EFCC Secretary calls on beneficiaries of Boki East/West road to interrogate contractors

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Secretary to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Dr George Abang Ekpungu, has called on beneficiaries of the East/West road in Boki local government area of Cross River to interrogate the contractors of the project.

He said that the the delay in the completion of Boki East/West Road with confirmed release of about 80% of contract sum to Boki sons should attract interrogation by the beneficiaries of the road.

According to him, It is not just about functionality of institutions but the active participation of the citizens.

The EFCC Secretary made the call during a paper presentation at the Ochibe Banyinyi Bokyi 4th Annual Home Coming Themed: Ochibe Banyinyi Bokyi; Our Culture Our Heritage: The Role of Women, held at Nsadop community in Boki LGA, Cross River.

 

INTRODUCTION

Banyinyi Bokyi, asama, agafuo, bachi, osowo ojuareben kangkang. This invitation is most gratifying to me for good reasons. First, is the discovery that our women, as custodians of our core values, are very organized to confront the alarming, rapid decline and degeneration of our culture. Second, is that sustenance of the organisation over an uninterrupted four years is indicative of the quality of leadership and determination to maintain our legacies as a leading homogeneous NFUA Nation (a common brotherhood). And thirdly, from its name to its objectives the women have announced the heritage they strive to pass over to younger generations.

The Boki Nation has an identity unique to it in several ways. If culture is a way of life of a people ranging from language, food, clothing, occupation, entertainment and conduct of social cum spiritual matters, then the Ochibe Banyinyi Bokyi epitomises the communal bonding that stood Boki out among its bellicose neighbors. For a very republican community that combines communality with individualism, addressing an august organ such as Ochibe Banyinyi Bokyi Ejiemumu (Assembly of Boki Women Worldwide), the women wing of the respected and dreaded Ochibe Boki, is indeed a rare privilege for me.

I am delighted and honoured to be invited to speak at the Ochibe Banyinyi Bokyi 4th Annual Home Coming, entitled: Ochibe Banyinyi Bokyi; Ejiemumu Our Culture Our Heritage: The Role of Women. I am proud to be a part of this innovative and forward thinking initiative which has at its core the unity, progress, and development of our people. I commend your foresight, patriotism, vision, commitment and dedication towards ensuring that the fundamentals of our culture remain steadfast despite ongoing societal and developmental changes that may be alien to our way of life. In this regard, I salute our women for standing up and taking the initiative to ensure that the bedrock of our society and our way of life not only subsists, but thrives. Thank you very much our mothers.

BOKI WOMEN AS MOTIVATING PARTNERS IN PROGRESS: THE LAST BASTION OF OUR CULTURE AND HERITAGE

Over the years, the Boki women have a rich history of outstanding contributions to the development of the Boki Nation. Indeed Cross River State has benefitted from the activism of the Boki women. From Katrin Kakang, the female warrior (who ranks with Queen Amina of the Zaria wars, and Moremi of the Ijebu wars), to late AIG Rose Abang –Wushishi (Rtd), who was among the first female AIGs in the Nigerian Police and first female to win a Senate election (though unconsummated) in CRS, to the first Rev Sister professor in Africa, Rev Sister Professor Theresa Abang, first female Registrar of University of Calabar Dr Mrs. Julie Omang and recently serving first female VC of the University of Calabar, Prof Florence Banku Obi , first female SSG Barr Tina Banku Agbor, and Honourable Mrs. Bessie Bankong-Obi, first female Chairman of Boki LGA, to my mother, yes my mother, Madam Mary Kaka Ewor, a local school Teacher, Farmer and Restaurateur, who so dutifully brought me up in the way of integrity, discipline and respect for our culture and for motherhood and laid the foundation for my legal education. Similarly, such women of virtue, educated and uneducated adorn our villages and communities and contribute immensely to the socio cultural wellbeing of our communities without much acclaim. And these include women at the leadership of this Respectable Group and all Boki women of goodwill, home and abroad.

We cannot exhaust the many firsts from Banyinyi Bokyi. In fact we are still counting. They have broken boundaries and excelled in their various professions against all natural and human obstacles. Their attainments are today a motivation to the girl child and a happy challenge to the male folks in Boki land and beyond. Our girl children are now aware that with hard work and determination, they can excel at whatever endeavor they set their young minds upon. I am pleased with the remarkable successes achieved in the area of equal opportunities for the girl child, exemplified by the decline in the rate of forced early marriages, child mothers, near elimination of female genital mutilation, and inequality in education, among other communal, institutional and parental impedimenta.

It must be stated unequivocally that the role of women in the formative years of a child must not be underestimated. This is because the mother is the first nurse, the first teacher, the first priest, first moral teacher, in-fighting first etiquette leader, the first coach in the kitchen, in the farm in social gatherings and in the market. The mother is therefore the fulcrum upon which the foundation of the child’s development revolves. This of course includes the Boki culture – beliefs, language, custom, tradition, commerce, and the indefatigable spirit of industry.

