By Gift Samuel, The Sight News
At the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, in January 2018, Nigeria’s President, H.E Muhammadu Buhari, was entrusted with the responsibility of serving as the Champion of the theme of the year, “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”, where he pledged to do his very best to ensure that the anti-corruption agenda will receive the attention it deserves and make impact, in 2018 and beyond.
In his speech, President Buhari said, that in tackling corruption, the Continent has made significant strides, putting in place legal and policy frameworks, notably the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), noting however, that the adoption of the legal and policy frameworks have not had the desired success in tackling the evil.
President Buhari, promised the Heads of State that, with their endorsement during the course of 2018, he will prioritize the following initiatives, to help fight corruption in Africa: a) to organize African Youth Congresses against Corruption, in order to sensitize and engage our youth in the fight against corruption; b) mobilizing all African Union Member States to implement the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption; and c) advocating for the strengthening of the criminal justice system across Africa through exchange of information and sharing best practices in the enforcement of anti-corruption laws.
Keeping to his words and initiative, the President, in December, hosted the 2018 Africa Youth Congress Against Corruption Summit in Abuja, which drew youths from different African countries, where he urged the youth to strongly advocate the universal signing and ratification of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption by all Member States of the African Union.
“My Highly Esteemed Young brothers and sisters from all over Africa, I believe that as we wind up the African Union Anti-Corruption Year, the young people across the continent remain the cornerstone of shaping the future of the fight against corruption”, said President Buhari in his speech. “While our symbolic year may be ending, our campaign must not end, for our common future is even brighter”.
He also used the avenue to share what he termed the A, B, C of fighting corruption, where A stands for Action, B for Building Bridges and C for Culture.
““A” stands for ACTION. Let us all move from talk to action. I urge you to develop tangible projects in your community to instil transparency and accountability of the highest standard. I look forward to receiving your Creed of Transparency from this Congress with a view to forwarding the recommendations to the next Summit of the African Union in February next year.
““B” stands for BUILDING BRIDGES. The youth have a unique opportunity to spearhead the building of inter-generational and cross-sectoral bridges in our various communities. Often, fighting corruption requires partnerships with unlikely allies. Be open to exploring constructive partnerships with a wide base of actors. Again, I look forward to all of you joining the Transparency Champions Network that was created following the Regional Youth Consultations.
““C” stands for CULTURE. So, let us cultivate and equip ourselves with African culture, right attitude and mindset change that will enable us to stand firmly against corruption. By so doing, accountability and change will begin with you and me”.
However,while some Nigerians faulted President Buhari for waiting until almost the end of the year before embarking on some of his initiatives like the African Youth Congress Against Corruption, which they said, should have been done earlier in the year, so as to give room for follow up activities to be mainstreamed; others held that the initiative, regardless of its timing, is laudable and called for strengthened intervention as well as pushing the message against corruption into 2019.
“The African Youth Congress Against Corruption(AYCAC), is the kind of initiative we have been calling for”, says Terry Jerry A’wase, a film maker and part of the Transparency International Youth Action Program. “If the youth are the future and leaders, we need to be involved in the fight against corruption. The youth have the energy required to fight corruption”.
Buhari’s Fight Against Corruption and the AU Convention.
The AU Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption, is a shared roadmap for states to implement anti-corruption systems and good governance on a regional or national level. The convention contains strong provisions on prevention (education, role of media and civil society); detection of corruption (whistleblowing and witness protection, (the role of immunity in hampering better detection); criminalization (illicit enrichment and money laundering); and transparency mechanisms (in funding of political parties).
“Nigerian has done well in the implementation of the AU Convention, not in terms of ranking but in how much of effort has been given to normative implementation, creation of institutions to address it, putting it high on the government’s agenda”, Ibraheem Sanusi, Senior Advisor, African Governance Architecture mentioned. “In terms of the attention given to issues of corruption and what needs to be done to fight it, I think the country has done reasonably well in putting attention on it”.
The Government, according to President Buhari, has taken steps to implement policies to fight corruption, such as the full implementation of both the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Bank Verification Number (BVN), the Open Government Partnership, various Executive Orders, strengthening the Anti-Corruption Agencies and permitting their full autonomy.
