By Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa
Paper presented at the round-table on “Anti-corruption, economic & financial crimes for women groups (North-central zone): How women’s organizations can aid the fight against corruption, economic & financial crimes”, held in Abuja, 11th August, 2014. The event was organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Nigeria in partnership with the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL).
For women to play an active role in the anti-economic and financial crimes sector, they need to be mainstreamed into the process. Mainstreaming women is the process of taking cognizance of the implications for women of any planned action, including legislation, policies and programs in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s issues and input non-negotiable parts of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs.
Like in other areas of social interaction, women could be more active in the mainstream of the anti-economic and financial crimes crusade (AEFCC) in Nigeria. Women, however, need to be incorporated into the whole process.
Why women should be involved in AEFCC processes
There are four key points put forth in support of the increased participation of women in the AEFCC. Firstly, across the world, women’s experiences in the AEFCC are different from those of men. Increasingly, women feel that their perspectives should have equal weight in the AEFCC. There is a shared notion that women as over fifty percent of the electorate, have an overwhelming claim to participation in decision-making, not in terms of their racial, ethnic, political or communal identities, but in terms of their gender.
Secondly, despite their low visibility in the political and public arena, women are nevertheless influential in society. As educators, nurses, community workers, farmers and parliamentarians, as mothers, wives and sisters – as individuals – they play a crucial role in shaping society.
Thirdly, they are effective in mobilizing other women and building consensus for co-operation and partnership in the AEFCC. Ignoring their voices and overlooking their experiences could mean that practical and successful anti-corruption strategies and key ingredients necessary for long-term economic and financial fidelity are omitted from the process.
Fourthly, time and again, around the world, women who themselves have been victims of economic and financial crimes (419) or who have suffered the humiliation of seeing a friend or relative convicted of economic crime, have taken up the anti-corruption war in their own little corners. They face the threats and abuses from their own communities as a result of their anti-corruption campaign. The women’s determination and perseverance should not be underestimated.
Fifthly, women who have been tried and convicted of economic and financial crimes need to be identified as being incapable of mentoring younger members of the society, in spite of their academic, social, political and sundry achievements. The message should be loud and clear: “public or private sector office is a trust, don’t abuse it!.”
The need for a Network of female stakeholders
It follows, therefore, that for the AEFCC to be durable and sustainable, it is necessary for women to go beyond doing their bit in their little corners and form a Women Anti-corruption Network (WAN), which could be an umbrella body for all women working in the areas of anti-corruption, anti-graft, legislating against corrupt practices, etc. Such a platform, working in tandem with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), would go a long way in sensitizing the populace as regards what constitutes graft, economic and financial crimes.
Roles for women in AEFCC processes
The fight against economic and financial crimes needs to become more proactive. Such crimes should be prevented. Prevention is always better than cure. Modalities should be put in place in the form of advocacy and counseling. This is an area where women can play a vital role. As mothers and nurturers, women can socialize children and young adults to shun economic and financial crimes.
This can be done by encouraging children to be honest in their dealings with their peers, seniors and juniors, and not “pinch” property which does not belong to them. Children should be taught to be satisfied with what their parents or guardians can provide. These are the leaders of tomorrow, and if they imbibe these ideals early, economic and financial crimes could be prevented.
Mainstreaming women into the AEFCC agenda
Mainstreaming women into the AEFCC is important because she bears the brunt if the husband or any other member of the family is indicted for corruption. There should be a multi-faceted approach to mainstreaming women into the AEFCC VIZ; accountability, networking, cultural values, equality of the sexes, goal/framework, local units, focal points, monitoring and evaluation of the plan, data and statistics, major activities required, situation analysis, consultative meetings, expert working group review and project outcome.
Mainstreaming of responsibilities should be accompanied by accountability. The few women who are committed usually perform most of the tasks. In order to overcome this difficulty in the AEFCC, a wider framework should be used, which would include community and religious leaders, NGOs, leaders of thought, Directors General, etc. who are expected to be the AEFCC Ambassadors in their various communities.
This round table is a crucial part of the much-needed networking in the AEFCC sector. Firstly, without networking, inequalities due to lack of knowledge about opportunities (especially for women in AEFCC) can flourish. Secondly, the effectiveness of the system in the AEFCC sector in drawing the stakeholders’ attention to such inequalities is diminished.
