International Anti-Corruption Day: CSOs decry slow pace of anti-graft war in Nigeria

EFCC operatives
EFCC operatives

Ahead of the International Anti-corruption Day on December 9, a group of civil society organisations in Nigeria led by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has decried the slow pace of the fight against the scourge in Nigeria.

The International Anti-corruption Day has been observed annually across the globe since the United Nations Conventions Against Corruption was passed on October 31, 2003. It aims to raise public awareness of corruption and what people can do to fight it.

According to the project manager of CISLAC, Okeke Anya, the organisations said Nigeria has not fulfilled a majority of the 14 commitments it made as part of the Open Government Partnership effort.

It further lamented that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has not discharged any of the 20 commitments it made during an anti-corruption conference in London in 2016.

According to Mr Anya, public contracting remains in utter confusion and there remains a “lack of transparency.”

Furthermore, he said, the National Assembly has “hopelessly stalled crucial asset recovery legislation, such as the proceeds of crime bill as well as the much needed public procurement reform, while key appointments for the National Procurement Council (NPC) have not commenced.

“The National Assembly has delayed the confirmation of 60 nominees for leadership positions across various institutions, including agencies vital to fighting corruption. The failure to screen and confirm nominees from the Executive is undermining governance and complicating the on-going fight against corruption in the country.”

These failures, he said, contribute to the deterioration of public patience and perception about the ability of government to fight corruption in Nigeria.

On the judiciary and anti-corruption convictions, Oche Edeh, Director of YES project, said there is a reason to suspect that the judiciary is either not able or willing to prosecute “VIP cases” of senior public servants, “including elected politicians who have either directly or indirectly ravaged the Nigerian state resources.”

He said Nigeria has fallen to become the nation with the highest number of people living under extreme poverty in the world because of “monumental corruption and kleptocratic governance.

“Despite some acceleration in the rate of repatriation and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption, we still do not see the investigations, prosecutions and convictions at the highest levels of our political class,” he said.

The Director-.General of Lawyers Network Against Corruption (LAWNAC), Ezenwa Anumunu, identified the so-called “security votes” as one of the most durable forms of corruption in Nigeria.

Commenting on the illicit financial flows, he said ”Nigeria still loses an enormous amount of resources to illicit financial outflows.

“It is estimated that around $35 billion are annually lost to illicit financial flows. These indirect and dodgy movements of monies earned in Nigeria and leaving the country through the back door pose a great challenge to our development and economy,” Mr Anumunu said.

“It is, therefore, astonishing to note that Nigeria’s newly independent Financial Intelligence Unit has been unable to secure one single conviction in 2017 out of the 3587 Suspicious Transactions Reports which banks and financial providers flag as potential money laundering cases.”

He said the integrity and transparency of elected representatives and public officials need to be scrutinised “as never before as the presidential, gubernatorial and legislative elections draw near.”

The Programme Coordinator, Centre LSD, Uchenna Arisukwu, read out the demands of the CSOs.

These include:

“Cases in court that deal with PEPs should be expedited and cases should not be thrown out on technicalities that hinder the judiciary from carrying out their judicial responsibilities.

“The NFIU should be proactive by following up on the Suspicious Transactions Reports which banks and financial providers flag as potential money laundering cases.

“Our security agencies and personnel should be equipped to defend the nation and porous borders that allow inflow of illicit weapons and money laundering.

“Investigation should be carried out especially where there is evidence of abuse of power by political leaders and there should be adequate transparency in the procurement of military equipment as necessary.”

The organisations also requested a ban on security vote for public officers.

“The electoral processes at the federal and sub-national level need to be free of political profiteering and manipulation. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should set up mechanisms of monitoring section 91 of the Electoral Act 2010 As Amended that deals with maximum limit of election expenses,” he said.

In conclusion, the organisations said they would continue to support the government’s effort in the fight against corruption and ensure the government walks its talk in the fight.

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