The Treasury Single Account- a financial policy, proposed and partially implemented by the federal government of Nigeria in 2012 under the Jonathan Administration, and fully implemented by the Buhari Administration, to consolidate all inflows from all agencies of government into a single account at the Central Bank of Nigeria, is in tune with Article (5) which urges Member States to; Adopt legislative and other measures to create, maintain and strengthen internal accounting, auditing and follow up systems, in particular, in the public income, custom and tax receipts, expenditures and procedures for hiring, procurement and management of public goods and services.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 2017 Annual Activity Report released by its Banking and Payments System Department, TSA transaction in 2017 hit N13.53 trillion from the N10.65 trillion in 2016, representing an increase of 27.01 per cent, and the volume of transaction grew with an increase of 3.84 per cent to record N39.7 million in 2017 as against the 38.24 million recorded in 2016. Also, the Bank Verification Number(BVN) Project launched by the CBN on February 14, 2014, was reported to have linked a total of 43,959,282 bank accounts in the BVN project in December 2017, and this has helped to reduce corrupt practices.
In order to adopt measures for citizens to report instances of corruption without fear of consequent reprisals, the Federal Ministry of Finance launched its Whistleblower policy in December 21, 2016, as well as a secure, online portal through which information bordering on violation of financial regulations, mismanagement of public funds and assets, financial malpractice or fraud and theft that is deemed to be in the interest of the public can be disclosed. The move seeks to manage the nation’s finances in an open, transparent, accountable and efficient manner that delivers on the country’s development priorities.
It was reported that within the first two months of the Whistle-blowing policy in Nigeria, the Federal Government recovered over $178 million stolen from the government. By June 5, 2017, Federal Ministry of Finance received a total of 2,150 tips from the public, 128 tips came through the website of the ministry, 1,192 was through phone calls, 540 through SMS and 290 through email to the ministry. In October 2017, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu said that N527,643,500; $53,222.747; GBP21,222,890 and Euro 547,730 was recovered since the policy was launched.
In 2017, a whistler-blower helped the Nigeria government to recover $43.5million, GBP27,800 and N23.2million at No. 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria. It was also reported that the Federal Ministry of Finance paid the whistler-blower the sum of N421million.
In adopting legislative and other measures to protect informants and witnesses in corruption and related offences, including protection of their identities, in June 2017, the Senate passed a bill to protect whistleblowers and witnesses directly involved in the prosecution of certain criminal cases.
The bill was titled Witness Protection Programme (Establishment etc), SB 157. Under the Bill, a person who makes a disclosure shall not be subject to victimisation by his or her employers or by fellow employees. Additionally, a person who makes a disclosure has the right to take legal action, if he or she is victimised, dismissed, suspended, declared redundant, transferred against his or her will, harassed or intimidated in any manner.
Also, in July 2017, the Whistle-blowers Bill was signed into law. The Act makes provisions to protect the persons making public interest disclosure related to an act of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal offense by a public servant, the Act also prescribes penalties for knowingly making false complaints- in line with Article (5) of the AUCPCC, which calls for the adoption of national legislative measures in order to punish those who make false and malicious reports against innocent persons in corruption and related offences.
“Nigeria should continue to work very hard to strengthen support for whistleblowers , I think it is not just a Nigerian issue, it is a global issue”, Sanusi said. “Whistle-blowers have a very difficult responsibility but I believe that it is a role that needs to be played and it is the responsibility of any government to ensure that individuals like that, are protected, because they are very key to the fight against corruption”.
Following challenges with prosecuting corruption cases, President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2018 signed a Presidential Executive Order No.6 of 2018 on the Preservation of Suspicious Assets Connected with Corruption and Other Relevant Offence.
The African Union ‘Year of Anti-corruption’ 2018, is almost coming to an end. Though Nigeria has recorded some level of successes with implementing the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, more needs to be done by the government to strengthen the courts as well as make the anti-graft agencies totally independent to execute their duties effectively.
2)https://www.facebook.com/1528952840718244/posts/2297547687192085/ (Address by President Buhari on the launch of the African Youth Congress Against Corruption).
4)https://www.facebook.com/1528952840718244/posts/2297555163858004/ (Address by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Opening Session of the Corruption Risk Assessment Training).
6)https://www.cbn.gov.ng/Out/2018/PSMD/Banking%20and%20Payments%20System%20Department%20Annual%20Activity%20Report%20for%202017.pdf (CBN Annual Activity Report 2017).