Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged stakeholders, including government, parliamentarians and non-state actors, to be more effective and adopt holistic, strategic and coordinated approach in the fight against corruption.
Mr Osinbajo made the call at the 2019 African Union (AU) Anti-corruption Day organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in Abuja on Thursday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Day, commemorated on July 11 annually, is an Africa observance event to raise awareness in the fight against corruption.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Towards a Common African position on Asset Recovery”.
Mr Osinbajo, who was represented by Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry Of Justice, Dayo Apata, said that the bane of corruption had given birth to unbridled loot of public funds and property.
“In reality, corruption undermines Africa’s security, generates huge economic damage and violates human rights.
“This gives a sense of urgency to the fight against corruption, as failure to address corruption inhabits sustainable long-term growth and undermines human development.
“The menace of corruption in African continent is endemic, as it negatively affects all aspect of people’s lives. And those who suffer most are the vulnerable, the down-trodden, the less privilege, the poor and the marginalised.
“In spite of commendable regulatory instruments and established different institutions to combat corruption in Africa, the ugly trend continues unabated.
“Through its diverse practices, funds allocated for the provision of vital public services such as roads, health clinics, good schools, among others, are diverted, mismanaged and stolen,” he said.
Osinbajo said that the third AU roundtable high level discussion would continue to pave way for the needed opportunity for cross fertilisations of ideas, knowledge exchange and sharing of best practices in checkmating the challenges militating against good governance.
He added that it would also help in the recovery of looted assets among the African States and around the world, thereby improving asset recovery and asset return.
He noted that tackling corruption head-long had been a top priority programme the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari since its inception in May 29, 2015.
“As a result, there is in place no zero tolerance policy to corrupt practices and non-conforming conducts in public life and for ensuring integrity and ethical conducts in the task of governance.
“It is time for Africa to fight for all it has lost through bad leadership and mismanagement of public funds which is detrimental to its citizens,“ he said.
Mr Osinbajo assured the public of the continued commitments of government to give effect to all domestic laws, International and regional obligations in combating the scourge of corruption in Nigeria
The Chairman of ICPC, Bolaji Owasanoye, said that the anti-corruption day was intended to enable all 55 AU countries raise more awareness on corruption and propagate the supportive things people can do to fight it.
Mr Owasanoye, who was represented by a member of the commission, Obiora Igwedibia, noted that the anti-corruption day became imperative because of the negative impact of corruption on the continent’s economic development which could not be underestimated.
“The worst-hit victims of the crimes of corruption remain the vulnerable poor and the marginalised individuals.
“Indeed, the panel on illicit financial flows from Africa, chaired by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, in 2015, put the amount of money leaving Africa through illicit flows at a staggering sum of 50 billion US dollars annually,” he said.
He explained that President Muhammadu Buhari also noted that it was more than three times the U.S. overseas development assistance to Africa.
“Sadly, the flow is now estimated at 90 billion U.S. dollars and it is still growing,” he said.
Mr Owasanoye said that efforts geared towards recovery of identified stolen wealth would be transformational for the continent, adding that millions of Africans suffering denial of basic social services and lack of infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, water and employment would receive succour as stolen assets are recovered.
“When you recover stolen wealth back to the original owners in a way that obviously makes the concealment of same difficult at all times, there is less controversy in corruption “Future perpetrators are also prevented, while the rich people that were ordinarily made poor by activities of thieves rejoice and bask in general prosperity,” he said.
In his remarks, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Itse Sagay said that the major problem Nigeria had experienced with regards to recovery of assets was the extreme difficulty of persuading foreign countries to whose territory such looted funds had been transferred to return the funds to the victim state.
“Nigeria particularly has experienced this with regard the Abacha loots which are still located in various countries all over the world.
“The latest example is the funds identified as Abacha loot funds in the island of New Jersey which is determined to keep large proportion of looted funds before returning the balance to Nigeria,” he added.
He urged African leaders to come together to establish a common procedure for demanding the return of such funds from foreign countries.
“Such a standard once established will create a more conducive mindset in the receiving countries for the return of looted funds in their custody.
NAN reports that the day was organised by ICPC in collaboration with PACAC, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG). (NAN)