The threat of corruption fuels several military takeovers of existing democratic governments in many African countries, the President of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offenses Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owasanoye, said.
Mr. Owasanoye noted how the West African region has seen a resurgence of military takeovers of the government over the past two years.
According to the head of the ICPC, civil unrest remained a factor in the violent takeover of military juntas.
Mr. Owasanoye said weak institutions, lack of rule of law, corruption in government insecurity and political instability continued to hamper growth in the sub-region, prompting ordinary people to demand a change of administration.
He said so during his opening remarks at the 5th General Assembly of the National Anti-Corruption Institution of West Africa (NACIWA) in Abuja on Monday.
The event, themed “The Role of Regional Economic Communities in the Implementation of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption”, was jointly organized by the two main anti-corruption agencies of Nigeria, ICPC and EFCC.
It was attended by several anti-corruption advocates, EFCC President Abdulrasheed Bawa, including members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and others.
NACIWA is a regional network created by national anti-corruption institutions at the initiative of ECOWAS in 2010. It serves as a forum for exchanges and consultation between national anti-corruption institutions of ECOWAS member countries. .
“Let me note with concern that the sub-region has, over the past two years, witnessed a resurgence of military takeover of governments and a reversal of years of democratic culture gains in our 15 regional member states.
“The new wave started in Mali in 2020, followed by Guinea in 2021 and most recently Burkina Faso in February 2022 last month. Unsuccessful attempts have been reported in other places, notably in Guinea-Bissau. The question is what role has corruption played in the upsurge of military coups in the West African sub-region.
“Any student of West African history knows that social discontent is always a factor in the forcible seizure of power by military juntas. The current wave of coups, however, is occasioned by a mixture of problems in the region, including regional political instability, insecurity, lack of rule of law, weak institutions and of course corruption in the in government and governance.
“The presence of these factors and more, but above all the weakness of state institutions and corruption in government and governance have and continue to undermine the development aspirations of the region and make ordinary people welcome favorably the change of government, however implemented, in the hope that livelihoods will improve.”
Coups in West Africa
There have been coup-related tensions in the West African sub-region, with the military in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso having toppled democratic governments in the past two years.
In April last year, Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno was killed in action with the rebels, and his death provided an opportunity for the army to disrupt the country’s democratic institutions under the pretext of ensuring the stability of the country.
Military generals torpedoed constitutional succession agreements and installed the slain leader’s son, Mahamat, a general at the head of a military transitional council that promised to rule for 18 months.
Like many other African countries, Nigeria has seen at least eight successful and failed military coups since its independence from British colonial rule in 1960, starting with the one led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu in 1966.
Measures taken against putschist nations
In his remarks, Francis Kaifala, the outgoing president of NACIWA, said that Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, where there have been recent coups, were removed from NACIWA due to sanctions of ECOWAS.
“Three of our members were dissociated due to a military intervention in their country, which led to ECOWAS sanctions. These three members were very active members of NACIWA and included the vice-president of Mali, the secretary from Guinea and Burkina Faso who were all active members from the beginning but cannot be here today because they have been disassociated.
“Despite the challenges, we have continued to work, coordinate and partner. Another of the reasons we are here is to ensure the continuity of our work by electing a new executive to take over the reins of the business.
President Jean Claude Kassi Brou, President of the ECOWAS Commission, said corruption remains a big problem in the overall governance process in ECOWAS Member States.
Mr. Brou, who was represented by Femi Ajibawa, said the problem of corruption has led to a breakdown of trust between citizens and the government.
“To achieve this, the ECOWAS Commission has facilitated the establishment of two key platforms, namely; Network of Anti-Corruption Institutions in West Africa (NACIWA) and the Platform of Organizations of the ECOWAS Civil Society Organization on Transparency and Accountability in Governance (ECSOPTAG) to act as a means to promote and defend the esteemed values of transparency, accountability and integrity in the management of socio-economic and political affairs of the Member states.”
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