Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has called for a review of the public procurement policies to promote business integrity, eliminate corrupt practices and drive national transformation; as a matter of urgent national emergency.
Obasanjo made the call at the 6th Annual Christopher Kolade Lecture on Business Integrity, titled: ‘The Role of Business Integrity in National Transformation’, in Lagos weekend.
The lecture, according to reports, was organised by the Convention on Business Integrity (CBI) Ltd., an anti-corruption, research and advocacy organisation concerned with issues of accountability and transparency in public and private sector.
The former president said the country’s procurement process probably construed the largest source of leakage. According to him, awards of contracts, supply, service contracts and others usually contain provisions for bribes and kickbacks.
He identified poor investment, poverty, infrastructure decay, institutional inefficiency and wide range of socio-economic crisis as some of the negative consequences of corrupt practices and lack of integrity in public and private businesses.
“As Africans, we need to look inward; we need value and reorientation that is anchored on our virtues of truthfulness, hospitality, respect, honesty, obedience and patriotism.
“And as a matter of urgent national emergency, Nigeria must re-invigorate efforts to reform public procurement policies, especially the Public Procurement Act, which regulates public procurement and aim to minimise the abuse of processes, rules and standards in the awards and execution of public sector contracts.
“I will also recommend that we adopt a code of ethics in doing business in Nigeria and ensure a framework to make it work,” he said.
“Integrity is the foundation of leadership as there are no moral shortcuts in the game of business and life. We need integrity in the public and private business and it must start at the top. Organisations and public institutions must run their businesses in a forthright manner. “Make integrity the heart and soul of your business culture. If the entrepreneur does not have integrity, others who walk with him or her will definitely falter and the society will also suffer for his self-centredness and misconduct,” he said.
Obasanjo added that if the operating structure of the government is transparent, accountable and operate against the backdrop of genuine transformation, “economic ventures and investments would sprout and the national reserve will swell, good planning will see public infrastructure booming and becoming reliable.
“When justice rules a nation, everyone is glad; when injustice rules everyone groans. Show me a righteous ruler and I will show you a happy people and a wholesome society,” he noted.
Obasanjo said that Kolade had distinguished himself as an icon of integrity and transparency throughout his career in the corporate world as well as national and international assignments.
He urged Nigerians to adopt the lifestyle of the latter to transform and rebuild the country.
Kolade, a former Nigerian High Commissioner to the U.K., urged Nigerians to uphold the virtue of integrity in their dealings to make Nigeria a better country.
According to him, “This kind of gathering gives us the encouragement to believe that no matter the difficulties, there is hope that things can be better. God has created in us the capacity to practice integrity – to know right from wrong and to choose right over wrong.
“Although there is a cost or a price to pay for that moral courage to do what is right and stand for what is right, even when you are standing alone. But there is a rebuilding of the spirit in you that makes you feel stronger to face whatever is coming.
“I encourage us to always uphold integrity, doing what is right because if you do what is wrong, someone is going to pay a price they do not need to pay”, he said.
In her address, chairperson, Governing Board of Integrity, Ibukun Awosika, said lack of integrity had a grave human and future cost.
“Lack of integrity which is driving corruption in our country is an issue we must overcome, not just for our businesses but also for our nation. We cannot give up; we have a country to build and a future to secure for our children. This is why we are having this lecture.
“As organisers of this event, we are committed to carrying on the legacies of Prof. Kolade who has helped to build many credible institutions in the country,” she said.