Former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has spoken on ways the Nigerian Government can tackle corruption in the country.
Okonjo spoke at an event preceding the presentation of the book, “Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines” held at the Politics and Prose, Washington DC, US.
The event also had the presence of members of her family, friends, colleagues, international institutions representatives.
She also read two portions from the book, to illustrate what she had to go through in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Explaining how corruption could be fought to standstill, Okonjo-Iweala said, “There are several lessons that I think we should take away from the book. One of the most important ones and I call them reflections from the frontline is that, in fighting corruption, corruption has to be fought from inside not outside. Outsiders cannot fight it.
“Outsiders can help – donors, country partners and others have a role to play but they can only play a supporting role, they have to find partners from inside, who know exactly how the place works and how it can be fought. You can’t also fight alone, you need coalitions of support, and it is not one person.
“People tend to say Okonjo-Iweala fought corruption, no. There were teams, there were members, and you need coalitions. I had people on my ministry, I had people in the economic team, and I had others. You need support from above in other to make it work.
“You need communications and signalling that this is not the right way a place should run and that you are going to do something about it. And you need your personal integrity if you are to going to fight this kind of corruption, you absolutely yourself and your team must keep your noise clean and your head straights because if you even deviate one iota, they will get you and you will be punished for it. You have got to have a talk with those working with you; you have got to have a lot of personal integrity.
“And those fighting needs help. Is not good enough to stay out here as development partners and practitioners and urged the fight against corruption. I’m lucky because I had options, I had people who supported, I had a place to go. I am very grateful to the international community for the support they gave and for those within the continent who also reached out.
“There were several heads of states that were supportive. But what if no one knows you? What if you don’t have a track record outside? What if you had nowhere to go? This is what the development community must think about.
“If you want people to fight corruption they need to feel the support and they need safety nets, they need to be able to come out if necessary and have a place to go to and resources to support them. So I am advocating that some of the foundations, some of the institutions should think about starting a fund.
“I know that when Nuhu Ribadu at the time that his tenure at the EFCC had finished, he needed somewhere to go when things were not so easy for him. There was no money, no support. I was at the World Bank then as managing director and together with Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development and others, we got together and we manage to get the Norwegians to put money for 18 months to support Nuhu and his family and they gave him a place at Center for Global Development. He was able to bring out his wife and children and they were able to live for 18 months and by that time things had calm down and he was able to go home again.
“And then Detongo from Kenya, it was only when friends at Oxford University in England arranged something for him that he was able to have support. But these are adhoc measures and I want us to think of some kind of more permanent supportive system that can encourage people who are really putting themselves on the line to stay steadfast and fight corruption. There is a movement and people are interested in doing this, so let’s see how it goes.”