Former Ghana president, Jerry Rawlings, has launched a scathing attack on the anti-corruption records of African countries, including Nigeria’s, severely criticizing the leaderships’ failure to punish politicians who steal public funds.
While the Nigerian leadership and that of other countries in Africa pay “lip service” to corrupt officials looting billions, Mr. Rawlings said Monday, they direct their resources at persecuting anti-graft fighters, and prosecuting petty thieves.
Corrupt politicians escape punishment in Nigeria and other African countries while officials continue to pay lip service to the strengthening, empowerment and independent management of our multiple anti-corruption institutions, Mr. Rawlings said in a speech at the National Legislative Institute in Abuja on Monday.
“We live in countries where poor, petty thieves get imprisoned for several years while businessmen who evade taxes in millions of dollars or politicians who misappropriate millions of state funds escape punishment.”
Mr. Rawlings is well reputed for his tough stance against official graft. As military ruler of Ghana, he executed his country’s past leaders, accusing them of corruption.
He said Africa lost at least $38.4 billion and $25 billion in 2008 and 2010 respectively to illicit financial outflows.
“These inequalities are recopies for retrogression of our democracies and we cannot allow the negative to continue. As I said earlier a democracy that cannot provide socio-economic justice cannot be a healthy democracy and will remain vulnerable,” he said.
The former leader’s comment came a week after a spokesperson for President Goodluck Jonathan, Reuben Abati, said Nigerians should blame the judiciary for the administration’s poor record on corruption.
In an interview with the Pilot newspaper, Mr. Abati said the administration has done well tackling official stealing through preemptive measures. He said if the public failed to notice increased conviction, then it was the fault of the judiciary.
Mr. Rawlings urged Africans to reject henceforth laws allowing the president to choose their countries’ Chief Justice, to ensure true independence of the judiciary.
“Our institutions are weak because we do not strengthen and protect them adequately in our constitutions,” he said. “While the legislature can enact laws that empower institutions, constitutional entrenchment of such provisions would ensure that political parties with majority control within legislative assemblies do not manipulate the power of these institutions.”
He advised that the appointment should go through a consultative process that the president will not manipulate.
“Nigeria has made giant strides over the past decade politically but still faces complicated challenges , which many of you will bear with me has socio-cultural implications that have been ignored for a significant period,” he said.
He said Africa’s democratic institutions are poorly equipped to offer the best support to government.
“It is embarrassing sometimes to observe our various legislative assemblies struggle to competently debate issue of serious national concern because members are handicapped information wise,” he said.