In commemoration of the anti-corruption week, Social Development Integrated Center, also known as Social Action, a civil society organization in Port Harcourt, has held a roundtable discussion with anti-graft agencies (EFCC, ICPC and others) to tackle the issue of abandoned projects in the state.
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Mr Green Isaac, the program director of social action, alluded to the fact that corruption has become a major problem globally especially in Nigeria where greater issues of corruption are faced because of the height it has taken.
He stated that to mark this year’s world anti-corruption day, Social Action in collaboration with other sister CSOs are synergizing with anti-graft agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) in the state to tackle corruption through tracking the ugly trend of abandoned projects in Niger Delta.
He said “we want the people to realize that corruption is a plague that needs to be taken away from the society”
Continuing, he said that civil society organizations are the watchdog of the citizens, adding that civil societies are like bridges between the people and the leadership of a country. So in order to expose fraudulent contractors handling projects in various communities in the region, CSOs will have to create an awareness of contracts, contractors and the amount being paid to carry out the projects, thereby adequately equipping citizens of the communities with information regarding projects.
This, he said, will enable the indigenes of that community to take up appropriate measures that will ensure that justice takes its shape if projects are abandoned.
On his part, Sammy Abelokola from stakeholder Democracy Network ( SDN), said CSOs have a very big role to play in getting the government to be accountable.
He stressed that BudgIT had made available a tracker application to expand the space where everyone will participate in getting the government to become accountable especially as regards abandoned projects.
Abelokola said SDN is currently working in collaboration with federal government on what he called Strategic Implementation work plan, which currently is what the federal government is using to help develop the Niger Delta in tracking federal government projects.
On her part, Mrs Anita Ebiesuwa, head of procurement fraud unit, EFCC zonal office in Port Harcourt, said corruption in public procurement is still waxing stronger despite the enactment of the Public Procurement Act in 2007.
She said the Act was institutionalized to curb the menace which led to the establishment of the Bureau of Public Procurement as a regulatory authority responsible for monitoring and having an oversight of public procurement. She said despite the establishment, corruption which has eaten deep into the society is still thriving.
Continuing, she said in the face of the hydra-headed monster called corruption, the EFCC as an agency has this saying ” see something, say something and do something “; adding that everyone must be involved in the fight against corruption because the perpetrators of the acts live in the same society like us.
She used the medium to appeal to all law-abiding citizens of Niger Delta, especially Rivers State to come out willingly to speak out and refuse to be part of the corruption chain, stressing that with such public effort, procurement fraud will be curtailed.
On his part, Mr Dele Oyewale, the Head of Public Affair, EFCC, Port Harcourt zonal office, urged the various persons representing different CSOs in Rivers State to feel free in approaching EFCC in Port Harcourt for partnership to enable the commission shun biases and to judiciously carry out proper investigation concerning certain abandoned projects in the state.
On his part, Mr Naibi Aliyu, the Head Financial Accounting and Forensic Section, EFCC, Port Harcourt zonal office, used the medium to appeal to the CSOs to always give factual and credible information to both anti-graft and the law enforcement agencies to aid their investigations in curbing corruption.
He said that CSOs are important stakeholders in the fight against corruption because they have a direct link with the communities than the law enforcement agencies.
He also said that every case brought before the EFCC should not be to witchhunt or politically motivated to undo the victims, adding that EFCC stands for justice and they are unbiased in bringing equity and justice.
Also on his part, Mr Peter Maxi, the Program Officer in the Department of Public, Finance and accountability, said that abandoned projects which are left at some level of completion and littered all over the region are a great loss not just to the government but to the people for which those projects are supposed to serve.
Mr Maxi said the roundtable meeting with other sister CSOs and the anti-graft agencies is to look at pragmatic ways on how best to tackle corruption especially in the abandoning of projects by some cooperate bodies and individuals in the state.
Continuing, Mr Mazi said in as much as Social Action and other sister CSOs want to fight corruption in the region to the barest minimum, the people (the citizens), need to own and drive the process, and until the people own and drive the process, huge impacts will not be made.