Democracy must serve the needs of the people – CACOL

Democracy must serve the needs of the people – CACOL

Being the Text of Press Statement issued on the occasion of 2015 Annual Anti-Corruption Tour organized by the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) on the Anti-Corruption Day dated 9th of December, 2015

Compatriots, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), has organized its 2015 Annual Anti-Corruption Tour to monitor some Federal and Lagos state budgetary deficits typified by notable infrastructure decay in Lagos State with a view to calling the attention of responsible authorities to it.

In the past few years, Nigerians have been groaning under the weight of infrastructural decay all over the country which is evidenced in many of the federal and state roads and hospitals.

The conditions of various government hospitals are so bad to the extent that many accident victims and patients of other emergency illnesses do not have beds to sleep, with many of the hospitals lacking in other relevant equipment. In cases where there are equipment, they are seldomly used because the equipment are either substandard or don’t have expertise to operate, not to talk of maintain them. While many of our so-called leaders patronize foreign health institutions to access basic health care, the teeming masses that cannot afford costs of private health care are left to suffer the jeopardy of perpetual illness or premature death due to lack of necessary infrastructures in the all-essential health sector.

A recent report on PUNCH newspaper of Saturday 14th November, 2015, titled “Lagos Hospital where new born babies, mums sleep on chairs, floors”, was an exposé of what happens in the Ifako Ijaye general hospital in Lagos state and some other government hospitals all over the country. Pregnant women who had just been delivered of their babies are told, and sometimes compelled to vacate the bed and sit on plastic chairs so that other pregnant women in the queue could be admitted. The same newspaper, The PUNCH, reported earlier that patients and visitors to Gbagada General (Govt.) Hospital defecate in open spaces due to non-functional and subsequent abandonment of its toilet facilities. A development, which findings revealed as being synonymous with the government hospitals because of the constraint of space and the need to attend to other women in labour.

On the other hand, many of the Nigerian roads are in bad shape. To put it mildly, the state of most of the nation’s highways today has become a serious embarrassment to the successive Nigerian regimes without reprieve in sight. It is not just that most of these roads are so impassable; it is also a disturbing fact that dangerous spots along many of them have also become convenient operating centers for highway robbers, who lay siege on unsuspecting motorists and other road users. This is aside the notorious fact that the poor state of these roads hampers economic activities as much as it costs Nigerians their lives and properties.

The raining season is one season that most Nigerians especially Lagosians hate to experience. Rains ought to have been factored into the plans of all states developmental agenda. It is lack of adequate planning and preparation that makes predictable disasters to become emergences before efforts are made to fix them. If adequate precautionary measures had been taken in advance, the effects of floods would not be as devastating as we have it presently in some states of the country. It is not normal for flood to wreck constant havoc on the people. Lasting solution must be found to the cause of such floods because it does not only endanger lives and properties but also disrupts economic activities in the state.

The present state of Lagos State is particularly pathetic. This is a state where we have a raft of broken infrastructures as symbolized by bad roads, poor quality of construction, dilapidated schools, a comatose health system, flood-ravaged neighbourhoods etc the conditions have been made such due to official negligence, thereby causing citizens a lot of untold hardship in their bid to eke a living. The state has a recent history of an unaccountable government and complacent legislature; a ham-strung judicial system, over-taxed citizenry and corporate bodies, and other poor developmental indicators. These have left the people asking questions, questions and questions. These questions, so far, have remained unanswered.

Roads are bad – riddled with craters and gorges making them sources of personal danger and economic waste. Schools lack functional infrastructures; most are in various states of disrepair. There is no efficient drainage system, roofs are leaky, and pupils still sit on bare and broken floors, while their personnel are poorly motivated morally, technically and materially.

Ironically, Lagos State that prides itself as the ‘Centre of Excellence’ with a presumed ‘Modern City’ status has nothing much to show for this over-bloated rating due to several dysfunctional infrastructural facilities. To say the least, Lagos State cannot boast of adequate social amenities and good infrastructural facilities in the magnitude proportional to its income and need. Some parts of the State have become a nightmare to its dwellers due to the decrepit state of its utility structures and infrastructures which are grossly inadequate and non-functional.

The pressure on the highways which led to traffic congestion on our roads would have reduced if the potentials of waterways are developed. A particularly terrible example is the Apapa-Oshodi expressway which serves as the main access to the nation’s two main seaports in Lagos but is perennially congested and presently a complete disaster. All attempts to fix the road have been mired in politics. Most of the adjoining streets, especially the famed Apapa GRA are death traps, and maneuvering through them in times of emergency is a waste of time. All the feeder roads linking Marine and Liverpool roads remind drivers of a war-torn region.

