Anti-corruption activists and crusaders converged Thursday to access the fight against corruption under President Muhammadu Buhari.
These crusaders who represented different Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) also reviewed the engagement and participation of CSOs in Nigeria, and the recent call for the resignation of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa.
They described as unnecessary the protest tagged “Bawa Must Go” involving CSOs across Nigeria.
They spoke at a summit organised by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) Resource Centre. Tagged “Assessing the Fight Against Corruption Under President Buhari (2015 – 2023)”, it was held in Lagos.
The event also featured a panel session that had the Executive Director of Echoes of Women in Africa, Kate Duru; the Executive Director of Journalists for Democratic Rights, Adewale Adeoye; a Lawyer, Inibehe Effiong; Richard Akinola, and the National Coordinator of Democracy Vanguard, Adeola Soetan.
In his welcome address, the Executive Secretary of HEDA, Sulaimon Arigbabu, urged CSOs to “refrain from calling for the removal of the EFCC Chairman, and instead provide constructive criticism to facilitate improvements in his administration”.
“This is an event to review the fight against corruption in the last eight years and make recommendations to key stakeholders – state and non-state actors on approaches to guarantee an effective and sustainable campaign against corruption,” he said.
Highlighting the efforts of the anti-corruption agencies, the Chairman of HEDA, Olanrewaju Suraju, noted that the EFCC stands out as a case to study in the fight against corruption.
Citing recent developments, he said EFCC “secured 2,220 convictions in 2021 and that in 2022, the agency secured 3,328 convictions in addition to forfeiture of N775 million and landed properties linked to two former government officials; as well as forfeiture of 40 assets in Nigeria, United States of America, London and Dubai, belonging to former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu”.
He added that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) also 2022 secured a total of 672 convictions and that 565 non-petition-led investigations were successfully conducted. “The Commission also recovered 117 billion Naira as proceeds of crime during the period.”
The EFCC Chairman who was represented by the Lagos zonal commander, Michael Wetkas, said the agency is always willing to partner CSOs in the fight against corruption.
“CSOs have the responsibility to correct the image of Nigeria,” he said, “People should only bring out cogent facts that are not driven by emotions”.
The participants noted that the political system in Nigeria has worsened the fight against corruption in the country, adding that the impact of crime on the country has deprived ordinary citizens of access to basic amenities, as well as hindered development and growth.
The panel also explained that corruption has eaten deep into the nation’s educational system and that inadequate attention given to the fight against the menace at the state level has led to an increase in cases among governors and other state-level politicians.
They noted that “insufficient funding and inadequate welfare for staff in anti-corruption agencies have been demotivating, thereby impeding progress in the fight against corruption”.
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They added that the insufficient evidence, funding, and technology available to anti-graft agencies are causing the slow pace of progress in the corruption war.
They concluded that the war against corruption requires the participation of all citizens.
The participants recommended that to enhance transparency, EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies should promote the public declaration of assets and that they should maintain websites that provide regular updates on their activities for greater accountability.
“To avoid giving corrupt politicians an advantage in court, anti-graft agencies should refrain from publicising their next steps in the media.
“To curb corruption, the Code of Conduct Bureau should require politicians to declare their assets both before and after their tenure in public office,” they noted.
They suggested that the EFCC should stop auctioning and selling seized assets, and the Federal Government should create a new commission for the purpose.
CSOs have been protesting for the removal of Mr Bawa, over the alleged politicisation of operations of the EFCC, disobedience of court orders, and infringement on human rights.
The EFCC spokesperson Wilson Uwujaren had claimed that the group protesting against Mr Bawa is sponsored by persons under investigation.
However, the stakeholders urged CSOs to maintain their commitment to collaborating with anti-graft agencies in the fight against corruption and should establish a committee to create a comprehensive movement and agenda for the new administration in the fight against corruption.
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