Abacha’s award: SERAP backs Soyinka, wants FG to disclose spending on centenary celebration

Abuja, 9 March 2014, SERAP.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has backed Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka’s rejection of the centenary award, and said that “any public award to indicted corrupt public officials sends a wrong message and amounts to a triumph of corruption over public probity and integrity.”

The organization also “wants the Federal Government to explain to Nigerians how much exactly it spent on the centenary celebration.”

In a statement today signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni the organization said that, “The award to the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, considered one of the most corrupt leaders the country ever had, cannot be justified on any ground whatsoever, and in fact send the message that corruption pays. It also suggests that tacking high-level official corruption and impunity of perpetrators is not as high on the list of this government’s priorities as it should be.”

The group also said that, “Granting awards to indicted corrupt public officials represents an attack on the country’s international anticorruption obligations and commitments, and can only further encourage corrupt politicians to continue to pursue personal interests with impunity, instead of catering to the Nigerian public.”

“The government justified the award on the ground of Abacha’s supposed contribution to ‘national development’. But this flies in the face of the massive stealing of public funds which took place during Abacha’s years of misrule, corruption, and grave human rights violations. Abacha did more harm than good to Nigeria, and overall should not have been celebrated,” the group said.

The group said that, “this government cannot wish-away the negative effects of corruption perpetrated by ‘leaders’ like Abacha. If the government is truly interested in the fight against corruption, it should have used the centenary awards to celebrate public integrity and not corruption.”

“Hospitals without drugs, bad roads, poor electricity supply, contaminated and undrinkable water, collapsed educational system alone provide strong evidence of the devastation and legacies of successive governments of which Abacha was a key player,” the group also said.

According to the group, “Rather than spending public funds to celebrate corruption the government is better advised to commit such resources to provide basic necessities of life for millions of Nigerians going to bed without food; and to adequately tackle corruption in the country through sufficient funding to anti-corruption agencies to satisfactorily address the problem.”

Adetokunbo Mumuni
SERAP Executive Director