An end To impunity

For some time now i have often asked the older generation about what happened to all their plans for us .

I remember a time in grade school we sing and chant to this tune “Parents listen to your children for we are the future of tomorrow” this all seems like an old dream for the reality is the a far-cry from the voices of the younger and future generation .

“Ours is a Culture of impunity” i have often  acknowledged this but just this morning while going through a column on the Punch newspaper i came across a piece written by a Mr Eze Onyekpere who is Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice,CENSOJ, which has been in the forefront of advocating for fiscal responsibility and transparency in public spending in Nigeria titled “Time to end the impunity”

I have decided to share this with any and every one who cares and is worried about just where our Nation is going

Time to end impunity

In normal societies, the protection of lives and property and promotion of law and order are among the basic obligations of government.  The law, whether seen as the command of a sovereign backed by sanctions or in its social engineering role that resolves social conflicts, is positioned as a mechanism to govern rational men and women and keep human conduct within accepted values and norms. Law imports the concept of justice with its basic tenet of treating like cases alike and the other tenet of the rule of law which guarantees systematic and systemic enforcement of rules and norms, equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

In this context, there is a clear understanding of what is forbidden and what is allowed. Also, there is a greater understanding that punishment follows a crime vindicating the age old maxim that as a man sows shall he reap. Further, the system learns from the commission of crimes to plug the loopholes that allowed such violations in the first place. This facilitates the guarantee of non-repetition of the crime and the desecration of societal norms. It is not uncommon in such societies for apologies to come from those who commit high level crime including a confession to have let down those who believed in him or her. Restitution is also considered a part of the cycle to bring a crime to a close.

However, it seems the opposite of the above is the norm in Nigeria. The name of the game here is impunity and it walks on four legs. What are the contours of this monster called impunity?  We are referring to a situation where some persons, particularly those in the corridors of power and their cronies regard themselves or are seen as above the law; they are exempt from punishment for offences provided by the law. They commit crimes or infractions of the law and they are either not prosecuted or prosecuted without diligence so that the offence will not be proved in court.  Thus, these human beings are literally above the law. The amended Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on February 8, 2005, notes, inter alia, that impunity arises from a failure by states to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, states that impunity constitutes a denial of the victims’ right to justice and redress; it is especially common in countries that lack a tradition of the rule of law, suffer from corruption or that have entrenched systems of patronage, or where the judiciary is weak.

Nigeria fits into this picture of a country that is emasculated by corruption, runs on a patronage system and where success or access to resources is delinked from hard work, creativity or innovation. The law in the books is different from the law in practice. Judges blow muted trumpets and use all kinds of technical subterfuges to free guilty men.  Elections are rigged and a former President Olusegun Obasanjo declared that elections were a “do-or-die affair”. Till date, he did not retract his words and he was not quoted out of context. Anambra State was literally laid to waste some years ago by a certain Chris Uba with alleged support from the Presidency. Arson and murder were committed in broad day light and no one has yet been tried or punished for it.

In the last couple of years, we have witnessed monumental crime and corruption.  Let us attempt to do a listing of the “A” crimes. The Haliburton and Siemens scandals attracted wide media coverage. Collaborators from other countries have been tried in their countries, jailed or made to pay hefty fines for offences committed in Nigeria. Their Nigerian counterparts who are principal parties have been left off the hook. The contract for the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja and airport road were inflated by billions of naira and after a legislative hearing uncovered this, no one was tried and no one was jailed. The power sector under Obasanjo’s administration became a slush fund of sorts and about $10bn went down the drain with no new megawatts of electricity to show; no one was prosecuted and all the people implicated are walking the streets as free men. The fuel subsidy scam has revealed a monumental looting of the treasury and is still unfolding. From the President to the Attorney-General of the Federation, no one seems willing to lift a finger on the perpetrators of this heist.  The Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who presided over this huge oil scam is still in office, calling the shots and setting up committees and taking Nigerians on a ride to nowhere.

Almost always, budgets are proposed by the executive, passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by the President, but only the recurrent expenditure for salaries and overheads,, which is usually over 70 per cent of the budget, is fully drawn down and spent. The capital component which should touch the lives of the majority of the population is either ignored or implemented haphazardly. In no year in the last 10 years has capital budget implementation been up to 60 per cent of the approved capital budget. Yes, we are not referring to the released or cash-backed sums. Expected revenues are realised while capital expenditure is deliberately held back to punish the people. And the discerning mind asks; why are we paying political office-holders and civil servants if they choose to ignore the aspect of the budget that would improve our lives?  In all these, no one loses his job and no one is reprimanded and of course, no one gives “a damn”.

The foregoing provides the background to the decadence and putrefaction that has taken over the Nigerian legal and social landscape. We cannot continue like this. Nigerians must seize the moment and the opportunity to contest every crime from the corridors of power. We must ask the Attorney-General of the Federation to either start doing his job or resign. He is paid at our expense and if he continues to fail in the performance of his duty, he cannot stay a day longer. For everything that is good and decent, the Minister of Petroleum must give way for a proper investigation of the greatest scam in Nigeria. Even if she did not directly participate in the scam, the fact that she presided over the Ministry and her negligence led Nigeria to lose trillions of naira in the scam is enough for any reasonable person to throw in the towel. For those holding permutations on 2015, make no mistakes about it, Nigerians will not allow any leader who will not present a credible performance card anywhere close to the position he held before. We cannot vote for anyone who has contributed to this state of impunity for desecration of our laws, values and norms”

Still there are so many questions yet to be asked about how our generation would survive in the coming years and about the legacies we intend to live for our children   . I believe that the time has come for us all to use what ever medium and means  to voice out our questions to the world . It can be with twitter , Facebook, instagram , badoo, blackberry messenger…….

The avenues are endless and limitless but this can not be said about our opportunities if we continue to grow with this present culture of impunity(cancer)

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