A human rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in collaboration with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) USA, has launched ‘Make Bribery History Campaign’, to “put pressure on the President Yar’Adua government to name and prosecute the suspects involved in the Halliburton $180 million scandal and to urgently address the root causes of bribery and other forms of official corruption at the national, state and local government levels.”

At a press conference in Lagos addressed by SERAP’s Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni on Tuesday 28 April 2009, the organization explained that “the Make Bribery History Campaign aims to undertake targeted media advocacy; engage with anti-corruption agencies, and seek one million signatures through public mobilization campaign to ensure that the “government acts swiftly to end impunity for bribery and theft of public funds, which has remained a permanent feature of Nigeria’s political order.”

The Campaign has been endorsed by Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR); Centre for Rule of Law (CENTROLAW); Partnership for Justice (PJ); National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL); West African Bar Association (WABA), and Women Advocates Research & Documentation Centre (WARDC), among others.
The organization expressed “Serious concerns that the $180 million bribery scandal involving Halliburton is the latest evidence that corruption of high level public officials remains a pernicious problem in the country. The Nigerian government has taken little or no action in enforcing the laws or standards on bribery and theft of public funds.”

The organization said that, “High level public officials and foreign corporations are rarely brought to justice when they give or take bribes. The government has failed to put pressure on multinationals operating in Nigeria to implement robust anti-bribery programs. Yet, persistent practice of paying or taking bribes and theft of public funds have impaired development, eroded institutions of government, undermined the rule of law; and continues to injure the poor, violating their internationally recognized human rights.”

The organization also said that “We know that it isn't chance or bad luck that keeps people trapped in unrelenting poverty in Nigeria. It's man-made factors like bribery and theft of public funds. We believe however, that the practice of bribery in Nigeria, in the central form of the exchange of payment for official action can become obsolete only if we all take actions to reject and condemn the practice.”
According to the organization, “Our government can only exercise the required political will to prevent and reject the practice of bribery in government and to punish suspected perpetrators if we all keep up the pressure and hold our leaders and politicians to account.”

The organization further called for an “end to the practice,” for “the benefit and well-being of the present and future generations,” and demanded that the Nigerian government should urgently take action to:

¬    Release to the Nigerian public the names of Nigerian officials and multinationals involved in the Halliburton scandal, and promptly bring them to justice
¬    Increase punishment for the offence of bribery, including by amending the laws to increase the term of imprisonment for bribery, and to impose unlimited fine.
¬    Remove the supervisory role of the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice over anti-corruption agencies, like the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
¬    Stop bribery in large-scale procurement and tendering exercises.
¬    Trace & recover bribe money & stolen public funds
¬    Establish a transparent system for the spending of recovered stolen public funds, and empower both the ICPC and the EFCC to exercise oversight role in this respect
¬    Ask multinationals operating in Nigeria to establish or implement systems to prevent bribery and other acts of corruption in their programs
¬    Pursuant to Article 35 of the UN Convention against Corruption, promptly initiate a bill that would provide for the right to initiate legal proceedings by entities or persons who have suffered damage as a result of an act of bribery and other acts of corruption against those responsible for that damage in order to obtain compensation.
¬    Adopt a framework of action to build durable, transparent and accountable institutions, and commit resources to its full implementation
¬    Establish anti-bribery units in critical government ministries prone to bribery and other forms of corruption to act as watchdogs and to prevent and report cases of bribery to anti-corruption institutions.
¬    Name, shame and ban from public offices high level public officials who take or give bribes or commit other acts of official corruption

Adetokunbo Mumuni
SERAP’s Executive Director

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