Winning the Fight Against Corruption with AU Convention

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By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News

The Nigerian government has put in efforts and measures to prevent and combat corruption in the country. But while the government fights, it appears much is not seen of the effort put in place. Nigeria, despite its efforts, was ranked 148 of 180 least corrupt countries in the world, according to the 2017 Transparency International Perception Index – a position that speaks little of the efforts of the Government in combating corruption.

Acknowledging that corruption undermines accountability and transparency in the management of public affairs as well as socio economic development in the country and recognizing the need to address the root causes of corruption in Nigeria, the country signed and ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption.

This Convention, which was adopted by the African Union in 2003 and entered into force in the same year, expects State Parties to among other things; promote and strengthen the development in Africa by each State Party, of mechanisms required to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in the public and private sectors, as well as promote, facilitate and regulate cooperation among the State Parties, to ensure the effectiveness of measures and actions to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in Africa.

Nigeria’s President H.E Muhammadu Buhari, was endorsed by African leaders to champion the African Union theme of the year for 2018, “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation. A decision-which placed expectations on the President, in the area of providing exemplary leadership by working closely with the other African Leaders, the AU Commission and development partners to combat the menace.

With this appointment, President Buhari has been working to bring corruption to its knees-in every sectors of the economy and also working alongside other African leaders to win the fight. Recently, the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria(ACAN), championed by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), organized a training workshop on Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) for heads of Anti-corruption agencies in Africa. The African Union CRA is an initiative which aims to train leaders of anti-corruption agencies in the African Union by deploying Corruption Risk Assessment Methodology for corruption prevention in their countries. Corruption Risk Assessment seeks to identify corruption-prone processes and procedures in organizations and recommend appropriate remedial steps.

President Buhari, in his opening speech at the workshop, revealed, that most countries have subscribed to not only the United Nations Convention against Corruption, UNCAC, but also the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC). He used the event as an opportunity to encourage the few countries which are yet to ratify the African Union Convention to expedite processes to do so.

“No efforts can be too much as we seek to rid our societies of the evil of corruption”, said Buhari. “The training is an opportunity to extend the benefits of this methodology to other African countries and by which it is clear that we have not taken our appointment as Anti-Corruption Champion for the continent for the year 2018 lightly”.

The support for the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria is expected to help Nigeria and other African countries deal with the massive problems of corruption on the continent and as well, comply with the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption which Nigeria ratified in 2006.

The Corruption Risk Assessment being championed by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria, is in tandem with the AU Convention Article 18 – Cooperation and Mutual Legal Assistance, which called on State Parties to co-operate among themselves, where possible, in providing any available technical assistance in drawing up programmes, codes of ethics or organizing, where necessary and for the benefit of their personnel, joint training courses involving one or several states in the area of combating corruption and related offences.

Also, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) Establishment Act 2004 in Section 6(j), empowers the Commission to deal with issues relating to extradition, deportation and mutual legal assistance between Nigeria and other countries relating to financial and economic crimes. This simply shows that Nigeria has substantially complied with the requirements of this convention.

The CRA is also, in compliance with Article 19- International Cooperation-where State Parties are expected to; foster regional, continental and international cooperation to prevent corrupt practices in international trade transactions.

The Acting Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Musa Usman Abubakar, pointed out that with this Anti-Corruption Academy in place, loopholes and leakages in the systems will be plugged, people will be denied access to public funds and as such will not have the opportunity to misappropriate it.

Corruption prevention is at the forefront of the aim of the Anti-Corruption Academy. The ICPC, inaugurated on September 29th, 2000 by the Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and has the mandate to prohibit and prescribe punishment for corrupt practices and other related offences, stands on the principle that-an ounce of prevention is worth more than a tonne of remedy. This complies with the objectives of the Convention, Article 2 – which calls for promoting and strengthening the development in Africa by each State Party, of mechanisms required to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in the public and private sectors.

The Commission, is at the hub of Nigeria’s fight against corruption and Section 6 (a-f) of the ICPC Act 2000 sets out the duties of the Commission to include amongst others; receive and investigate complaints from members of the public on allegations of corrupt practices and in appropriate cases, prosecute the offenders; to educate the public on and against bribery, corruption and related offences and to enlist and foster public support in combating corruption which is compliant with Article 5 (8) of the convention-adopt and strengthen mechanisms for promoting the education of populations to respect the public good and public interest, and awareness in the fight against corruption and related offences, including school educational programmes and sensitisation of the media, and the promotion of an enabling environment for the respect of ethics.

On how far the Commission has gone with convictions of offenders, it was discovered that the ICPC has successfully secured 13 convictions between January and June 2018, while also losing few cases in the process. Regardless of these convictions, the ICPC lacks complete independence, is slow to act and cannot in the strict sense of things prosecute; and the stagnating judicial system makes conviction almost impossible.

While Nigeria is considerably compliant with most of the Articles in the AU Convention, some gaps still exists and are-calling for attention. There is so much of media trial by the Anti-Corruption agencies—an attitude where the media is used to judge and sentence a suspected offender. There is need for the anti-corruption agencies to deemphasize media trial and deepen their capacity in investigation, prosecution and forensic analysis, so as to get increased conviction on high-profile corrupt cases. They also need to be well-funded to operate effectively and independently and jurisdictional power should be given to them, to prosecute any accused person.

Nigeria needs to establish or put in place a clearer administrative mechanism for making and rendering Mutual Legal Assistance that implements the legal provisions and treaty obligations more effectively. Corruption should not be politicized, as politicizing the anti-corruption war waters down the effort.

On the other hand, the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption(AUABC), saddled with the responsibility of implementing this convention, needs to increase monitoring of compliance of the Convention, and to look for an avenue where member countries will be called upon, to give feedback on what they have been doing.

To win the fight against corruption, Nigeria needs great political will, so as to redeem the country’s image in the global arena.

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