, it hit the ground running, to make good on undertakings set out in its Legislative Agenda, which includes core points such as: extensive oversight, core fiscal policy, Budget scrutiny and passage; as well as transparency in the Budget of the National Assembly itself.
He said: “I am happy to note that we have recorded many achievements in our oversight role; and in terms of budget transparency, we – in a historic first – opened up our Budget for public inspection.
“The ripple effects of some of these are, no doubt, enormous – because transparency and accountability in the National Assembly will inevitably evolve into transparency and accountability on the national scale, especially when we in authority know that we can be held accountable.
“The Budget process has showcased the drive of the Senate to eliminate the loopholes that corruption that has consistently created in our economy. We have maintained that the national Budget has to pass through legislative scrutiny, to guard against inconsistencies.
“And, with the many anti-corruption Bills we have passed, I make bold to say we are matching our words with action, to complement the Executive’s fight against corruption,” he said.
He noted that some of the landmark Bills already passed by the Senate to include: the Mutual Assistance on Criminal Matters Bill – “for a framework of cooperation between Nigeria and other countries in order to – amongst other things – facilitate the identification, tracing, freezing, recovery, forfeiture and confiscation our common patrimony which have been looted and stashed abroad, whether proceeds, assets or other criminally gotten instruments.
“Other potent anti-corruption Bills include: the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Bill; and the Whistleblowers’ Bill – which provides for the protection from reprisals or victimization of patriotic Nigerians who give information that leads to the recovery of stolen loot.
“With these and other laws we have passed, it is our firm belief that the 8th National Assembly has given a much needed fillip to the anti-corruption campaign, now and into the future.
“Finally, the time has come for us to develop a non-partisan approach towards rescuing the country from the choke-hold of corruption.
“For our part, the National Assembly has resolved to take up this responsibility through legislation, with the simple mandate of sanitising the polity, thereby reducing corruption and setting the country on the right track for economic, political and social liberation,” he stated.