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    Categories: Columns

Institutionalising the war against corruption – New approaches to assets tracing and recovery (2)

A recent report published by Transparency International (TI), a global corruption watchdog, shows that corruption worsened in Nigeria in 2017.

Mike Ozekhome

CURTAIN CALL

Cyril Ramaphosa once opined that we must listen to the concerns of our people without dismissing them. When people see something wrong, there is something wrong. When our people see corruption, it means there is corruption. When our people see that their resources are being stolen by certain people, it means this is happening, and we should listen. On this note, we shall continue our discourse on the above issue.

READ ALSO: 21st Century technology, major challenge to anti-corruption war – SGF

The ironic trend of institutionalised corruption in Nigeria (continues)

Due to the facts of allegation and counter allegations of corruption in the form and nature of compromise and protection of the persons fingered in this unscrupulous act, this murder has remained unsolved. In this category falls the murder of Chief M.K.O. Abiola on July 7, 1998 Aminosari Dikibo a former national vice chairman of PDP in February 6, 2004, Igwe Barnabas, Onitsha NBA and his wife, September 10, 2002, Funsho Williams, Lagos PDP governorship aspirant murdered in July of 2006, Charles Nsiegbe a political associate of former Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi and AC governorship candidate in 2007, November 21, 2009, Marshal Harry Uche, ANPP Senatorial Candidate for Olu Zone, Feb. 8, 2003 at his Owerri home, Imo state. These are just a few cases swept under the carpet by acts of corruption since 1999. Though the present government of Muhammadu Buhari has sworn to fight corruption to a standstill, the government has been accused of shielding corrupt members or officials of its party and government, selective move against selected opposition members or non-aligning party members; as a result many financial misappropriation and scandals have been swept under the carpet with no action taken. For example, the 25 billion dollar NNPC scandal remains uninvestigated, or no one prosecuted, the Maina (grass cutter) scandal for which enquiries was carried out by the committee headed by the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, but no one prosecuted rather he was replaced with his close kin, the deafening silence of the presidency and anti-graft agencies on the NYSC certificate scandal of the honourable minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun and the lame excuse rendered by the police on why they cannot investigate Kemi Adeosun’s NYSC certificate scandal. There is gross abuse of institutional independence, of recent Nigeria’s judiciary as an institution has suffered flagrant disobedience to court orders; this Buhari government is unfortunately not left out of this gross abuse. Though there is so much noise that corruption is being fought in Nigeria especially by this administration, international observers think otherwise, our corruption rating is still poor, just recently, the US released a very damning report on their website indicting Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight. The report noted that corruption and impunity is still widespread under the Buhari administration and categorically stated impunity is responsible for the massive loss of lives Nigeria and that Buhari government lacked transparency.

READ ALSO: Kemi Adeosun’s NYSC certificate saga

They reported thus:

“Although the law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security services.”

My humble admonition is that this present government shouldn’t hide under the cloak of “corruption is fighting back” or “the wailers” cliché to wish away this demining report but that the government should sit-up, and reed its house of infirmity before going about the media with unsustainable claims and data. Court order should be obeyed, government should not sit prosecute cases and at the same time sit in judgment over those case. With the institutionalization of corruption, there can be no sustainable development, nor political stability. By breeding and feeding on inefficiency, corruption invariably strangles the system of social organization. In fact, corruption is literally the antithesis of development and progress.

Institutionalising the war against corruption

For there to be any meaningful development in the fight against corruption, there must exist institution with a core value deployed independently, free from the manipulative powers of the executive or its personnel to rescue Nigeria from corruptive decay. Beyond establishing these institutions there should be a gradual shift in the now generally accepted culture of corruption, in other words, everybody must begin to contribute their quota by insisting on doing what is right without cutting corners. Therefore institutionalizing the war against corruption simply connotes having a self sustaining system, culture, core values and institutions that can positively resist the force of corruption.

The war against corruption in Nigeria is not new, Nigeria has for a very long times been in this war. There has been so many reforms and formulated policies to stamp out corruption but realistically, corruption has defied these and continue to be with us. From the General Murtala Muhammed war against corruption in 1976, which resulted in the major purge in public and private sectors; the Jaji Declaration in 1977 by Olusegun Obasanjo, sign-posting the commencement of the second-phased battle against the creeping culture of corruption, bribery and indiscipline; the Ethical Revolution of Shagari from 1981 to 1983; War Against Indiscipline by Buhari-Idiagbon in 1984; the National Orientation Movement in 1986, and the Mass Mobilization for Social Justice by Babangida in 1987; to the War Against Indiscipline and Corruption by Abacha in 1996, corruption in Nigeria rather than deplete has grown astronomically.