Nevertheless, more can be done in terms of providing equal opportunities for our children, regardless of their gender. We must not lose sight of the fact that the girl child is the mother of future generations, who more often than not, shoulders the responsibility of nurturing and molding our children to become valuable members of society who are grounded in our norms and values. As a father, I dream of the day when our daughters would be given the chance to compete for opportunities without inhibiting primordial considerations, fulfill their potentials, and contribute, without hindrance, their quota towards the growth and development of the Boki Nation.

CULTURAL UNITY IN THE FACE OF GLOBALIZATION

Buan bane’ji, we live in interesting times where globalization, heralded by the digital age, has brought about some very disruptive changes to our society. I posit that while globalization has brought with it numerous positive changes to our society, it has also brought with it unintended consequences such as the erosion of some of our core cultural values that hitherto define and distinguish us as a people. It is therefore incumbent on us as mothers in particular and parents in general, to take deliberate measures to revive our culture and ensure that it repels corrosive societal changes that may be inimical to its foundations. In this regard, we must learn to consciously and meticulously use technology and innovation to promote our culture and ensure that our children proudly embrace and project our cultural heritage. We can, for instance, utilize social media to project our proud culture and heritage for the world to see by creating a Boki website. Social media if diligently supervised is also a veritable communication tool that can be used to unite the Boki people across the world. We can also ensure that our history is narrated correctly and kept safely for future generations.

It is imperative that we find a fine balance between our past and present, and adopt the positives from our culture, while getting rid of the aspects that may be impeding our progress as a people. We must stand firm and courageously speak against all forms of gender based discrimination, as it is a stumbling block to the principles of justice, equity and fairness. This again highlights the significance of the family in general, and our mothers in particular, considering the pivotal role they play in the formation of our children as inheritors of our rich heritage that continues to improve the human race. We must downplay clannish sentiments and strive for a holistic development of all human and natural/material resources of a unified Boki. God has been too kind to us and we cannot take His grace upon us for granted.

I make bold to state that some of the social vices bedeviling our society today, including corruption, cultism, kidnapping, drug addiction, in-fighting, desperation, thuggery, prostitution, and robbery, to name a few, are vivid evidences of the cultural erosion and moral decadence plaguing our society especially in present situation in Boki. Sadly, in recent times, the media has been awash with gory stories of the deadly activities of cultists and kidnappers in the Boki Nation. They have left in their wake casualties, destruction of properties worth millions of Naira, and a terrorized society living in permanent fear. Their activities effectively hold our communities to ransom as indigenes and visitors alike are unable to go about their daily socio-economic routines freely for fear of violent attack by the marauding cultists. These Tramadol taking, marijuana smoking youths and political thugs, have no respect for our culture anymore, nor do individual lives, and dignity or community peace matter to them. We the indigenes of Boki land are a proud and free people and we must strive to ensure that our freedom is not jeopardised or compromised by our morally and socially corrupted children. WHO DO US THIS THING I BEG???

The above concern is also where the mentoring role of our women and the duties of motherhood are called to urgent and compelling action. As a panacea to the aforementioned social vices, we must return to our core cultural values, including the dignity of labour, respect, honesty, integrity, equality, equity and social justice, and discipline. The family as a unit, and women as veritable members of the family, must redouble their efforts to ensure that our children are properly trained so that they do not become a burden to society. Ochibe Banyinyi Bokyi has therefore come at the most appropriate time to reposition the role of motherhood for a generation in distress occasioned by social dislocation propelled by drugs and sundry vices.

YOUTH EDUCATION/SKILLS ACQUISITION

The great anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was quoted as saying ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. This is a profound quote that buttresses the importance of education in bringing about positive change(s) to any society beginning from the community. Accordingly, all stakeholders must as a matter of urgency, focus on improving our education sector to ensure that our curriculum is designed to equip our children with relevant skills to compete in a rapidly changing global workforce. The curriculum should also contain comprehensive lessons on our history, culture, morals and values that project dignity, honesty, integrity, love, empathy and humanity.

Indeed Bokyi language should be made compulsory in our primary schools. All Bokyi Parents must insist on their children speaking Bokyi language. A Yearly Bokyi Language Competition can be introduced between schools or Clan, and in this regard, Rev Fr. Mike Abang Obi can help out.

Importantly, focus should be on science and technology as we must not shy away from the internet age and the technology race. Like I mentioned earlier, we must technically juxtapose our culture with ongoing modernisation precipitated by the advent of information and communication technology (ICT). There is an urgent need for our children to be given opportunities to acquire relevant technical skills that would position them to be gainfully self employed members of our society. Such re-orientation should concentrate on making graduands and graduates to see themselves as employers not employees. The Boki Nation has comparative advantage in the equatorial rainforest with heavy value chain potentials.

