Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jonathan commits to tough UN anti-corruption, terrorism reforms


President Goodluck Jonathan

Civil societies will join federal anti-corruption effort, four female prisons to be constructed, and anti-terrorism clampdown intensifies.

In a key, but guarded diplomatic decision that may be beset by distrust back home, the Jonathan administration pledged last week to commit to stringent United Nations’ instruments which will initiate major anti-corruption, terrorism, and criminal justice reforms starting 2013.

But at home, where officials accused of corruption remain unpunished, critics continued to assail the administration’s anti-corruption record, accusing President Goodluck Jonathan of not doing enough to address an escalating official graft.

The president used a lengthy Independence speech on Monday to reassert the same commitment he has echoed severally – a pledge not to interfere with corruption investigations.

He cited as testaments of his efforts, his confrontation of an entrenched corruption in the fertilizer sector, and the recent fuel subsidy fraud. Both illustrations have been dismissed in the past by critics as too insignificant for the widespread fraud the nation faces.

Under the UN commitments signed last week by Nigeria’s permanent representative to the body, Joy Ogwu, Nigeria will put in place a “robust, inclusive, national anti-corruption strategy” that empowers whistle blowers and statutorily involves Civil Society Organisations in anti-corruption fight.

Comprehensive measures will also be put in place to hold terrorists accountable, while the government will spell out the mode for seeking international cooperation.

Also in 2013, budgetary provisions will be made for high level training of law enforcement agencies, and the judiciary, to deal with a growing insurgency that has killed more than a thousand.

The reforms, under the UN observation, will also extend to criminal justice, where government’s funding of legal aid will increase by 15 percent. The authorities will be required to press senior lawyers to undertake pro bono cases by 2015.

Awaiting trials population will drop by 20 percent within the same period, while juvenile detentions will increase from three to six by 2013.

Then by 2020, four more female prisons in four geopolitical zones of the country are to be constructed to complement the ones already existing in Lagos and Ondo States.

Nigeria, as signatory to the Rome statute of the International Criminal court, will next year, enact an implementing statute to implement the provisions of the Rome Statute in Nigeria.

“Nigeria will step up its preventive strategy against corruption through a rigorous public procurement process, establishment of Anti-corruption Units in Ministries and Agencies promoting whistle blowing through the FOI Act and involving Civil Society Organizations, CSO, in Anticorruption programmes,” Mrs. Ogwu said in a deposition at the ongoing UN General Assembly.

The details, not made a part of Mr. Jonathan’s presentation to the meeting last week, specify nearly a dozen commitments to the world body. But they leave a trail of concerns about their implementation and eventual contribution to limiting graft, terrorism and improving access to justice.

Current procurement laws, for instance, stipulate the involvement of the nongovernmental observers. However, several dozens of the recognized agents often complain of being sidelined from the very processes they were meant to monitor.

“The procurement Act gives something with one hand and takes it away with the other,” said Austin Onuoha of the African Centre for Corporate Responsibility.

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