Ex-British Foreign Secretary: Life Has Been So Rough in Nigeria Advocates stiffer penalties for corrupt officers


Former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, Wednesday bemoaned the spate of destruction by insurgents in North-eastern part of Nigeria, saying it had been so rough.

Former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw,
Former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw,

Straw, who said the spate of terrorism in Nigeria had ranked it among terrorist nations such as Afghanistan, added that the affected states were now under siege given the rate at which human lives are destroyed with impunity.

He added that the situation fulfilled the words of famous philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, noting that life had now become so brutish and short in Nigeria, while security of the citizens is no longer guaranteed.

Straw, who made the remarks while being hosted by All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus in the National Assembly, said little or no progress had been made in the move to tackle the menace.

“Life is now becoming poor, brutish and short that we cannot guarantee the security of our citizens as a government. The large part of the North-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe are under siege with a very slow progress in tackling the terrorists. It is very rough,” he lamented.

The Briton, who was accompanied to the meeting by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, also expressed concerns on the war against corruption in Nigeria. According to him, if the war must be won, it has to be decisively fought by governments at all levels, with every sense of transparency as well as availability of security operatives and incorruptible judiciary to respectively apprehend corrupt officials and impose penalties on them.
At the session, which bordered on how the opposition could use its voice to bring about good governance in a democracy, Straw urged Nigeria to emulate the British model of anti-graft war by issuing stiffer penalties against corrupt officials.

He argued further that promoting transparency in governance and putting in place corrupt free courts to handle corruption related cases would go a long way in reducing corruption in the country. ”There’s need to raise the penalty for corruption in Nigeria. You have anti-corruption laws; you have great laws and you jail people for corruption and you ensure proper transparency; then, it’s safe to say that people would stop being corrupt. You’ve got to change the quality of your public administration.“One of the encouraging signs about Nigeria is the fact that you have effective and viable opposition because democracy requires that there’s change. In democracy, there are alternatives…

“What message can I give you about opposition? Well, first of all, you can change the weather in opposition. Although you’ve not got the votes, you’ve got the voice as you make the better use of the voice; you get public support, then you start to unnerve the government,” Straw said.
He challenged the opposition lawmakers to evolve sound manifesto and avoid mistaking what he described as “quantity of policies for quality of policies.”

Also commenting on elections in Nigeria, he noted that the 2011 elections were better than previous ones, which he said did not meet international standard, adding that Nigeria was duty bound to elect credible leaders who could champion the course of good governance.
He added: “The second thing is that you cannot just wait for the government to be unpopular…You have to fight crimes, tackle health problems, deal with immigration and ensure transparency in government.

“Leadership is about character, but if you don’t have the right leaders who have the right characters, the right backbone, then, it won’t work. They won’t have the qualities to bring out the best in people who would work with him.

“Of course, elections are fought through the prisms of leaders…don’t mistake quantity of policies for quality of policies.”

Earlier, Senate’s Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, had told Straw that the opposition was worried about lack of transparency in government as well as corruption in high places adding that Straw was visiting the country at the time Nigeria was witnessing unprecedented security challenges.

Among 11 defecting senators from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who attended the meeting were Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central), Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), Ali Ndume (Borno South), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West) and Umaru Dahiru (Sokoto South).

Source: Thisday