By Casmir Igbokwe
It was a dramatic comeback akin to Brazilian telenovela. For former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, it was a sweet victory against the incumbent President, Jair Bolsonaro. Lula was Brazilian President between 2003 and 2010. His tenure was trailed by a massive corruption scandal which affected some of Brazil’s most influential politicians and business executives. The scandal, dubbed Operation Car Wash, centred on the state-run oil company, Petrobras. Lula was specifically accused of receiving kickbacks to give out access to juicy Petrobras contracts. He was jailed for corruption in 2018.
But, he was freed after over 18 months in prison. In March last year, the Supreme Court threw out his conviction, noting that the court that had convicted him lacked the necessary jurisdiction and that the judge was biased. Last week, he was re-elected for a third term in office. For me, the return of Lula as President of this Latin America’s biggest economy is not the issue. Rather, the fact that a former President was jailed for corruption, even when the conviction was questionable, should be a great lesson for Nigeria in the fight against sleaze.
In Nigeria, how many ex-presidents have been arrested not to talk of being jailed for corruption? How many former governors have faced trial for corrupt practices? What we usually do is to skirt around the issue, or give a feeble promise to tackle it, as President Muhammadu Buhari did when he assumed office in 2015. The tragedy of our fight against corruption is that while the monster enters the ring with machetes and strong hand gloves, those fighting it in Nigeria enter with bare hands.
Today, many Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government reek of corruption. In an audit report by the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) last year, it was discovered that these federal ministries, departments and agencies failed to account for N323.5billion in 2019. Many offices reportedly violated rules on payments, remittances and tax.
To help in tackling some of these corrupt tendencies, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), on July 5, 2017, approved what is known as the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS). It directed the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to come up with a robust implementation plan for it. NACS was established in compliance with Nigeria’s national and international obligations on tackling corruption. It was to fulfill the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which Nigeria signed in 2003 and ratified in 2004.
The NACS is anchored on five pillars: prevention of corruption, public engagement, campaign for ethical re-orientation, enforcement and sanctions, and recovery and management of proceeds of crime. The Strategy was aimed at removing corruption related factors inhibiting government’s institutions’ accessibility and capacity to deliver quality service to Nigerians. It was supposed to run from July 2017 when it was launched to July 2021. We are now in 2022. Effectively, the first phase of the programme has ended.
Last week, key stakeholders gathered at a round-table meeting in Abuja to appraise the implementation of the strategy. Their verdict was not too salutary. The greatest hindrance to its full takeoff is the Federal Government that launched it. As the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Beatrice Jedy-Agba, put it, “The implementation of NACS still faces certain challenges, particularly with respect to the lack of a proper and functioning Inter-Ministering Committee (IMC) charged with the implementation of NACS. The Committee when inaugurated by the President will also be responsible for facilitating the Anti-Corruption Funding Framework (AFF) and the development of sector-specific strategies in line with NACS. There are also budgetary challenges with respect to the activities of the Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Committee.”
Simply put, members of the M&E Committee who are supposed to monitor and evaluate the compliance of the MDAs to the NACS implementation got no funding for their activities. If not for the development partners like the European Union, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC), MacArthur Foundation, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and the British Council, which invested their time and resources to assist the M&E Committee in the implementation of NACS, the programme would have died a natural death.
For four years, the M&E Committee only succeeded in carrying out a baseline survey. According to its findings, about 84 per cent of the agencies surveyed are aware of the NACS; about 72 per cent have significant level of buy-in at the MDA level; and about 73.3 per cent have the organizational capacity to implement NACS.
The Chairman of the Technical Committee on the implementation of the NACS, Ms Ladidi Mohammed, itemized what might be considered some achievements. They include the establishment of a secretariat for the implementation of NACS under the direct supervision of the AGF; and conduct of NACS Forum for all the Heads of relevant agencies and Attorneys-General of states held on December 10, 2018. Some others are regional sensitization on the implementation of the NACS for the North-West zone in Katsina on April 30, 2019; and participation in the development and domestication of NACS at various states such as Adamawa, Anambra, Kano, and Lagos.
Besides, at the 2021 annual International Anti-Corruption Day held in Abuja on December 9, 2021, Malami reeled out what he considered the successes of the current government’s anti-corruption fight. Among them, he said, were over 1,400 convictions as of 2021. Incidentally, at the same anti-corruption day event in Abuja, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNOC), Ghada Waly, estimated that corruption cost Nigeria about $18billion annually.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari, believes the National Assembly is doing well as far as fighting corruption is concerned. At the earlier mentioned round-table discussion, Kwari said the National Assembly had passed very critical legislation that strengthen the legal and institutional framework designed to prevent and combat corruption. “These are Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act 2022, Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Act 2022 and Terrorism Prevention Act 2022. Others undergoing final legislative activities include Witness Protection Bill and Public Interest Disclosure Bill,” he noted.
