The Nigerian government has said that the country’s war against corruption is that of survival of the country. The government also said the war is real, unrelenting and involves everybody in order to get it successfully executed to the finished line.
This was disclosed during a special town hall meeting on the fight against corruption on Thursday in Abuja by the country’s information and Culture Minister, Mr. Lai Mohammed.
From the analogy given by the Minister, the success of the other key programmes of the government such as; revamping the economy and tackling insecurity, is closely intertwined with how well the nation is able to fight corruption.
“For as long as the nation fails to check corruption, tackling insecurity and the revamping the economy will remain a mirage. In other words, the fight against corruption is pivotal to the success of the other cardinal programmes of the Administration.”
Mr. Mohammed also reiterated that the anti-corruption war is not Mr. President’s war alone, It is Nigeria’s war, hence the need for every citizen to support it. According to him, part of the efforts to win the support of Nigerians is to carry them along every inch of the way.
“Today’s Special Town Hall Meeting on the Fight against Corruption fits into that effort, as it provides an opportunity for the major stakeholders in the federal government’s battle against corruption to give account of their stewardship, and for Nigerians to have the opportunity to interact with them, ask questions and also make suggestions.”
The Minister submitted that this is the first time that the fight against corruption is being backed by a strong political will, with a President renowned for his honour, dignity and incorruptibility personally leading the fight. And that is making all the difference, he said.
“We can say there is some success in the war because it is obvious that the corrupt ones can no longer flaunt the proceeds of their corruption the way they used to do in the past.’’
All the panelist took time to reel out to the public their score cards and what is in the offing going forward.
First the country’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami represented by Abiodun Ayodeji,Special Assistant to the President on Financial Crimes. He said the country has lost so much revenue from corruption. He said recognizing the huge loses to the country, the office of the Attorney device some strategies to curb the menace of corruption.
“We have the 5 pillars in the fight against corruption which are the prevention which has to do with the Treasury Single Account and the Integrated Personnel Payment System.
“Then the Enforcement of sanctions which we have successfully implemented even against politically exposed persons.
“The Public Enlightenment which is aimed at reaching out and getting the buy-in of the citizenry. It also involves campaign for ethical reorientation and lastly the Presidential Executive Order No.6 meant to freeze asset of corrupt persons.”
The next panelist, Professor Sadiq Radda who represented Professor Itsey Sagay who heads the Presidential Advisory Committee on anti-Corruption submitted that corruption is a trans-border activity.
He said confiscation of properties of corrupt person remains the ultimate way out pending conclusion of investigation, he also charged the judiciary to live up to expectation in the fight against corruption.
He called on other tiers of government; states and the Local governments to replicate what the Federal Government is doing to fight corruption because they also share from the resources of the nation. He also called for a strong collaboration between relevant agencies fighting corruption.
For Ibrahim Magu who chairs the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the best and most effective strategy is to involve everyone from the relevant agencies to citizens.
According to Magu, the EFFC focuses on prevention, enforcement and prosecution which is very unlikely in other climes. He said Nigeria was lucky to have an agency with these mandates combined thus the ability to have 890 convictions just under a year, arguably the highest in the world.
Magu advised looters to return their loots and find some rest as the activity is given them sleepless nights.
“Some have houses in London but they can’t go to such homes, they hide in small hotels and are even scared of moving in the afternoon. They pick different taxis just to go to a location to check their so called properties.”
He spoke on cyber-crime and border crimes and how the agency was planning to collaborate with neighboring countries where some the cyber criminals have relocated to.
The Representative of the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force, D.I.G Aminci Baraya advised citizens to always record conversation of police officers who are in the habit of collecting bribes and forward such to the higher authorities. He said the Force has instituted a cleansing mechanism within the force to check corrupt acts.
In his presentation, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practice and other related Crimes, Professor Bolaji Owosanoye said the agency has beam its search light on politicians who collect constituencies allowance and will not do any project in the end. He said other areas of focus is on Education and Health for now. He said they are also prosecuting people who are involved in the social investment program racketeering.
He decried the begging system which he is witnessing as the chair of an anti-corruption agency.
“It is unfortunate that people who commit corrupt crime would ask other respected citizens to call and beg on their behalf.”
He called for proper profiling of people before they get appointment or even elected into office. He said there are so many individuals that are not supposed to be working because of one investigation or the other but are seated in their offices working.
Lastly, Professor Mohammed Isah of the Code of Conduct bureau advised citizens to read through the agencies Act so as to abide by the provisions. He said so many public servants don’t even know nor pay heed or even comply with the provisions.
During the Question and answer session, Minister for state Environment Sharon Ipeazu suggested that anti-corruption units should be set up in all government offices. She said the concepts works well.
Dr. Abdullahi Shehu of the United Nations office for Drug and crime said Nigeria’s fight against corruption is a model in Africa and must be replicated by others.
Meanwhile, Professor Femi Odekunle called for establishment of anonymous whistle blower units in government offices that would have direct and effective contact with anti-corruption agencies. He also call for a strategy to protect such anti-corruption crusaders within government establishments. He said only that can encourage regular workers to blow the whistle against the top brass.
The fight against corruption is one of the three cardinal programmes of the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, with the others being the war against insecurity and the revamping of the economy.