A recent report published by Transparency International (TI), a global corruption watchdog, shows that corruption worsened in Nigeria in 2017. According to the 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Nigeria which scored 27 ranked 148 out of 180 countries assessed in 2017. Due to reports of international bodies which has always been a reflection of the Nigerian society, at Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in Nigeria, there was an urgent need to institutionalize the war against corruption, this immediate need translated into the establishment of Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), through the instrumentality of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000 and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment Act), 2003, by the then Olusegun Obasanjo administration. The bodies had the primary objective to reduce corruption to its barest minimum.

READ ALSO: The Transparency International corruption report

The establishment of the ICPC and EFCC positioned Nigeria in a different light. Nigeria was now perceived globally as a country ready to deal with corruption headlong. One of the cases that unequivocally transmitted this hope in minds of many Nigerians was the conviction of the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, on charges of corruption in 2005. The words of Wole Soyinka then aptly summarized the feeling that this conviction afforded Nigerians. He said thus:

“We are having some very big names quaking in their boots, making confessional statements and working out deals. It is the first time, in Africa that a Chief of Police was hauled up before the courts for massive corruption and thrown out of the police”

It is true that since the coming into force of the ICPC and EFCC Acts, there have been quite a number of high profile convictions in the same breadth there has also been quite a number of dramatic silence in high profile case that found its way to court but remained there without any meaningful progress.

Nigeria as a country does not suffer from paucity of laws or establishment of anti-corruption institution but implementation has always been the problem with Nigeria in the anti-corruption war. At this point we shall quickly embark on a brief overview of the EFCC and ICPC Acts to highlight the statutory provision of EFCC and ICPC as anti-corruption institutions. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2002, established the EFCC as a specialized financial crimes investigation agency. Section 1 of the Act provides thus:

“There is established a body to be known as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in this Act referred to as the “the commission” which shall be constituted in accordance with and shall have such functions are conferred on it by this Act.”

The Act copiously provided for the power of the commission to investigate financial crimes. Section 6 of the Act amongst other things provides thus:

The Commission shall be responsible for·-

(a) The enforcement and the due administration of the provisions of this Act;
(b) The investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud. Money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud. Fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam, etc;
(c) The co-ordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other person or authority

Section 7 of the act provides inter alia: The Commission has power to-

(a) Cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organisation has committed an offence under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes;

(b) Cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income.

However, though the powers of the EFCC to investigate and prevent financial crimes are not in doubt, the power is not exclusive. In ATTORNEY GENERAL, EKITI STATE V EFCC & 17 ORS in suit number FHC/AD/ CS/32/2016, the court made this point succinctly clear that the EFCC lacked the power to investigate finances of a state as appropriated by state’s House of Assembly without a report of indictment from the state House of Assembly. The court’s reasoning was well informed by the provisions of sections 128 and 129 of the Constitution of Nigeria, as allowing the EFCC to undertake such a task would amount to usurping the power of the Auditor General or the Accountant General of the state leading to abuse of the principle of separation of power as enshrined in the constitution. It is in this regard that the recent Executive order signed by the president must be condemned.

On the other hand, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) shares similar role with the EFCC. The ICPC was inaugurated in September, 2000, following the recommendations of the then president, Obasanjo. The ICPC is vested with the responsibility of investigation and prosecution of persons alleged to have engaged in acts of corruption. The ICPC was established pursuant to section 3 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000. The Act makes provisions for the general duties of the commission to among other things, receive, investigate and prosecute offenders under the Act, to investigate reports and carry out enquiries into information brought before it. The Act empowers the commission to summon suspects for the purpose of investigation. To be continued next week.

READ ALSO: PDP kept EFCC, ICPC as toys in the past – Shehu

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THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“The issue of corruption in the humanitarian system is not an issue which is fundamentally different from dangers of corruption in other areas. One of the best ways to strengthen accountability is to engage in principled and law-based humanitarian action.”

– Peter Maurer

Tokunbo David :Writer and editor.

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