Ladies and Gentlemen, may I start by welcoming every one of you on behalf of the Center for Fiscal Transparency and Public Integrity. On the 29th of May, our country marked 25 years of unbroken democracy, which, as you are aware, will be commemorated tomorrow, the 12th of June. It’s indeed a time to reflect on our democratic journey on the one hand, and take concrete steps to deliver dividends of democracy to the people.

Over these years of democracy, Nigerians generally believe that public sector corruption is a major limiting factor against the realization of the country’s full potential. It is an endemic problem that affects all sectors of society, from the highest levels of government to the everyday interactions of citizens. The impact of corruption on Nigeria’s societal growth and development is profound and multifaceted.

Economically, corruption has had a devastating effect on Nigeria’s economy. It has led to the mismanagement of the national wealth and the embezzlement of public funds, resulting in financial losses. This has discouraged investments, weakened institutional structures, and diverted resources meant for societal development into private pockets. The economic impact of corruption is the reason for today’s inflation figures, job loss and general high cost of living. Socially, the consequences of corruption are equally severe. Due to the misallocation of resources, millions of Nigerians remain uneducated, unemployed, and live in abject poverty. Corruption has undermined the provision of essential services and infrastructure, leaving many without access to healthcare, education, and other basic needs. The impact of corruption on the political front is the erosion of trust in government and public institutions. It has led to election rigging, nepotism, and a lack of accountability, which in turn has led to a sense of disillusionment and apathy among the populace. This has weakened the democratic process and hindered the development of effective governance structures.

Despite the establishment of institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), corruption remains a significant challenge. Over the years, corruption, largely a result of the lack of transparency and accountability continues unabated. One of the Center’s initiatives to hold government accountable is the development of the Probes Monitor portal.

About Probes Monitor

Over the years, several actions within the public sector of alleged grand corruption have led to the constitution of investigative panels to address allegations. Often times, the investigative panels, with objectives and terms of reference are made public. However, the outcomes, when, and if completed, are often not made public.

In 2022, the Center developed the Probes Monitor Portal, a depository of information on grand-corruption-related investigations that were made public between 1999 till date, and have not been concluded. This portal is designed to raise awareness and draw the attention of relevant stakeholders to advocate and promote the conclusion of the abandoned probes while also serving as a platform for citizens to demand accountability.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the Probes Monitor Portal developed by the Center has revealed a troubling statistic: out of 614 probes initiated by various governmental bodies that in the public domain, only three are known to have been concluded. This alarming discrepancy underscores a significant accountability gap and raises serious questions about the effectiveness and commitment of the National Assembly, and other public institutions in pursuing transparency and justice.

By abandoning these probes and leaving the public in the dark on their progress which were publicly reported, it gives the impression that these actions are mere political theater, designed to placate the masses temporarily without any genuine intention of addressing the underlying issues. Moreover, the financial implications of these abandoned probes are significant. Each investigation requires substantial resources: from the time and effort of personnel to the logistical costs, and so called “sitting allowance” for panel members, the nation continues to lose resources. It is important to also note that when these probes are left incomplete, it does not only represent a waste of these resources but also a diversion of funds that could have been used for essential public services such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development.

As we mark 25th year of unbroken democracy, the government must understand that transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of any democratic society. Without these principles, the very foundation of democracy is at risk. The lack of transparency in publishing the findings of these probes, for instance, allows corruption to continue unchecked, as those who engage in corrupt practices feel emboldened by the lack of consequences.

This initiative by the Center aims to bring a new level of scrutiny and accountability to this issue. By maintaining a comprehensive database of all probes, including their current status, the Monitor will provide a clear and accessible record for both the authorities and the public. This initiative is not just about highlighting the problem but drawing attention of critical stakeholders that their actions, or lack thereof, are being watched and recorded.

Distinguished colleagues, we must also recognize our role this effort. Civil society organizations play a critical role in advocating for transparency and holding the government accountable. Our efforts in monitoring, reporting, and pushing for the implementation of probe recommendations are invaluable. Similarly, the media has a responsibility to keep these issues in the public eye, to investigate and report on corruption, and to ensure that the public is informed about the progress and outcomes of these probes.

We therefore invite you to join this call for the government to end this reign of impunity. It is not enough to set up probes and then abandon them. Each investigation must be seen through to its conclusion, and the findings must be made public. This is not just about upholding the principles of democracy, but about restoring faith in our institutions. The public has a right to know how their resources are being managed and to see that justice is being served.

This year’s democratic day commemoration is an opportunity to reflect on our achievements and shortcomings. Our democracy has come a long way, but there is still much work to be done. The issue of abandoned probes is a glaring example of the challenges we face in our fight against corruption. We call on all stakeholders in the Nigerian project (the government, civil society, the media, and the public) to work together to ensure that these investigations are not forgotten and that the perpetrators of corruption are held accountable.

We believe that the Probes Monitor portal will serve as a powerful tool in this endeavor. By providing a transparent and accessible record of all probes, it will help to ensure that no investigation is left incomplete and that the findings are brought to light. It will also provide a basis for advocacy, allowing civil society organizations and the media to push for the implementation of recommendations and to hold the government accountable.

Looking ahead, it is time we address the systemic issues that allow corruption to thrive. This includes strengthening our institutions, improving oversight mechanisms, and ensuring that there are robust checks and balances in place. It also means entrenching culture of integrity and accountability within the public service, where corruption is not tolerated and where those who engage in corrupt practices are punished to deter others from acting corruptly.

We like to thank you for your attention and your continued dedication to the principles of democracy and good governance. We look forward to working with all of you to build a better, more transparent, and more accountable Nigeria for all.

Thank you.

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