One of the numerous challenges of the anticorruption fight in Nigeria is the popular belief among citizens that an anticorruption war ought to be driven and maintained by the government, a stance that fuels citizens’ reluctance to genuinely take responsibilities and ownership of the fight.
Hence, Say No campaign embarked on a sensitization campaign in the area councils of the FCT, to create the platforms for the discussion of corruption among the different groups of the community members, encouraging them to reflect on the danger of enabling the menace and their role in combating it.
A hundred participants in each area council was targeted and the participants were selected across the various group of traditional leaders, religious groups, women and youth groups, market and transport unions among other residents. These communities were engaged on the same anticorruption messages and all had similar ideas on how community members can collectively engage the fight.
Participants recommended that the most important step the government must take in fighting corruption at the grassroots, is to set up EFCC desk in all Area Councils and Local Government in the federation. In buttressing this point, they insisted that while attention is concentrated at the centre, severe acts of corruption are ongoing at the local governments and area councils with impunity, and the absence of the anticorruption agencies in those communities make it extremely difficult for members to report or follow up on a petition.
At Gwagwalada Area Council, community members noted that an anticorruption fight must begin with addressing the root cause of corruption which is highly embedded in poverty and unemployment, adding that the government has a major responsibility in that regards. They stressed that honesty and integrity will be meaningless to a hungry man who is unjustly treated and with a huge debt to pay. They also advised on improved remuneration by the government that reflects the reality of the day, as only then will individuals be encouraged to desist from corruption or selling of votes.
While acknowledging that a laid-back attitude by community members toward governance has fuelled the reckless abandonment of projects across the communities, resulting in the underdevelopment of communities, participants appealed to have a representation of the anticorruption agencies at the area councils to facilitate an effective monitoring of projects and combat the ruthless diversion of funds ongoing at the area councils and local governments in the country.
At Bwari Area Council, participants insisted that retail corruption, as perpetrated by artisans, has equal disastrous effect on the society. Some of these fraudulent acts which includes adulterating and injecting food items with harmful chemicals and substances, to forcefully ripen and boost the appearances of farm produce to increase sales and profits, as well as, exploitation is equally malicious and detrimental to the health and development of the community should be tackled, and the culture of honesty and integrity built among traders and community members.
Participants therefore resolved that to achieve a citizen driven anticorruption fight, there is a need for community members to organise for social and continuous auditing in their communities, to facilitate the demand for accountability and promote social responsibility among community members.
Partakers of the Abaji Townhall meeting believed that pervasive moral decadence and laziness are the major reasons corruption has persisted and domesticated itself in families and individual relationships. Members opined that religious and traditional leaders have the most responsibility of reawakening the value system of the society to encourage individuals to shun corruption. They encouraged these institutions to preach the message of truth, justice and fairness, and refrain from conferring ceremonial titles on individuals with questionable sources of wealth. They emphasised that ex-convicts should have no place in leadership, either at community, state or national level.
The effect of corruption in these communities were evident in the abandoned projects (Rinba Ebagi road and Abuja University of Technology), fraudulently executed projects (boreholes), lack of amenities such as pedestrian bridges, banks and unfulfilled campaign promises in these localities. Hence, members opted to actively engage the fight by organizing for effective monitoring of budget and its implementation in their communities.
This led to the setting up of a monitoring group in each community tasked with coordinating community voices to articulate the needs of the communities for advocacy, organize community planned actions and track project implementation at their communities.
At Gwagwalada Area Council, participants expressed their desire to address issues of corruption in their community and actively engage in the demand for accountability, as well as naming and shaming corrupt persons to deter others and discourage their adoption as role models in their communities. As with other area councils, members also set up their anticorruption monitoring group to track project implementation as well as coordinate petitions and anticorruption efforts by community members.
Participants across the area councils applauded the initiative for providing a platform for a genuine discussion of corruption as perpetrated by the ordinary Nigerians, and advised that such discussion was necessary to remind the society that to win an anticorruption fight, both the people and the government must be sincere and committed; the fight must be happening concurrently, both at the top and bottom.
As community members become conscious of their ability to impact the provision of social infrastructures and amenities, they become more open to receive and act on specific anticorruption messages that encourage the demand for transparency and accountability. Aggregating these voices across the country will promote the demand for accountability and translate to the delivery of good governance at all levels. These townhall meetings have therefore become a wakeup call for citizens to rise up to their responsibilities and contributions to good governance.