Networking within the sector would be enhanced by furthering stakeholders’ awareness, understanding of, and commitment to the involvement of women. This would include sector-wide information capture, the establishment of communication mechanisms to ensure that stakeholders are aware of, and responsive to the needs of experts in the AEFCC sector.
This is probably the most important and wide-ranging of the principles. Cultural values in mainstreaming are particularly relevant here because many cultural practices in Nigeria favour the exclusion of women. By focusing on cultural values, stakeholders would have the opportunity to identify possible improvements. For example, in many “cultures” in Nigeria, women, like children are to be seen and not heard. It is an extension of this reasoning that makes many communities exclude women from getting involved in AEFCC processes.
Seminars, workshops and especially the machinery of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), could help disabuse the minds of Nigerians of some of these unprogressive beliefs about women. Areas to be addressed in these workshops, seminars and conferences include a gender-neutral language, distribution of facilitators of the AEFCC process by gender. In the midst of this cacophony of issues relating to our age-long cultural values, the involvement of women in AEFCC processes can be taught.
Gender Equity Goal and Framework
An AEFCC plan is a dynamic document and will require amendment and updating regularly. The objectives must be based on the analysis of the level of involvement of women in AEFCC. Based on the stated principles, the performance of the objectives would have to be measured against performance indicators.
AEFCC Focal Points
Some of the AEFCC focal points are the President, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Directors-General, Directors etc (in the Public Service). In the Organized Private Sector, we have Managing Directors and Directors of companies, etc. In Civil Society, Executive Directors and Coordinators of NGOs, CBOs and their program directors, market women leaders, organized labour leaders etc.
Monitoring and Evaluation of the Plan
For the plan to be effective, some strategies are suggested. These strategies would be evaluated and monitored by the office of the coordinator of the AEFCC. Success would be addressed against progress indicators. The coordinating unit in the form of training and regular consultation would provide support and advice. If recommended by the coordinator of the stakeholders, the arm saddled with budgeting and planning could provide support.
Major Activities Required
In order to develop an appropriate AEFCC plan, the following major activities are necessary:
(i) AEFCC situation analysis
(ii) Consultative meetings
(iii) Expert working group review
(i) AEFCC Situation Analysis
This is a critical first step for guiding the process. It would serve the following purposes:
(a) Provide baseline data
(b) Document attitudes towards AEFCC issues.
(c) Examine the opportunities and constraints to introducing AEFCC issues.
Both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used to conduct this activity.
(ii) Consultative Meetings
Participatory methodologies require that consultations be held with stakeholders with a view to identifying and evaluating possible and workable strategies for implementing the AEFCC plan. Consultative meetings would be held with all representatives of stakeholders’ groups at two different stages of the development of the AEFCC plan.
(iii) Expert Working Group Review
It is also important in the development of an AEFCC plan that experts be consulted. The suggestion is that experts from EFCC, relevant research institutes and Universities be involved.
As mentioned earlier in this paper, to ensure “sustainable” involvement of women in the sector, AEFCC studies should be an integral part of the curriculum at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. When you “catch them young” at the primary school level, they imbibe the fact that men and women, boys and girls are equal. This they do at an impressionable stage of their lives.
If these AEFCC studies continue at the secondary level, they build on what they have already learnt in primary school. At the tertiary level when they are young adults, the whole concept of AEFCC becomes part of them. Female teachers can play an important role here.
It is expected that at the end of the project, an AEFCC plan would be developed. This plan would address both the structure through which the AEFCC plan may be implemented, monitored and evaluated and the specific strategies for mainstreaming women.
In lieu of a conclusion
The anticipated benefits of an AEFCC plan are not just an increase in the number of women involved in the anti-corruption crusade, especially those participating in decision making. Mainstreaming women encourages participatory management of the AEFCC process, gender-conscious budgeting, accountability and transparency and better understanding of AEFCC issues.
To be sure, the major role anticipated for women in AEFCC process is prevention of economic and financial crimes, and mainstreaming women into AEFCC processes would ensure that they are a formidable part of the success story of making Nigeria relatively free of economic and financial crimes so that taxpayers’ money can be judiciously disbursed in the public sector.
In the private sector, the AEFCC would make stakeholders confident about the companies they invest in. Beyond prevention of economic crimes, women law enforcement agents are needed for apprehension of culprits, while female counselors could put citizens on the right path where appropriate.
Dr Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa is an independent consultant/conflict transformation expert & former Director, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, The Presidency, Abuja.