By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News.
The year 2018, was declared as the ‘African Year of Anti-corruption’ by the African Union, with the theme, “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”. With this declaration, many nations including Nigeria have rallied round to implement policies to boost the fight against corruption in their countries.
Over the years, corruption has had negative effects on the political, economic, social and cultural stability of African states, as well as devastating effects on the economic and social development of the African peoples. Recognizing the need to address the root causes of corruption on the continent, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), was adopted by AU Heads of State on the 11th day of July 2003, in Maputo, Republic of Mozambique and later in 2011, the AU declared 11th July of every year as the ‘African Anti-Corruption Day’.
The African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (AUCPCC) -an instrument which has a wide range of provisions, in the areas of prevention, detection of corruption, criminalization as well as transparency mechanisms, has been signed, ratified and given accession by 40 African Countries including Nigeria.
According to the Business Anti-Corruption portal, the AUCPCC, addresses corruption in the public and private sectors, and also represents a consensus on what African countries should do in the areas of prevention, criminalization, international cooperation and asset recovery. Its provisions criminalise domestic and foreign bribery, diversion of property by public officials, trading in influence, illicit enrichment, money laundering and concealment of property.
Status of Ratification of the AU Convention on Corruption.
The African Union Advisory Board on Corruption(AUABC), reveals that, to date, Forty (40) Member States have ratified and are State Parties to the Convention:Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Nigeria signed the Convention on December 16, 2003, ratified and acceded on September 26, 2006 and deposited on December 29, 2006. On July 4, 2017 during the 30th Session of the AU, African leaders unanimously endorsed Nigeria’s President, H. E President Muhammadu Buhari, to champion the fight against corruption on the continent, in recognition of his personal commitment and widely-acclaimed anti-graft drive at the domestic level.The Convention was signed, ratified and acceded to by Nigeria, bearing in mind that some issues are specific to the country as well as the African region.
It is 15 years after signing the AU convention and beyond its ratification in 2006, regular reporting of progress on implementation has been a challenge. Research has shown that, although there are legislations in place, implementation has been a challenge in some areas. There has also been low awareness about the Convention itself as most people in Nigeria are yet to see a copy of the convention or even what is contained in it, whereas lots of people are more familiar with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC)- one of several legally binding international anti-corruption agreements.
“In terms of ratification, Nigeria is one of the countries that have ratified the convention and most of the provisions, clauses, principles and articles in the AU Convention”, said Tunde Salman, Convener of Good Governance team- a civil society monitoring and Advocacy platform. “There are a lot of laws, systems and programme of practice that have responded to it adequately”.
Implementation of Legislative and other measures in Nigeria
In Article (5) of the convention that touches on Legislative and other Measures, Nigeria has established, maintained and strengthened independent national anti-corruption authorities and agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act, Code of Conduct Bureau(CCB),the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission- with the mission to rid Nigeria of Economic and Financial Crimes and to effectively coordinate the domestic effort of the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, has an ‘Establishment Act’, that mandates it to combat financial and economic crimes.
The Commission is empowered to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes and is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes, including: Economic and Financial Crimes commission Establishment act (2004); The Money Laundering Act 1995; The Money Laundering (Prohibition) act 2004; The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 1995 ; The Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Banks Act 1994; The Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 1991 as amended; and Miscellaneous Offences Act and any other law or regulation relating to economic and financial crimes, including the Criminal Code and Penal Code.
The Commission, also has the right to cause investigations to be conducted into the properties of any person if it appears to the Commission that the person’s lifestyle and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income- this is in line with illicit enrichment as enshrined in Article (8) of the AUCPCC.
In an interview, the Acting Chairman of the Commission, Ibrahim Magu, disclosed that as part of achievements for declaring 2018 as the ‘Year of Anti-corruption’ by the African Union, the Commission has secured about 204 convictions, adding that the Commission as well as Nigeria, is encouraging other countries to also sign the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.
“We are involved with encouraging other people to also sign the convention. Be rest assured that we are committed, we are participating”, said Magu.
He also announced that the implementation level of the AU Convention in the fight against corruption in Nigeria has reached 80 percent.
“I wouldn’t say we are complete, but we are up to 80 per cent implementation level”, said the Acting EFCC Chairman. “We are still working, it is work in progress, we are working alongside with the judiciary, the judicial process is faster now than before and the implementation process actually ensured all these”.
The acting EFCC boss, in february 2018, disclosed that the Commission recovered stolen funds totalling N473.065bn in 2017, adding that other funds recovered in foreign currencies were $98.2m; £294,851; Dirham 443,400; and South African Rand 70, 500. He further said that the final forfeiture of N32bn and $5m recovered from the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, had been secured for the Federal Government.
“Recovery and final forfeiture of N449m discovered at Legico Plaza in Victoria Island, Lagos. Final forfeiture of $43m discovered in the Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos; recovery of over N329bn from petroleum marketers by the commission’s Kano office; withholding tax recovery of over N27.7bn from banks; recovery of over €6.6m from the Nigerian Port Authority; recoveries of about N1.1bn on behalf of AMCON and recovery of subsidy fraud of over N4bn” he disclosed.
In July 2018, the Commission ensured the conviction of two Political Exposed Persons, PEPs – Jolly Nyame, a former governor of Taraba and Joshua Dariye, a serving Senator and a former governor of Plateau, who both are currently serving their 14-year jail sentence for criminal breach of trust, misappropriation of public funds, and receiving gratification. Although, the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal reviewed the 14-year jail term that was handed to the former governor of Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Nyame, and reduced it to 12 years with a fine of N525million. The EFCC also convicted a former Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joseph Nwobike, for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The Bureau has the function to; (a) receive assets declarations by public officers in accordance with the provisions of this Act; (b) examine the assets declarations and ensure that they comply with the requirements of this Act and of any law for the time being in force;(c) take and retain custody of such assets declarations; and (d) receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau considers it necessary to do so, refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) established by section 20 of this Act in accordance with the provisions of sections 20 to 25 of this Act.
In April 2018, the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) in Bauchi state convicted 16 civil servants and political office holders found guilty of non-declaration, according to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria. The Head of Press and Public Relations of the CCT, Ibrahim Alhassan, disclosed that the convicted persons failed to submit a written declaration of all their assets and liabilities within the prescribed period of three months that violated various provisions of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. There were a total of 55 defaulters out of which 16 persons were convicted. Of the 55 defaulters, 18 were political appointees,10 police officers, four NDLEA personnel, one Customs officer and 22 career civil servants working with the Local, State and Federal Governments.
With these measures, it has shown that Nigeria is in compliance with both Articles 5, 7 and 8 of the AUCPCC. In line with this, some Nigerians are of the opinion that there is some level of reinvigoration in the fight against corruption, unlike the immediate few years, where it seemed that corruption had come to stay.