SUSTAINING THE CURRENT ANTI-GRAFT WAR IN NIGERIA

Taiwo Ojedele, Lagos

Corruption is one of the most damaging consequences of poor governance. It undermines investment and economic growth, decreases the resources available for human development goals and deepens the extent of poverty. It subverts the judicial system and undermines the legitimacy of the State.

This has resulted in Nigeria being rated as one of  the most corrupt nations in the world by the Transparency International.

However, since assuming office in May 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has left no one in doubt about his government’s zero tolerance for corruption. He has kept his promise to root out the graft that has long permeated Africa’s largest economy

He has blocked avenues of leakages in the system, reviewed the process of awarding government contracts, and ordered all government ministries and agencies to consolidate their bank accounts for closer monitoring of financial transactions in what is now known as the Treasury Single Account, TSA.

Government has also overhauled the Management of some of its lucrative agencies particularly its oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, while also moving to retrieve stolen money stashed abroad by past government officials.

At present, many high-profile personalities suspected to have siphoned the nation’s common wealth and converted it for personal use have been arrested and under various stages of investigation and prosecution.

Government’s anti-graft institutions such as the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related matters Commission, ICPC, have been rejuvenated and new leaders  with track records of integrity appointed.

Although, a lot of progress has been made by the present Government in its anti-corruption crusade, a lot more grounds still needs to be covered in order to rid the country of the menace that has brought the country to ridicule in the comity of nations.

Government must fund its anti-corruption agencies adequately for its crusade against graft to succeed. The EFCC, ICPC and Code of Conduct Bureau need adequate funding to investigate and prosecute those who have enriched themselves from the county’s wealth.

It is not enough to arrest, detain and prosecute suspects of corrupt practices. A lot more needs to be done by the anti-corruption agencies to secure conviction against them. Painstaking investigation and diligent prosecution are required by the agencies to secure conviction against the suspects who spend part of their loot to hire the best lawyers in the country to defend them.

Justice would only be seen to have been done when those who have looted the country’s treasury are prosecuted, sent to jail and the stolen money recovered.

The judiciary has a critical role to play to achieve this. President Buhari stated recently that he was not getting the required cooperation of the judiciary in his fight against corruption. The Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu also spoke in similar vein. He is worried about the laissez-faire attitude the Courts adopt in their handling of serious corruption cases. Both the Executive and Judiciary must work in tandem and be on the same page for the Government to be able to drive home its war against corruption.

Government must also put in place a mechanism to monitor, investigate and prosecute public servants and other individuals who live beyond their means or become rich overnight. Government would have won the better part of its war against graft if this mechanism is established as obtained in other climes.

 

The collaboration existing between Nigeria and countries in the developed world where looted funds are hidden by corrupt officials is commendable. The agreement must not only be sustained but also strengthened. Graft would be reduced to its barest minimum when corrupt officials do not find safe haven for proceeds of corruption.

All Nigerians, leaders of the business community, the international community well as the civil society must stop paying lip service to the fight against corruption and rise in support of the Government in its noble cause to secure the future of the world’s most populous back nation.