Fighting Corruption With Machete

By Casmir Igbokwe

Winning any war depends largely on the deployment of superior, sophisticated armament against the opponent. The war against corruption is not different. Rather than assemble the best weapons against the monster, Nigeria merely confronts it with a machete. This is what Transparency International (TI) has been hammering on.

In its recent 2019 Corruption Perception Index, TI ranked Nigeria 146th out of 180 countries. Thus, the ‘Giant of Africa’ is the 34th most corrupt country in the world and fourth in West Africa. The country moved two places down, compared to the 2018 ranking. This situation, in the words of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is a national embarrassment.

But, instead of going back to the drawing board to re-strategise, the Nigerian government decided to launch feeble attacks on the global body. Executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Rafsanjani, captured it succinctly when he said that any year result was not favourable, government officials would dismiss the index and brand critical citizens and activists as unpatriotic.

That was exactly what the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) did. They not only dismissed the report, but also described it as baseless, appalling, unfair and untenable. 

President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, was also combative. He said the report was inaccurate and based on second-rate data. To him, this administration has done enormously well in the fight against corruption.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, was particularly miffed. The AGF, under whose purview the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) falls, said, “In terms of legislation, we have done more, in terms of enforcement, we have done more, in terms of recovery of looted assets, we have done more, and in terms of political goodwill, we have demonstrated extraordinary political goodwill.”

At the 17th edition of the Town Hall Meeting on the Fight Against Corruption held in Abuja in November last year, Malami had also boasted that the Federal Government had made over N200 billion from financial forfeiture in 2019. At that meeting also, the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, said his agency secured at least 890 convictions in 2019 alone. There were some other convictions in the previous years. In addition, there were filing of more corruption cases in court, implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS).

However, as TI explained, it is not about how many convictions or prosecutions have been secured by the anti-corruption agencies, “It is about the perception of Nigerians on the Immigration, the Customs, the National Assembly, the judiciary, ease of doing business, getting employment, gaining admission,” Rafsanjani added.

Of course, how many Nigerians, after seeing the frequent extortion on the roads by the police, the customs and sundry security agencies, will have good impression about our fight against corruption? How many of them will hear how National Assembly members siphon money for constituency projects; or witness the shenanigans going on in the judiciary, especially with the recent election petition judgments, and score our anti-corruption strategies high?

Who will pay bribe to get employment or do business with the government or secure admission for his child in a federal college and still believe that we are serious about fighting corruption? How many Nigerians, after seeing how bullion vans operated in a private residence in the heat of the 2019 general elections, and how we shared money to voters, will hail our acclaimed combat-readiness against corruption? How many people will be happy seeing the killings and kidnappings going on in the country despite billions of dollars that have been sunk into defence and security and still feel happy?

How can we blame TI when even the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine, has been shouting about illegal deductions in trillions of naira in major government institutions like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department of Petroleum Resources and Federal Inland Revenue Service? How can we be talking of fighting corruption when we dispense billions of naira as security votes without accounting for them; when there are serious violations of the Public Procurement Act such as over-invoicing and payments for contracts not executed; and when we cannot properly account for recovered assets and loot?

We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to focus more efforts on strengthening our institutions. We need to thank such bodies as the European Union that funds the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) Programme, which is implemented by the British Council.

All hope is not lost though. Last week, the Federal Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with RoLAC, held a sensitisation roundtable with the heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as well as the MDAs’ focal persons in Abuja for National Anti-Corruption Strategy implementation. The NACS was designed to provide a holistic strategy for all sectors and stakeholders in the fight against corruption. It is billed to run from 2017 to 2021. This is 2020 and the strategy is still sucking breast.

At the sensitisation programme, RoLAC consultant, Dr. Ada Igbokwe, reeled out the roles and responsibilities of MDAs’ management in the anti-corruption strategy. The chairman, Technical Committee on the Implementation of the NACS, Ladidi Mohammed, gave an overview of the strategy. According to her, NACS is made up of five pillars. The first pillar is prevention. This entails instituting auditable regimes of transparency, integrity and accountability to reduce the vulnerability of public, private and civil society organisations to corruption.

The second pillar is public engagement, which has to do with breaking up the collusion that fosters corruption. The third pillar is ethical reorientation, while the fourth and fifth pillars are enforcement and sanctions, as well as recovery and management of proceeds of crime, respectively.

By and large, much of public sector corruption happens in the MDAs. Many of them, as the Auditor-General of the Federation had observed, make some expenditure without presenting payment vouchers, contrary to the provisions of the Financial Regulation 601. By mid-February, members of the Monitoring and Evaluations Committee of the NACS will begin to visit the MDAs to monitor their compliance with the national anti-corruption strategy. It is hoped that these late efforts will present Nigeria with better weapons to face corruption squarely.

 

Re: Before Trump announces his visa restriction on Nigeria

Dear Casmir, the visa regulation is a good disciplinary measure. It will assist pressure and interest groups in check-balancing the excesses of functionaries. Thanks to Trump.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

 

The restriction of Nigerians and other nations from entering the US for childbirth is a challenge for our leaders to sit up. Nigerian government can also ban US from things they benefit from Nigeria. Why doesn’t President Trump restrict Nigerian politicians from lodging our taxpayers’ money into their banks?

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

 

The duty of every government is the security of its citizens. US government has come out to do its work. But in Nigeria, ethnic, religious politics overshadow excellence. Hence, mediocrity rules all facets of existence. The attitude of President Muhammadu Buhari to governance qualifies him and his officials to be on Trump’s list.

– Pharm. Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

 

Dear Casy, Buhari is the major beneficiary of former President Jonathan’s electoral reforms of 2011 to 2015. Since then, all elections under Buhari’s watch, Ekiti, Osun, Kogi, Bayelsa and the 2019 general election, were marred by rigging, violence, murder, fake results, use of force by the security agents against opposition parties and their members, and the use of court judgements, as in Imo State, where the fourth person became the first. What a shameful and evil act by the APC government. I recommend that President Trump should start the visa ban from Buhari and the Supreme Court judges who presided over Emeka Ihedioha’s case.

– Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495

 

Re: So Miyetti Allah now gifts Nigeria’s presidency?

Miyetti Allah or any other group cannot arrogate to itself the prerogative or right of determining who and which geo-political setting should assume the presidency of Nigeria. Your exclamation of surprise, “arrogance has no better example,” clearly captures the extent of your boiling mind. There are also other Nigerians who must have been similarly hurt by the very insulting remarks and level of ‘intransigence’ exhibited by Alhassan Saleh. Nigeria is a country of multiplicity of nations. Therefore, the collaborative arrangement and understanding of all stakeholders, based on justice, equity and prevailing circumstances, should form the basis of who and which geo-political setting should take the presidency at a given time. Nigerians who truly yearn for the unity and continuity of Nigeria as a country should listen to the following patriots: Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Babarabe Musa, Gen. Ishola Williams, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Gen. Zamani Lekwot, Chief Edwin Clark and Alhaji Tanko Yakassai.

These eminent and respected Nigerians, who cut across the length and breadth of the country, are guided by conscience and patriotic zeal. And conscience is the synonym of truth. It should be to the advantage of the South if and when the South-West, South-East and South-South are able to sacrifice their interests on a united platform that is always there to call off the bluff of the North’s purported number. When justice is being preached and propelled to take the centre stage, it is only the guilty that are afraid.

– Edet Essien Esq. Calabar South, +2348037952470

 

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, February 3, 2020.

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