Since the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in Nigeria, one of the priorities of government has been to tackle corruption, given the negative impact on its image and socio-economic development of the country.
During his inaugural speech, the President assured Nigerians that his administration would be accountable, responsive and responsible. Indeed, over the years corruption has dented Nigeria’s image. It has also scared away investors, entrenched poverty, unemployment and low productivity in Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
Transparency International in its successive Corruption Perception Index, rated Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It is not a tag that Nigeria likes or wears with pride, especially because Nigerians are generally, not corrupt.
Corruption is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. Other countries of the world including the United Kingdom, United States, Russia, Pakistan, Mexico, Iran, Egypt and Columbia, are also struggling with the challenge. Undoubtedly, successive governments in Nigeria have made efforts to tackle corruption through the promulgation of laws that criminalise the act.
The Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission-ICPC, was established by the ICPC Act 2000, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission-EFCC, was also established by an Act in 2004, while the Money Laundering Prohibition Act was signed into law in 2011. These laws are among several other measures put in place to curb corrupt practices to the barest minimum.
It is no wonder therefore, that the administration of President Buhari has vowed to renew the vigour of Nigeria’s anti-corruption crusade.
To start with, government set up a Presidential Anti-Corruption Committee and saddled it with the responsibility of formulating a strategy to co-ordinate the anti-corruption war, as well as ensure that all sectors of the economy are involved in the fight against corruption.
Government has also created a conducive atmosphere for the EFCC and the ICPC to execute their mandates without interference. Data released by the EFCC shows that in 2015 alone, the Commission investigated 1881 corruption cases, 280 cases were filed in court, 78 convictions were secured and a substantial amount of money was recovered.
Today, scores of individuals who engaged in money laundering, arms deals, diversion of public funds for personal use, embezzlement or fraud have been arrested and are being prosecuted by the anti-graft agencies in Nigeria.
Measures have bee put in place to eradicate corrupt practices in Ministries, Department and Agencies, through the Single Treasury Account policy.
Government has also begun a review of its anti-corruption laws enacted since 2000, to bring them in compliance with international standards and is reviewing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention for ratification. The OECD convention is considered among the stringiest of measures against corruption in corporate governance.
President Buhari has already forwarded the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2016 to the National Assembly for enactment into law. When passed, it will enhance mutual assistance and international co-operation between Nigeria and other countries.
Furthermore, the Legislature is reviewing and strengthening existing anti-graft laws, to ease the processes for facilitating justice and recovering looted funds and properties.
In addition, the 8th Senate is to inaugurate an independent Transparency and Delivery Commission, to work with the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption & Financial Crimes. Its task is to draw up a robust oversight scheme and strengthen the internal structure and capacity of the National Assembly.
The World Bank’s decision to assist Nigeria in the fight against corruption is therefore a major boost to the country’s renewed vigour in the anti-graft crusade.
Many have hailed the government’s efforts but analysts say the most effective deterrent will be securing stringent convictions for all corrupt individuals, groups and companies.
It is also true that the anti-graft crusade can only be realistically executed when all citizens are assured of decent employment, to deter the millions of unemployed Nigerian youths from engaging in corrupt practices.
Irrespective of the policies and laws to check corrupt practices, Nigerians have the most crucial role to play and it begins with a change of attitude and perception.
Every country needs help to tackle challenges. For Nigeria, the return of its funds, looted illegally and stashed in safe havens in foreign countries in Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle-East, is all the help it needs.
That is the only realistic way to show true friendship to Nigeria, especially where bilateral interests are concerned. All decent and honest Nigerians are waiting and watching.