This week again saw the opening of the floodgates of praises and commendations for MacArthur Foundation by many opinion leaders in Nigeria for its huge investments towards the fight against corruption in the country.
The commendations were triggered by the presentation of a two-year report of an anti-corruption and accountability project by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG).
Encomiums were also poured on some civil society organizations and the media for the part they are playing to root out or at least reduce the extent of corruption.
The project titled ‘Strengthening Anti-Corruption and Accountability by Amplifying Corruption Related Investigative Reports On the Radio and Through Social Media’ under which anti-corruption programs on radio, ‘Public Conscience on radio and Radio Town Hall Meetings’ were carved out.
A Professor of Mass Communication at Baze University Abuja, Dr. Abiodun Adeniyi who was elated at PRIMORG’s effort in the fight against corruption said the success recorded came because of the massive support of the MacArthur Foundation in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. He said that the activities of PRIMORG have reinforced the efforts of journalists and media organizations to expose corruption, apart from helping to increase public awareness on reports hitherto swept under the carpet.
Adeniyi, who delivered a special address and unveiled the report described PRIMORG’s anti-corruption project as a unique idea that is focused on calling attention to a deep-seated malaise in the country, as well as hailed the MacArthur Foundation for supporting the project
On his part, Editor-in-Chief, Forefront News, Amos Dunia, who is a former chairman of the Abuja Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists extolled the MacArthur foundation in supporting the efforts of PRIMORG in the amplification of corruption stories on the radio.
He identified anti-corruption as one of the most difficult tasks any individual or organization can take on in Nigeria.
Dunia noted that the challenges of fighting corruption in this part of the world are enormous, hence, the need for continued support for the media to carry out investigative journalism.
“For those that are fighting corruption they need to be encouraged to continue the fight, and I appeal to the MacArthur Foundation not to relent in supporting the continuation of the project,” Dunia pleaded.
The convener of Say No Campaign Nigeria, an anti-corruption coalition, Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu said the collaboration between the MacArthur Foundation, the media, and the CSOs is a major boost for the anti-corruption fight in Nigeria.
Ezenwa who is the Executive Director of Peering Advocacy and Advancement Center in Africa (PAACA) added that within a space of two years PRIMORG and MacArthur Foundation have shown that radio is the strongest tool in the amplification of corruption stories and discussions in Nigeria.
The Editor at the International Center for Investigative Reporting ICIR Amzat Ajibola pinned the success of the PRIMORG’s project to the huge collaboration by the stakeholders in the fight against corruption led by the MacArthur Foundation.
Ajibola said without the amplification of corruption reports it would have been impossible to get some of the recent impacts in the war on corruption in the country.
On his part, the Africa Director of MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Kole Shettima lauded the PRIMORG’s efforts and expressed joy over the impact of the project following the testimonies of citizens present at the event.
“I’m happy that the participants are from those communities that have been directly impacted by this project as well it’s always good to hear all these testimonies and the impact of our work on these communities.
“I think their testimonies are a clear indication that this is the kind of result that we (MacArthur Foundation) expect from this kind of work. The job is not about the funds but it is about how it affects the ordinary citizen in their day to day lives.”
While urging better relationships and collaboration between the government and civil society organizations, Shettima revealed that the reason the Foundation supports the government is to make them work much more effectively and efficiently.
“It is very important that they (government) seek the support of the civil society groups. The civil society organization will be able to hold the government accountable, ask government questions as to why certain things are happening and others are not.
“The combination of government and civil society organizations, if they work effectively, collaborate and not to see each other as an enemy but as people who are committed to doing the right thing is the only way we would be able to achieve a better country for us all. So, that’s why we support both government institutions and also civil society organizations,” Shettima said.
A representative of Pegi resettlement Community in the Kuje Area Council in Abuja Mr. Taiwo Aderibigbe had earlier told the audience how PRIMORG through advocacy in both radio and community town hall meetings helped the community to overcome graft and corruption from service providers and a contractor working on the community road.
The road, according to him was abandoned for over 10 years but for the intervention of PRIMORG and ICIR, the contractor would not have come back to the site.
Earlier, in his remark, Chairman of the Board of PRIMORG, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu commended MacArthur Foundation for the support.
He noted that there are lots of reasons why amplification of corruption reports is important, but lamented that investigations undertaken continued to be poor and abysmally treated.
According to Odinkalu, “since the creation of the anti-corruption entities in Nigeria, particularly the ICPC in 2001 and the EFCC in 2004, they have produced a massive body of investigations and report against several high level or medium-level public servants, many of these reports are not known, most of them have not proceeded beyond the shelve.”
The former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, however, underscored the need for PRIMORG to continue the anti-corruption radio program. He stated that radio continues to remain the most formidable tool of public communication in Nigeria and called on citizens to take the fight against corruption as their personal venture.
“The fight against corruption does not belong to President Buhari or Vice President Osinbajo, it does not belong to Minister or Permanent Secretary it belongs to us all because, at the end of the day, the fate that is changed by corruption is the fate of our people, our mothers, and father, uncles who cannot get to hospitals, our children who cannot get to school, our grandparents whose funeral we cannot attend because the roads that should take us there have actually being eaten up and pocketed by those who are supposed to deliver them,” Odinkalu said.
On his part, the Executive Director of PRIMORG, Okhiria Agbonsuremi applauded the MacArthur Foundation for supporting the project and described the project as the biggest assault against corruption so far in the history of radio programming in Nigeria.
His words: “It has never been done before that you have radio just devoted to corruption programming and a lot of activity on the social media to the issues of corruption. We found on the ground a formidable team of organizations made up of media houses and civil society groups working very hard to push the doors against corruption in Nigeria and most of the organizations are in the media and journalism cohorts of the MacArthur Foundation and that is why we remain grateful to the MacArthur Foundation because apart from the funding support that we got, they also provided the infrastructure to run the project.”
Agbonsuremi, while sharing some of the success stories of the project, revealed that PRIMORG’s amplification of fake honey story led to the dismissal of an official of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC); Reduced corruption in electricity metering scheme in Pegi community in Abuja with a partnership with Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) and Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and also ensured that work resumed on the abandoned Pegi road after years of neglect by the contractor.
He also mentioned the reduction in the corruption in the birth registration process and the number of people who have benefited from the integrity stories amplified from the Integrity Icon awards by Accountability Lab Nigeria