But, he also has some reservations. According to him, part of the challenges has to do with how to easily and sustainably mainstream the strategy and its principles down to sub-national and local government public administration. He also noted that there was a general absence of performance, monitoring and evaluation mechanism within the agencies, which undermined discipline and due diligence in the implementation of the NACS.
Now that the office of the AGF is in the process of seeking the approval of FEC to extend the lifespan of the NACS for another four years, every effort must be made to correct the identified mistakes of the first phase. As recommended by Ladidi Mohammed, there is need for a high-level launch of the NACS by the President to galvanise buy-in. There is also the need to create awareness and cascade the strategy from the national to the sub-national level. The Ministry of Information and Culture, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and some other relevant government agencies should help to disseminate information about NACS.
Moreover, efforts should be made to quickly pass the pending anti-corruption bills before the National Assembly. Some of them are the whistle blowers policy bill, and witness protection bill. We must be decisive in the fight against corruption. Like Brazil, Nigeria has its general election in 2023. We must resolve to vote against those with ‘operation car wash’ reputation. As the Component 3 Manager of RoLAC, Mr. Emmanuel Uche, noted, a new Nigeria is possible.
Re: Terror alert in Abuja
Terrorists, just like thieves, come unannounced and don’t go on the Internet to disclose the ”Who, What, Where, When, Why and How” of their plans before embarking upon their deadly strike. If these terrorists, some of whom are fifth columnists, have already made a mince-meat of the security of the Kuje Correctional Centre, exposed the porosity of Nigeria’s seat of power and the NDA – the symbol of Nigeria’s security – then even a fake terror alert is worth a thousand words and attention! In these uncertain times, it is much better for one to err on the side of caution than for one to leave one’s safety to chance or fate. Lai Mohammed must speak ‘politically correct’ to maintain his job of polishing the image of the government of the day which he is an integral member. But there’s no basis of our comparison with a country whose soldiers, just for the life of one of their citizens, successfully raided and rescued its one citizen held hostage in a terrorists’ den in a foreign country. At the tragic scene of the September 11, 2001 al-Qaida strike, George Bush the then US President was personally seen with a shovel working on the debris of the mangled World Trade Centre.
-Edet Essien Esq. Cal South, 0803 795 2470
Dear Casy, a proverb has it that to be on alert does not translate to cowardice. In that wise, the terror alert in Abuja, as issued by the US embassy, is, essentially, for increased caution on the part of the Abuja residents and increased surveillance by those whose statutory duty it is to do so for increased safety of the public for overall good. Rather than take the terror alert with the seriousness it deserved, our FG resorted to her characteristic macabre dance by down-playing the seriousness of such sensitive security issue. God forbid, should such terror alert eventuate into reality, what we would see is our FG insulting our ears with such statement as, ‘we are on top of the situation’ when, inversely, they are on top of our graves! Then, the FG’s megaphone, our mouthy, garrulous, lie-embellishing Lie Mohammed would go into what he knows best and does best and that is, projecting reality as fantasy and fantasy as reality which, most times, become counter-productive. Our information Minister, measuring Nigeria with the US, especially, on security matters? Why? How? Casy, it is said that if one overestimates one’s strength, owing to ego, one might be carried beyond one’s ancestral address!
-Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731.
Dear Casmir, rather than claim kangaroo serenity, Lai Mohammed should advise the inspector general of police to put more effort in beefing up security. May Abuja not turn to Federal Criminal Territory!
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +234 909 538 5215
Casmir, the latest security alert by the US concerning Nigeria was a good one, in the sense that, it made everyone – the security outfits, the citizenry, as well as the foreigners in our midst – become proactively hyper security conscious. We were all on our toes. It has, however, for now, turned out to be a hoarse; like a sheep crying wolf where there is none. No weapon fashioned against the nation shall prosper IJN! To ‘our enemies’ enough is enough! May God conquer and put to shame all troublers of our beloved but beleaguered nation. The tempo of our security consciousness should be sustained! No doubt, the terrorists have been dealt a huge blow in recent times and they are now in a revenge mood! Since PMB ‘changed’ from handling them with ‘kid gloves to hard/adult gloves’ – notably, because of their threat to kidnap him and el Rufai – as recommended on this page, an improvement in security was noticed for which the security chiefs were acknowledged and commended.
-Mike, Mushin, Lagos, +234 816 111 4572
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, November 7, 2022