As a woman when seeking an appointment men would ask you to pay either in cash or kind

At the sideline of Actionaid Nigeria’s sensitisation drive on strengthening citizens’ resistance against prevalence of corruption, held in Enugu and Uyo recently, a cross-section of youths, women and the physically challenged persons relayed their experiences in the corruption-ridden Nigerian society to AKINWALE ABOLUWADE and TUNBOSUN OGUNDARE.

For Idara Francis Eyoh, journey to self-worth and greatness in a corrupt world is a turbulent experience that is filled with many twists and turns. Back in school, Eyoh said that scaling academic huddles were difficult for her and her female counterparts as a result of the undue pressure mounted on them by randy lecturers.

She lamented: “Some male lecturers simply make life unbearable for female students. Some of them would insist that the female students must come and see them in privacy after writing a test. How many lecturers would you see in privacy as a young lady before passing through school?

“If you report the lecturers to disciplinary committee or the students’ union executives of your school, they could tell you to go and ‘give the man a small thing’. The school authority usually backs those who emerge as SUG executives so that they can dance to their tune. So, students don’t even have a voice.”

On her ordeals and efforts to survive the problem of corruption in the society, Offiong Bassey, Chairperson of Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities in Akwa Ibom State, said that as a physically challenged person, she had series of nasty experiencies.

She recalled that few years ago when she went to the state house of assembly to push for a bill on persons with disabilities, she was embarrassed and treated like a pauper. She said: “The Speaker of the house did not allow me access. Instead, one of the Speaker’s aides brought N10,000 to me and asked me to take my leave as if I came for the money.”

After qualifying as a teacher, Bassey said that she strove to get a job but said that all her efforts were fruitless because she is physically challenged. “Nobody wants to hire someone living with disabilities. It therefore, becomes difficult for us to put food on our tables. As a woman with disabilities and coming from a poor family, I found it difficult to get a job.

“In Nigeria, it is very hard if you don’t have anyone to speak for you. We are being cheated because of our disabilities. For ladies without disabilities, men would say that they want to sleep with you. As people living with disabilities, nobody would want to listen to you. They don’t consider our intellectual capacity; they usually give preference for the able bodied persons. This, in itself, is moral bankruptcy.”

Isawabom Eyibio, Chief of Staff to President, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), said it is  regrettable that the society is inundated with corrupt practices. Relaying his experience, he said: “I got a message from a telecommunication company to come and upgrade my line. For over three days I couldn’t do it. At the end of the day, I was drafted into corruption by  a young man who asked me to ‘kola’ him in order to help me upgrade my line.

“At the end of the day, the upgrade which I found difficult to do for three days, was done in less than three minutes.”

These and more are manifestations of corruption in the Nigerian society. Speaking on plights of women at the stakeholders’ forum, the Executive Director, Development Research and Synergy Initiative, Princess Umoh, said: “The society suppresses women in order to make us submit our rights. As a woman when seeking an appointment men would ask you to pay either in cash or kind. That is the problem. We must take our space back. Let us take action in our small spaces as individuals.”

Lamenting the current level of corruption in the land, the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Mrs Ene Obi, said it was high time the common people in the country started to actively engage in the fight against corruption by making government officials accountable.

Obi said: “We would need to enhance the effective participation of the individuals that occupy the office of the citizen in the fight against this scourge called corruption that has eaten deep into the fabric of our nation and that is the esence of this meeting.

“Why is it important to empower the Nigerian citizens to effectively fight corruption? The answer is in the social cost of corruption and how it has fuelled unemployment and poverty and undermined the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). All of us must acknowledge the fact that corruption is our common enemy. You don’t have to be silence when and where you need to speak.”

At an earlier forum in Enugu, the participants lamented the high level of corruption in both the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy.

According to the forum, corruption is not only directly connected to money. It manifests in the political space, school examinations and admissions, in the judiciary, police and among the state security  agencies.

The Chairman, Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu, and a Senior Lecturer at Renaissance University, Ugbawka, Enugu State, Dr. Maxwell Ngene, who was a discussant at the event, decried the spate of corruption among monarchs, clerics and lecturers and students, saying that the vice had become endemic in the land.

On his part, the lead speaker on the occasion, Mr Nwabueze Ugwu, said that corruption in government circles, from federal to local government levels, had become overwhelming.

Mr Ugwu, a legal practitioner and former member of Enugu State House of Assembly, said citizens’ engagement in the fight against corruption is non-negotiable.

He said: “The main reason for corrupt practices by elected officials is because they and their supporters and relatives are benefiting so much from the proceeds of corruption and would, by all means, want the status quo to remain.

“But, we must not allow them to continue looting our commonwealth, else, we would be in for more trouble.”