There are other visible contradictions like the gap between Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland and others classified as ‘Lagos no-land’; all of which ought to be equally developed with the collective resources of the state. The basis of the differential provisioning becomes hard to understand thus becoming subject to primordial interpretations as in the case of extremely opposing two sides of the city that radiate immoral affluence on one side and roasting poverty on the other. This is accentuated by the ultra-expensive Cable Bridge in Ikoyi-Lekki access road and the Pako Bridge in Ayobo-Igando axis, all in Lagos state. For residents of Alimosho and other underdeveloped areas, the need to link communities has been a major drive which has resulted in the construction of wooden bridges otherwise known as ‘Pako bridges’ in parts of the states. The Alimosho Pako bridges, as an example, provide the needed escape and a short route for motorists who intend to avoid the burden of traffic snarl at the popular Ayobo-Igando axis.

These wooden bridges built by communities also go to show the failure of government in the provision of essential infrastructure for the people. For so many years the owner of this Pako bridges have been extorting poor citizens with it. Each passage on this motorable and pedestrian wooden bridges cost as much as N200 per vehicle and N30 per person. It is high time the Lagos state government intervened in this situation by building a proper bridge for the citizens living in the area for free as dividend of democracy. Why do we have to suffer in our own state to have access to a road?

There are other invisible contradictions within the aspiring modern city that Lagos State is. It appears that there are deliberate concerted efforts to obliterate the poor who government apparently seems to consider as deface to the face of the mega environment Lagos state desires. To clean the environment and make it decent for the rich and the international community, the commercial and residential shacks of the poor are demolished, together with their goods and at times even, with the people. However, it must be reiterated that it is the mega population that confers the ‘megacity’ status on Lagos not the expensive estates. What is expected of a responsible government is to expand infrastructural facilities to contain and made affordable for the population of various socio-economic classes; not depopulation by systematically frustrating the poor out of the city.

Thousands of potholes form a death-ring on Lagos roads thus make driving in the state a living hell on earth. Taking a look at Command- Ile-Iwe/Meiran road, you would continue to wonder if those roads are considered as Lagos roads. The Meiran road which is less than 2 kilometers has been under perpetual construction for 5 years now with the project yet to be completed. Even though some of the major federal roads are considered to be in good shape; they are bumpy, narrow and badly managed. A vast majority of the feeder roads are a crying shame on governance and those who run the affairs of the state.

Most of the roads actually need complete redesign and reconstruction, with side drains to channel flood waters into dedicated reservoirs by very competent and reputable construction companies; not quacks masquerading as construction companies, who collude with state officials to shortchange the state.

A worrisome contribution of the federal government into the national infrastructural decay is the old Toll-gate on the Abeokuta Expressway where there have been daily cases of road crashes. These accidents no doubt have caused several losses to life and property since a very long time. According to the 2015 statistical data of accident cases requested and received from the Federal Road Safety Commission, Sango-Otta Unit, a total number of forty (40) road accident cases occurred on the route between January and November. A total number of 354 people were involved, 116 people got injured while 26 people lost their lives. It is expected that a responsible Federal government would have devised a lasting solution to the preventable carnage occurring at that spot. A flyover on the road, we believe, would have prevented the perennial loss of lives and properties.

We urge the governments at various levels to give adequate attention to all the aforementioned and all other begging areas. We therefore appeal to them to urgently address and fix the issues of infrastructural deficiency. This, we believe, would alleviate the hardship, pain and loss that majority of the people of Lagos, and Nigerians as a whole experience in various parts.

Taking a look at the anti-corruption campaign so far, we all should first of all admit that our dear country, Nigeria, is yet to attain the true status of nationhood; true federalism is yet to be attained. Our democracy is yet to meet the required standard that could make it take its pride of place among the comity of democratic nations of the world as it lacks the posture of a true representation of the people. Elected leaders must be made answerable to the electorates whenever the need arises; our legal cum judicial system needs to be comprehensively overhauled in order to ensure effective dispensation of justice; fiscal and economic policies need to be reviewed to reflect the reality of our composition as a conglomerate, especially in the area of distribution and sharing formula of revenue amongst governing institutions at the three levels of government i.e. federal, state and local governments and of course, we need to strengthen the machinery that effects a clear-cut separation of powers as well as the independence of the three arms of government, to ensure necessary checks and balances at all times and thus prevent impunity and arbitrariness in any form or guise.

Corruption is Nigeria’s primary problem and it is a major challenge the country must battle and overcome if indeed Nigeria must enjoy the dividends of democracy. Corruption has so far succeeded in not only ravaging our values and pride, but has also succeeded in bastardizing the psyche of the majority so much so that common thieves are openly hailed and celebrated. Ours is gradually becoming a society that encourages opportunism in whatever form.

