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Corruption is one of the biggest challenges facing the world’s most populous black nation. The debilitating impact of this scourge is visible and can be felt in every sector of the country. Few can disagree that it is perhaps, the single most important cause of Nigeria’s inability to make meaningful developmental strides.

When President Buhari was sworn into office in 2015, he made tackling corruption his administration’s key priority, saying that, “Nigeria must kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria”. He has since adopted different strategies to achieve this goal but even he admitted recently that the fight against corruption has not achieved desired level.

Nigeria’s corrupt political class has grown more brazen in its ploy to loot the nation dry. They have devised strategies in order to avoid the prowling eyes of the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) operatives and other anti-graft agencies. A recent example is the case of #Gandujegate, where the Executive Governor of Kano State was seen enthusiastically receiving bundles of crisp dollar bills as kickbacks from contractors and stashing in his “babariga” via a secret recording. The video made its way online and elicited a national outcry from citizens calling for investigation into the alleged case of corruption.

Amidst the imminent political pandemonium, a press statement was swiftly released by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media wherein he claimed the videos were fake and that the Governor was a victim of blackmail from opposition parties.

A 7-man committee was, however, constituted by the Kano State House of Assembly to investigate the bribery allegation leveled against Governor Umar Ganduje and a Kano State High Court sitting in Kano ordered the Kano State House of Assembly to stop the investigation.

This development begets the question:  where does the loyalty of the judiciary and this judge in particular lie? Is it to the state as it should be or the alleged piper? On this my fellow Nigerians, your curious guess is as good as mine.

The police has again played a vital role in this judicial anomaly.  By stopping the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) from holding a peaceful rally to ask Ganduje to step aside to allow for an independent investigation into the allegations and to ascertain the authenticity of the video clip, the Nigeria Police is showing that it is not interested in  upholding the rule of law.

In case the Nigerian Police needs reminding, Nigeria operates a democracy and that democracy is meaningless without rule of law, fairness, justice and equity. A nation that does not investigate and punish wrong doing, whether by a poor citizen or a member of the political class cannot make much progress.

By preventing an investigation into #Gandujegate, as well as peaceful protest by NANS, the organs of state charged with ensuring rule of law in the land are encouraging impunity and continued looting of our nation’s treasury by the political elite.

No Nigerian is above the law. No one is more Nigerian than the other. The fight against corruption will continue to yield little or no results as long as we continue to breed this culture of ‘untouchables’. It will continue to be unsuccessful as long as citizens think it is ”Buhari’s”. It is the masses who bear the worst brunt of corruption. Therefore, the fight against corruption must ne citizen-led in order to succeed.  Therefore, every citizen must respond to the fierce urgency of now and take ownership of the anti-corruption fight for the good of our nation.

The good news is that more than half of the people and particularly young people agree that citizens could make a difference.

In commemoration of the International Anti-corruption Day 2018 and in line with its theme “Say No to Corruption, Every NO counts”, we are leveraging on the power of young people and we urge them to take a stand for integrity. The duty of every citizen is to challenge corruption by holding our government accountable. Let Your “NO” count today.

Tracy Keshi is a Program officer with YIAGA Africa and actively involved with #BounceCorruption and #Upright4Nigeria campaign. She can be reached via [email protected] and tweets via @trackykeshi

2019: YIAGA Africa launches Parallel Vote Tabulation mission

“The Official National Launch of YIAGA Africa’s Watching The Vote (WTV) Parallel Vote Tabulation Mission for the 2019 general elections signifies the readiness of WTV deploy the largest citizen observers to enhance state and non-state actors in sustaining democracy via credible elections”. These are the words of WTV Board Chair, Dr Hussein Abdu as he gives his opening remark of at the National Launch of the PVT Misssion for the 2019 general elections.

In its bid to provide real time information on the electoral process and also verify the accuracy of the elections result, the largest citizen movement committed to credible elections has conclude plans to deploy over 3000 observers for the 2019 general elections. This is geared towards monitoring elections through the deployment of technology in the 774 local government areas YIAGA Africa’s Watching The Vote (WTV) Working Group on Friday, December 7, launched the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) Mission ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Speaking at the event, Dr Husseini Abdu, board chairman, YIAGA Africa, said the PVT is an election observation methodology that is typically based on a representative random sampling of polling stations employed for independent verification of election results.

According to him, the launching of the method was a declaration of YIAGA Africa’s readiness to support every stakeholder in the 2019 elections, in order to get the required result needed for a credible election. INEC officials and representatives of development partners at the launch of the Parallel Vote Tabulation mission.

His words: “Our primary commitment in this job is to deepen deepen accountability and enhance the credibility of our electoral process. “It is the beginning of the our democracy. If we don’t get our elections right, we cannot actually claim it is a democracy because that is why the leadership emerge, so, the quality of our leaders is determined by the quality of our elections. “So our call to politicians is that elections are just phases in our democratic-journey, it is not everything; therefore, the sense of desperation needs to be properly managed.

“Politicians are increasingly becoming a major threat to our democracy therefore it is important for us to make this call, that they need to tarry a while and build a better commitment and understanding that will help strengthen our democracy.’’

Leveraging on the support of National Democratic Institute and other international organisations like the UKAID AND USAID, yiaga africa has deployed the PVT IN Ondo, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections. While appreciating the effort of YIAGA AFRICA’s WatchingTheVote, Professor Antonia Okoosi-Simbine, National Commissioner Elections and Political Parties in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said, the initiative has helped INEC greatly by adding value to the credibility of its results. “Our results have been very close or not too different from that of YIAGA and this is important to us. “We have an organisation that is doing very systematic and scientific work, if not for them maybe people would really question the results that we bring out particularly when issues like vote buying are around elections,’’ she said

Also speaking, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing, described the forthcoming 2019 general elections as ‘crucial.’ She hailed the concept of the PVT, noting that it was used in her last country of assignment, before she was deployed to Nigeria – Zimbabwe.

She called for a level playing field for all political parties ahead of the elections. The USAID Nigeria Mission Director, Mr Stephen Haykin, declared support for YIAGA Africa’s mission to ensuring credible elections in Nigeria. He called on INEC to, “maximise voter privacy at the polls, reduce vote buying and work with security agencies to ensure that voters exercise their franchise in peace.’’

Speaking to the media, Project Coordinator, YIAGA Watching The Vote, Working Group, Cynthia Mbamalu said “we will be deploying 3034 observers so we will have observers in every local government”

She said for the purpose of the election, ” We have recruited 822 long term observers, 48 for the 36 states, with some states having more than one because of their sizes and population”.

“These 822 have started working already and they will also recruit the observers for 2019.

“We have one supervisor per local government and what they do is follow up issues on political parties and their activities in their local governments and send in report, we do violence monitoring to help us feed an early warning system and to also identify what INEC is doing and share reports on INECs preparations to local government s and issues of voters education by INEC, Political parties and CSOs”.

Speaking on the sidelines of #WatchingTheVote National Launch of Parallel Vote Tabulation Mission for the 2019 general elections in Abuja on Friday, she said barely weeks to the election there are lots of planning and as an organisation they have commenced the pre-election observation and have released their first report, while the second report is to be released in the coming week.

The Youth group further called on political parties and candidates to endeavour to adopt issue based campaigns and shun every form of hate speech and inciting comments.

This they said, will go a long way in preventing violence and enhance the quality of the conversations around the elections.

They further called on INEC and other relevant stakeholders to invest more in activities targeted at promoting active and informed participation of women, youth and people with disabilities.

These includes their pre-election messaging, engagements and adhoc employment as well as general planning in order to ensure inclusion and fairness in the process she said.