PROSPECTS OF STRENGTHENED ANTI-CORRUPTION MEASURES IN NIGERIA

Adeyemi Ogunnubi, Lagos

Among the campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari is the pledge to rid the country of corruption. Since assuming office in May 2015 and in keeping with the pledge, the President has articulated some new measures to strengthen Nigeria’s existing anti-corruption policies.

One such measure is the implementation of the Treasury Single Account, which is to ensure that government revenues are effectively mobilized and monitored. Under the terms of the policy, Ministries, Departments and Agencies are required to pay and receive all monies through a single vault, in order to check diversion and embezzlement of government funds.

The Treasury Single Account was first introduced in 2012 but became operational last September. Since then, Nigeria has saved over two trillion Naira as a direct result of the Treasury Single Account policy.

Undoubtedly, corruption is arguably one of Nigeria’s protracted challenges, blamed over the years on weak public institutions to efficiently and honestly verify assets declared by public officials.

Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog, this year, ranked Nigeria as the third most corrupt country in Africa, followed by South Africa and Ghana. In the report entitled People and Corruption: Africa Survey 2015, Transparency International noted that people in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana were most negative about the scale of corruption in their countries.

On the strength of this and similar reports in the past, the Nigerian government has resolved to take decisive measures to stem corruption across board and throughout the country’s public service.

Evidence of this resolve abound in different sectors of the economy, principal among which are the major overhaul in Nigeria’s oil company-the NNPC.

As a direct result of the on-going probe into the NNPC’s accounting practices, the President has assumed the headship of its management as Minister. In addition, two high-profile figures: former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke and the then Chairman of NNPC-Olajide Omokore, have been charged with corruption and money laundering. The former oil minister’s five-year tenure was marred by recurring accusations of widespread theft.

Meanwhile, Government has stepped-up its accounting of oil receipts and is recovering stolen funds by top officials and politicians, under the guise of arms purchase. This time, the possibility of a plea bargain has been ruled out as Nigerians have demanded that looters of the national treasury face the long arm of the law.

Another high profile figure under investigation is the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki. He is now facing a 47-count charge before three different courts and judges in Abuja. Charged along with Dasuki are former Minister of State-Finance, Bashir Yuguda; one-time governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa; his son-Sagir Attahiru and Dalhatu Investment Limited, a company believed to have been used to divert huge sums of money from the office of the National Security Adviser prior to the 2015 general elections.

For now, Nigerians at home and abroad continue to praise the new anti-graft measures, on the premise that it sends a clear message to the elites and political office holders that governance will no longer be business as usual.

They also call for these measures to be sustained, to serve as deterrents against future impunity.

Indeed, with these strengthened anti-corruption policies and strong commitments from the international community, including Britain and Switzerland to assist Nigeria to recover and repatriate stolen funds, hopes are high that Nigeria has finally begun to walk the path to a new era of accountability and transparency, as well as equitable allocation and utilisation of national resources.

H.S