The tendency to exploit every given opportunity to satisfy one’s selfish desire no longer rest only with the leaders, the led themselves now encourage the leaders to thrive in self-serving exploits. It’s saddening and highly disturbing to see what has now become the norm for the led to constantly remind their newly elected (or appointed) leaders of why they should see their new positions as an opportunity that might come only once and so urge them to corruptly enrich themselves to the maximum at the expense of the less privileged. The common phrase nowadays is ‘it is our turn to chop’. It is now a common sight to see ‘men of timber and caliber’ turning out in large number to accompany an accused corrupt person to the court or law enforcement or anti-corruption agencies, on a solidarity mission; all aimed at intimidating the institution of justice.

The authorities should also refrain from victimizing and humiliating the heads of anti-graft agencies and panels. Such practice is fast becoming a regular practice especially when highly placed public exposed person is under investigation or prosecution. However, if in the course of performing their statutory duties, they are accused of wrong doings, they should be made to complete the assignments they are handling and allowed to get to a logical conclusion before they are prosecuted or made to quit the office. Quitting the office abruptly will be more of advantage to the accused persons than to the cause of justice and getting the heads of these agencies and panels out of the way might be the only reason why the complainant or their cronies could have accused the heads of agencies investigating or prosecuting them so that the process of getting the criminals diligently investigated and prosecuted may be truncated. The anti-corruption war in Nigeria can neither be effective nor sustained where there is no security of tenure and the leaders of the anti-corruption agencies are subjected to summary dismissal.

We need a judicial reform to ameliorate the situation of the judges and the Nigerian judiciary because the judiciary is terribly sick, and unless all necessary efforts are put in place, Nigeria will not have any hope for further development from the level that we are now. We need to remember that the judiciary is supposed to be the hope for the common man. The judicial system is too much of a serious business than to be left for the judiciary alone to tackle, since majority of them are profiteering from the rot that is in existence. It is up to those of us who are likely to be victims of their misbehavior to put our acts together, and devise means of stopping them; so that the general public may know that some of our judicial officers cannot be trusted not to go into conspiracy, or unholy alliance with criminals that we have to root out of our own system.

CACOL wants to use this medium to call on the federal government to ensure that those who stole the $2.1 billion meant for the procurement of arms are BROUGHT TO BOOK, tried and charged for mass murder. They should be punished for misleading Nigerians into internecine. Several soldiers and innocent citizens were sent to their early grave while civilians were exposed to Boko Haram pro-bono due to poor equipment.

The EFCC should ensure that proper investigation is carried out, ensuring that all cases goes through due judicial process and if the suspects are found culpable they should be prosecuted and equally allowed to face the full penalty; because no corruption culprit should be allowed to go unpunished. They should be used as an example for others who may want to indulge in similar act.

We also want to condemn the controversial Social Media Bill being proposed by the Senate. The bill which is titled “Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith,” seeks to gag online media by imposing a two-year jail term for an abusive statement.

The bill also seeks to impose a jail term or N2m fine or both if a person spreads false information about a public servant through the social media.

We must say the bill is a threat to democracy and should be totally condemned by all Nigerians. Our lawmakers, rather than focus on laws for good governance that will ensure the welfare of the people, are busy introducing law that will gag Nigerians from freely expressing themselves. We say no to anti-social media bill, it is anti-people.

We must also say that we see the stance of those calling for the extension of the probe to other past administrations as self-defeatist, self-condemning and an obvious product of a guilty conscience. Corruption is sure the only reason our blessed country is not moving forward. Nigerians should, despite our political differences, admit that at least Buhari is starting somewhere. Corruption has been so much embedded in our collective psyche that any person who has the best of intentions at giving it a kick is perceived as a nutter, bent on ‘wasting our precious time’. We must know that it takes bravery and courage to step on toes of the powerful and the untouchables.” We imploring President Buhari to disregard such distractions and concentrate on pursuing his anti-corruption crusade with all his vigor and ensuring that the thieves of our common patrimony are exposed and adequately punished.

As for us in CACOL, we are ever ready to collaborate with the relevant authorities in this regard, to wrestle this monster to submission by every legitimate means possible and are urging all well-meaning citizens of this country to join hands with President Buhari in this battle for national survival. We believe he’s got the credentials and the wit to do it.

Finally, we call on all Nigerians to embrace CACOL’s slogan – “NAME, NAIL, SHAME AND SHUN CORRUPT LEADERS ANYWHERE, EVERYWHERE”. Don’t join in the foolish acts of hailing and celebrating them, instead, harass, embarrass and disgrace them even to their faces.

Debo Adeniran

Executive Chairman, CACOLCACOL (3)

CACOL (2)

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