The Editor-in-Chief/Chief Operating Officer of PREMIUM TIMES Nigeria, Musikilu Mojeed, has said that corruption is largely responsible for rampant poverty and instability in the West African sub-region.
Mr Mojeed stated this recently while speaking to members of the Rotary Club of Accra-North in Ghana, a West African country.
Speaking on the topic, “Stealing from the poor: The West Africa’s corruption epidemic,” the award-winning investigative journalist lamented that West Africans had been “sufficiently impoverished” by the political class.
The editor-in-chief, who is Nigeria’s Country President of the International Press Institute, stressed that the major problem affecting the sub-region stems from corruption and that if an immediate action was not taken to reverse the situation, the sub-region and Africa could be doomed.
He urged members to put pressure on the governments to fight corruption just like they fought the dreaded wild polio virus to a halt.
“Tackling corruption is very important because it is at the root of almost all the problems we are having in the sub-region. Part of the problem of the rampant poverty and instability in the sub-region is largely due to corruption,” he said.
‘Most corrupt in the world’
“The Corruption Perception Index provides the scores of every country from zero to 100 and over 180 countries are ranked. If a country scores between 100 – 80, it can be said to be clean. But African countries have usually been shown to be highly corrupt,” he stated.
Apart from Cape Verde which scored 60 per cent, the editor-in-chief said no other West African country scored up to 50 per cent and that none was in the top 70, adding that the 2021 ranking of the subregion was equally poor.
“Perhaps, I might be telling you what you already know but we can never get tired talking about corruption. Apart from TI index, UNODC also released a report in 2022, indicating that despite the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan adopted in 2014, corruption remains rampant in Ghana and most of West African (countries) and Africa. But that of West Africa is much more endemic,” he said.
“Under the prevalence of bribery, the UNODC report indicates that 26.7 per cent of adult Ghanaians paid a bribe to a public official in 2021. That’s huge. The report went on to report the prevalence of bribery by the employment status of bribe payers, meaning that even when you’re employed, you still must pay the bribe to get service. Under salaried employed persons in the private sector, 37.8 per cent said they paid a bribe to get service,” Mr Mojeed added.
He said the report showed that police officers were the most corrupt, followed by the Ghana Immigration Service and the Ghana Revenue Authority, adding that Ghana has a number of high-profile corruption cases being handled by the country’s Office of the Special Prosecutor.
“What this data tells us is that the government is losing a lot of revenue. Monies that should have come as revenue to the Government of Ghana go into private pockets of either police, immigration or revenue officers, doctors, nurses, elected officers and so on,” he said.
‘What can be done’
Mr Mojeed said, as a way of tackling it, corruption should be designated as a crime against humanity and that those found culpable sent to the International Criminal Court to face trial.
He argued that corruption deprives governments of revenue, erodes public trust, and damages the images of countries in the sub-region.
“The mere fact that we continue to say that West Africa is the most corrupt region in the world means that several investors would not come to the sub-region because they believe that our judiciary is corrupt, our public servants are corrupt and our government officials are corrupt and cannot do clean business.
“It means that there will be huge unemployment because people won’t set up factories and that we will continue to import even the most basic commodities. We must realise that corruption endangers citizens,” he said.
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“When there are poor quality services, it means that roads that are built this year may collapse next year and people will keep dying on that road, there will be increase in the rate of accidents, schools will be poor, there will be inefficient hospitals where people would die due to treatable diseases, infrastructure will never be delivered because there will be no money.”
‘Supporting whistleblowers’ laws’
Mr Mojeed said, apart from designating corruption as a crime against humanity, the Rotary club and the media must also push for whistleblowers’ laws to be workable in various countries in the sub-region as well as sensitise citizens of those countries on the dangers of corruption.
“It is important that we all continue to partner with the government on anti-corruption war and oppose people with corruption issues who are vying for public offices in our various countries,” he said.
Earlier during the event, the Club’s President, Thomas Shabashie, while introducing Mr Mojeed, the guest speaker, said there was an urgent need for leaders of the West African sub-region to tackle corruption.
Mr Shabashie explained that Mr Mojeed was “carefully selected to address what has become an existential threat” not only to the sub-region but Africa.
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