BOKI FORESTS, BOKI AGENTS AND THE ACTIVITIES OF INVADING ARMED CARTELS

It is important to use this forum to bring to the limelight ongoing deforestation activities in Boki land which have exacerbated the effects of climate change and global warming. These have destroyed 75% of our forests. If the spike in deforestation could be attributed to the growing population in our land, it would have been understandable. Unfortunately, there are actionable allegations that some highly connected timber cartels with the active collaboration of mindlessly greedy Boki sons in business and government, are brazenly razing down reserved and community forests (our only proud natural heritage) for their selfish economic and financial interests. We must understand that global warming is not a myth, as its dire impact is exemplified by the increase in floods, droughts, irregular rainfall and the destruction of the natural habitat of unique plants and animals, which if left unchecked, may lead to their extinction. Already we are experiencing loss of tree canopies resulting in dry drinking streams, wind storms ravaging communities with attendant homelessness, loss of aquatic life, loss of non timber products like eruru, aslie ose wild bush mango etc. I therefore urge our mothers, through this strategic platform, to invest some energy in the fight against the continuous desiccation and desecration of our last natural heritage – the Boki forest and its full endowments of Flora and Fauna.

The deforestation cartel cannot succeed without the active collaboration and connivance of indigenous elements hiding behind state government appointments or other privileges. Even the traditional establishment has been infiltrated with cash inducement and threats to those who reject the cash and we deeply appreciate their helplessness in many cases. Ochibe Banyinyi Bokyi can wade into this with traditional methods of deterrent like ekpa. Simultaneously, we have women among this group that can resist corruption and get the authorities to end this threat to our existence. The Bumaji formula of using community TASKFORCE with the active support of committed elites is recommended.

NEGATIVE IMPACT OF CORRUPTION ON SOCIETY

 

My presentation would be incomplete without bringing to light the devastating impact of corruption on our great country, Nigeria. In my capacity as the Secretary to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), I have seen first-hand the pervasiveness of corruption as well as its debilitating impact. Corruption is not a recent social phenomenon in the history of mankind and it is not unique to Nigeria. It is a universal social problem that is as old as mankind.

In our country, frequent stories of our national coffers being plundered by some incurably corrupt elements are common narratives. However, we must realise that corruption is not restricted to the plundering of state coffers, but also includes vices such as payment of bribes, nepotism, favouritism, cronyism, vote-buying, conflict of interest, illegal financing of political parties, and misuse of official position, amongst others.

Corruption has brought with it underdevelopment and economic backwardness, translating into lack or scarcity of basic facilities like clean water, food, medical care, sanitation and infrastructure. It has also caused severe wastage and misallocation of resources, delayed socio-economic development through missed investment opportunities, lowered growth, exacerbated poverty and widened inequality. Similarly, corruption continues to decrease government revenues, undermine private sector development and increases inefficiency in the public sector. In addition, corruption discourages Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by creating economic uncertainties, increasing operating costs, and distorting incentives for investment. It has been described as the single greatest obstacle to global economic and social development.

Taming corruption is, therefore, the only way forward for Nigeria in its quest for economic advancement, political stability and social progress. Fortunately, the task of taming corruption in our nation is being undertaken by anti-corruption agencies such as the EFCC, and through collaboration with a number of international agencies. We equally enlist the collaboration of Banyinyi Bokyi in this fight against corruption by pleading that if you see something, say something and EFCC will do the rest.

One of the best ways of realizing the goal of eradicating corruption is by incorporating Anti-Corruption Lessons in our school Curriculum from the elementary level upwards. We should make it clear to our children from a very young age that corruption is not only bad but detrimental to the progress of human societies. We must expose all corrupt individuals and ensure that the younger generation does not grow up thinking of taking up looting of government treasuries as a career path. Finally, we must figure out a way of communicating the anti-corruption message to the public through different avenues such as songs, music, drama, and poetry, among platforms. All these are vital to galvanize mass participation in the fight against corruption. We must continue as a people, to hold our leaders accountable for their actions or inaction.

The delay in the completion of Boki East/West Road with confirmed release of about 80% of contract sum to Boki sons should attract interrogation by the beneficiaries of the road. It is not just about functionality of institutions but the active participation of the citizens.

CONCLUSION

Finally, I conclude this presentation by assuring you that in my assignment as the Secretary to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, I will not let the people of Boki down in the discharge of my responsibilities to community and country, even to the world at large. We will fight corruption with all the necessary vigour and determination. You can also be assured of my continued legitimate support for the growth and development of the Boki Nation in all facets of human endeavor, especially protection of the girl child, betterment of the youths and empowerment of the women towards a sustainable cultural rebirth in the Boki Nation.

Once again Banyinyi Bokyi, agafuo ben o, Osowo kita’ bam ben ashi amumu.

Thank you for listening.