Veteran Nigerian Human Rights Lawyer has explained why African “NGOs are not doing well.”
Lawyer Femi Falana of Falana Falana Chambers told the NGO Forum of the 63rd Ordinary Session of African Commission of Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) that “There is no way you can sit in air-conditioned offices and fight corruption and impunity.”
Lawyer Falana thinks everyone should understand the time link between human rights and corruption in Africa. “Money for constructing roads, which has been stolen, has to be traced so that the road can be built,” Mr. Falana told this reporter during an exclusive interview.
A 2017 Index released in February this year by Transparency International blamed majority of African countries for moving too slowly in the fight to end corruption. Far more disturbing, the index results also indicate that countries with the lowest protections for press and non-governmental organisations are most likely to have the worst rates of corruption.
Lawyer Falana deplored that money meant for education and health often continues to be diverted by people through ‘dubious scheme’, resulting to undermining of development efforts of the continent.
“We must now ensure that we strengthen our legal system to be able to checkmate impunity in our continent,” he added.
Last month, Justice Ministers from West Africa and Sahel endorsed the Niamey Declaration in Niger, re-echoeing their adherence to the African Union, Economic Community of West African States, and international instruments relating to governance, democracy, justice, human rights and the rule of law. They also expressed their resolve to end impunity.
Mr. Falana, who advocates for the prosecution and jailing of those bent on looting the meager resources of African countries, wonders why only a few countries in Africa are fighting corruption.
In the face of the rampant corruption and the slow defeat of the menace, Falana takes a swipe on NGOs blaming them for not doing well. Instead of sitting in air-conditioned offices, Falana wants NGO leaders to move out of their ivory tower and link up with people, union workers, women organisations and traditional civil society groups. Only this can turn these activists into defenders of human life and property.
“What is preventing NGOs to mobilize a particular community that would benefit from the national budget to go to the National Assembly and ask questions when it is tabled?,” he quizzed.
Amnesty International’s Director for West and Central Africa says it is about time that Africans moved from solemn declaration to action. “Do we really have the political will? Corruption is a cancer affecting our societies. To deal with such a threat, there must be a functioning State,” Alioune Tine says.
Hannah Forster of African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies challenged civil society groups, urging them to play their role, which includes carrying out more sensitisation.
She also disclosed that statistics about corruption have indicated that women are the most affected, for they bear the brunt of injustice.
More than 200 NGOs took part in the forum, which adopted resolutions addressing human rights issues being raised during the three-day conclave.