Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itsey Sagay says Nigeria has made unprecedented progress in the fight against corruption.
He made the declaration on Thursday, while addressing State House Correspondents, after he led members of the committee on a courtesy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Sagay said: “In the area of recoveries, I don’t need to tell anybody, it is unprecedented in the annals of this country that we could be recovering so much assets illegally acquired mainly by public servants but not only by public servants.”
The PACAC Chairman said proceeds of the anti-corruption fight are already being ploughed into the country’s treasury, where it is used to make life better for citizens.
“The more remarkable aspect of it is that this recovered loot is being ploughed into the national budget every year and used for the Social Investment Programme. So when you hear about feeding of over 12 million school children; as when I checked last, having nutritious meal every day, you hear of poor families being supported to survive and stand on their feet or over 500,000 young people who are being trained in all sorts of skills and paid N30,000 a month by the government and the interest free loans given to small scale businesses all over the country. It’s all part of this money, not a kobo of it is left, everything is ploughed back and I think the country should know that, it’s very unprecedented, this never happened before in the history of this country, everything is ploughed back.
“Then we have succeeded in improving the quality of prosecution by giving the anti-prosecution agencies a lot of capacity building, train them in the manner cases should be prosecuted and how charges should be drawn. Judges up to the Supreme Court have also benefitted from this programme.
“In the era of corruption, you will be surprised if you think back that nobody talks about fuel subsidy corruption anymore. Previously we were losing almost N400 billion every year on fake fuel subsidy payments but now, it is zero. So generally, the tone of the country has improved. The country has gained tremendously, corruption has gone down,” he stressed.
The PACAC Chairman warned those nursing the idea of engaging in corrupt practices to have a re-think as modalities have been put in place to detect and prosecute them.
“There is still corruption but it has gone down and anybody who indulges particularly an officer of a state who engages in it knows the risk he is taking. We have the TSA, we have the bank verification number, all those things have made an incredible change in our level of anti-corruption.
“Now you cannot hide money in the banks anymore and agencies cannot hide money in various banks accounts which they spend without the knowledge of the government. Everything is in one place, everything is transparent, thanks to this government,” he said.
On whether they have some challenges, Professor Sagay said the Presidential Committee is not facing much challenges in carrying out its task.
He said: “There are always challenges but we don’t have any serious ones at all. We are doing our work, there is a large variety of work that we do in various areas both remote and immediate to support the anti-corruption struggle.
“We are doing pretty well. Previously, we were afraid that when the initial donor agency funds will be exhausted which we exhausted last year, we will be in trouble but I must say the government and various other bodies in this country which I will not want to mention have come to support PACAC with funds and so we are able to carry on our activities at the same speed as before, regardless of the fact that the foreign donors are no longer funding us apart from Mac-Author that still funds our programmes from time to time.”
“I am happy to say that the capacity of corruption to fight back has been reduced with the expiration of the life of the 8th National Assembly because that is where the main opposition to this government was constituted, main opposition to the fight against corruption, that was the centre and at that time, it did not depend on which party they belonged to, they all ganged up together against the fight against corruption and did everything they could to frustrate the government and ourselves in the this fight. Luckily, the 9th Assembly is totally different Assembly it is an assembly that is determined to work hand in hand with the government and therefore with us in achieving the highest level of non-corruption in society,” he said.
Regarding how much the committee has so far recovered, the PACAC Chairman said he could not give the exact figure.
He said: “I think the Minister of Information is best placed to say how much but I can say roughly internally is almost about N1 trillion because you see that in 2017, N500 billion was spent on this Social Investment Programme and in 2018 the same amount for the program. So, it must be roughly about N1 trillion although we also have monies that were recovered from abroad being ploughed back into the same system.”