• Monday, June 24, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Lagos, record-keeping, corruption and good governance

businessday-icon

R

ecently, the Lagos State Records and Archives Bureau joined the world to celebrate World Archives Day with the theme: “Corruption and Security Challenges in Nigeria; the Place of Records and Archives”. The theme is a significant pointer to the corruption and security challenges which have, over the years, stunted economic, political and infrastructural development in the country. No concrete development can take place in any nation where corruption and insecurity are the order of the day. 

Over the years, the resources of our country have been severely pillaged by people who take advantage of the culture of impunity that has been entrenched in the system. The corruption situation has been heightened by a lack of appropriate record keeping mechanism which is a prerequisite for accountability, transparency and productivity.

Corruption and insecurity have done huge damage to the image of the country, thus sending wrong signals to foreign investors and others. This has further complicated the economic woes of our country, with many multinational companies relocating to other African countries.

The recent economic woes that have befallen the country cannot be extricated from the backlog of assault suffered by the country under various administrations. Despite cries from concerned citizens on the need to diversify the economy, successive administrations in the country merely paid lip service to economic diversification. To complicate matters, earnings from oil were grossly mismanaged with billions of naira squandered on frivolity. This led to eventual draining of the nation’s foreign reserve.

One major bane of the country, over time, which actually encourages corruption, is poor record keeping, especially as it concerns critical national issues. According to the World Bank, there is a significant relationship between record management, accountability and good governance.

Record keeping is important because records have enduring values; they help to bridge the gap between the past and the future, providing future generations with relevant information to plan and build on. As it is said, information is key and power. It also helps in decision making, especially when made available and accessible, as record keeping and management encourage proactive governance.

Lagos State has continued to top the chart in innovative, creative and proactive governance through its lofty ideas, one of which is the creation of the Lagos State Records and Archives Bureau for better management of Lagos State records for planning, policy process, enhanced service delivery and heritage preservation.

This was reiterated by the Lagos state governor Akinwunmi Ambode, ably represented by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, at this year’s International Archives Day celebration. The state intends to take records and archives to the next level as it plans to fully utilize it for the benefit of the State as record keeping is very important in the progress and development of a mega city like Lagos.

As the theme implies, the state government intends to use the programme to promote record keeping, accountability, transparency and good governance. It is also geared towards awakening the consciousness of leaders, institutions and individuals to the importance of information management and record keeping in the smooth running of the society.

This will ultimately help in the fight against corruption and insecurity, as it is being done in developed countries where they are equipped with relevant data and record of individuals. The essence is to harness such data and record for appropriate use whenever there is a necessity for such. Often these data are used for crime detection and prevention as well as planning and projection.

The importance of efficient documentation mechanism in the fight against corruption and insecurity cannot be over emphasised. Accurate historical documentation of events, dates and time are not only essential to the judicial process but a necessity for good governance. If justice must be seen to have been served, evidence must be documented and preserved for immediate and future reference.

Today, in our country, and this is rather sad, a lot of cases are endlessly adjourned while some are thrown out of court or even aborted for lack of documented evidence which is either lost or inaccessible. As such, cases that should be followed to a conclusive end within a short period end up taking decades in court without justice being delivered. There is no way we can effectively fight crime without an institutionalized system of archives and records. Even, technology, which we depend more in modern societies for the tracking of crimes, relies heavily on records.

With effective record keeping and documentation machinery, the rot in our judicial system can be curbed as cases would be successfully pursued in the court of law with little or o delay. Therefore, it has become necessary for our country to have a central criminal registry domiciled in Abuja with the Nigeria Police Force and the Attorney-General of the Federation, where records of all convicts within the states of the federation and the Capital Territory are kept. This will help in the profiling of crime suspects and the smooth sail of the judicial system.

The current strides of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC in successfully tracking fraudulent financial transactions of certain individuals within the polity, could be partly traced to the ability of the Commission to access critical data and records of the dealings of such individuals. The use of the data bases of financial institutions through the Bank Verification Number, BVN as well as finger print in tracing cash movement have made the EFCC’s job a bit easier.

In an effort to further assist relevant government agencies in the war against corruption, the Lagos state government has established a crime laboratory. The purpose is to ensure effectiveness of information gathering and record keeping in crime fighting and investigation. With this development, security agencies can experience accelerated progress in crime detection, prevention and reduction.

The crime laboratory could also help in logical and systematic follow up on crime suspects and convicts as it helps to generate reliable information in investigative policing and intelligence gathering, since there are data and records on crime and criminal modes of operation. With the aid of the crime laboratory, the Lagos State Police Command has been able to keep tab on crime suspects, break crime syndicates, recover stolen vehicles and even prevent cyber criminals popularly known as “yahoo boys” from fraudulently lifting 800 million naira from an individual’s account.

On a final note, every aspect of life, from trade, finance, labour, welfare, security to environment  thrive on information, which must be accurate, constantly updated, preserved and made accessible for the development and progress of society.

Temilade Aruya