The Conference of Northern States Civil Society Networks has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the state pardon given to corruption.

The group said: “It has come to our notice that, President Muhammadu Buhari, through the council of states pardoned two former state governors who were jailed for stealing public funds in 2018 and were yet to serve half the length of their jail terms in prison. This is rather unfortunate, shocking, and at best, paradoxical coming from a man who rode to the corridor of power under the guise of anti-corruption. Corruption over the years in Nigeria had gradually succeeded in causing a loss of trust and a breakdown of social capital in governance. We all know that corruption is a threat to development, democracy, and stability. It distorts markets, curbs economic growth, and discourages foreign investments. It also erodes public services and trust in government officials.”

The Conference of Northern States Civil Society Networks is a forum of state-based civil society networks operating in the 19 Northern states of Nigeria.

According to the group, “In recent time, the anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria, most especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has re-ignited the hopes of Nigerians through its diligent prosecution of high profiled corruption cases, where the current chairman had to stand in the witness box for several hours to ensure that, corrupt individuals are brought to book. Abdul-Rasheed Bawa recovered over N10 billion, several property, and secured 185 convictions across EFCC zonal offices in just 100 days in office. He also launched an application called “Eagle Eye” to ease the reporting of corruption-related cases across the country, to ensure that swift responses and interventions are provided through a dedicated team of the commission.

“Statistics have it that the lack of job opportunities is at the core of the high poverty levels, regional inequality, social and political unrest in Nigeria. High inflation has also taken a toll on households’ welfare and high prices of essential commodities. The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics said in 2020 that 40 per cent or 83 million Nigerians live in abject poverty. Although Nigeria’s poverty profile for 2021 has not yet been released, it is estimated that the number of poor people will increase to 90 million, or 45 per cent of the population, in 2022. One would have thought that the current administration will pre-occupy itself with solving the pressing economic woos of the nation, rather than demoralizing the anti-corruption agencies’ effort and dampening their resolve to contain the cancer of corruption in the country.”

The group reminded Buhari that fighting against corruption was the leading pillar of his campaign promises and administration agenda, upon which many Nigerians believed and supported his presidential bid.

“It is however unfortunate that since the inception of this administration in 2015 the actions and policies of the Government have always been against the efforts to support and strengthen the anti-graft institutions in Nigeria, such as EFCC, Judiciary, and others, but are rather ridiculed and making a caricature of their selfless services. We are aware of the level at which corruption has succeeded in undermining the operations of many institutions and processes and giving rise to anti-public policies. Consequently, if such practices are allowed to thrive continuously, corruption would damage, in entirety, the legitimacy of this regime and shall surely lead to a total loss of public sympathy and trust in the system,” noted the group.

The group stressed that the current action to grant a state pardon to some corruption convicts was surely a disservice to the nation and a breach of the social contract between the President and the Nigerian citizens under whose mandate, the President acts

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