EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde
The Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), under the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), recently organised an experts meeting in Calabar, Cross River State, to fine-tune and sensitise the public on a national strategy to tackle corruption in the country. Abimbola Akosileexamines the crucial process, which was supported by the UN system
Setting the Tone
The need for a holistic National Strategy to Combat Corruption (thereby adopting a strategic approach to combating corruption) arose as a result of the need to involve diverse actors from both government and non-government sector in the fight to combat corruption due to the magnitude and endemic nature of the problem.
According to experts, adopting a strategic approach is in accordance with global good practices in line with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
This is more critical in Nigeria in view of the diverse agencies and non–state actors involved in the process and in view of the Federalism structure of governance in the country.
The National Strategy to Combat Corruption is aimed at providing an entry point for all citizens and also provides a handle for monitoring and evaluation.
The process has been receiving great support from the UN System in Nigeria (The UNDP and the UNODC) who have been committed to provide technical support to the anti-corruption agencies since the process commenced in 2009 in order to enshrine international good practices within the Nigerian Anti-Corruption agenda. The Calabar workshop was supported by the UNDP.
While a myriad of structures, institutions, laws and initiatives to promote public accountability and fight corruption have been introduced since the return to civilian rule in 1999, the investments made by subsequent Governments into the fight against corruption are yet to deliver on the objective of effectively preventing and combating corruption in the management of public resources and public affairs.
A key challenge affecting the fight against corruption in Nigeria is the location of anti-corruption functions within multiple and operationally diverse institutions, which despite their closely related and even overlapping mandates have limited interface and cooperation and seldom coordinate policies and operations.
Nigeria therefore, despite all efforts, continues to fall short of the standards and requirements of an effective anti-corruption regime as embodied in regional and global anti-corruption conventions, in particular the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which Nigeria ratified in 2004.
Upon the mandate given by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Inter-Agency Task Team on Anti-Corruption, a body composed of 21 governmental agencies directly or indirectly tasked with the prevention and fight against corruption, has therefore, developed the National Strategy to Combat Corruption.
The process for the development of the strategy started in mid 2009 and consultations and validations involving a large range of technical experts, policy makers and stakeholders at large in the three branches of Government, the private sector and the public lasted until the end of 2010.
With the clear objective of changing the logic of corruption and anti-corruption in Nigeria, the National Strategy adopts a three pronged approach basing action on the solid foundation of prevention; enforcement and sanctions; and public engagement.
It proposes interventions at the policy, technical and institutional levels and aligns the objectives in the fight against corruption with major government policies, in particular vision 20: 2020 and the Millennium Development Goals, and hereby promises to remove major blockages preventing Nigeria from achieving its development objectives.
The strategy (2011-2020) promotes a three phased approach with an initial focus on (1) strengthening the capacities of the dedicated anti-corruption and public accountability bodies, followed by (2) mainstreaming of anti-corruption and governance principles into the work of the MDAs and finally by (3) strengthening accountability, integrity and transparency at the State and local government levels, the private sector and the society at large.
The implementation of the strategy is to be in three overlapping phases with some of the interventions at the three phases running concurrently.
A strong monitoring and evaluation system is to be put into place with a view to ensuring that individual MDAs prioritise and fulfil their obligations under the strategy and that the public, the private sector and the international community are informed of and involved in the assessment of progress.
The strategy galvanises and reaffirms the unwavering commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the fight against corruption by creating a single vision and a shared sense of purpose by those tasked to prevent and combat corruption on behalf of all Nigerians.
Background and Rationale
Corruption in Nigeria is an endemic, pervasive and systemic problem, which over time has been perceived as capable of threatening the very existence of the nation.
Combating corruption is about rebuilding Nigeria’s Sovereign National Wealth. Her Natural Capital made up in particular of non-renewable energy resources and minerals have been severely depleted and sold off, with most of the proceeds either looted or wasted through mismanagement and ineffective use.
Experts believe the overdependence on natural capital has led to the neglect of her produced capital consisting of infrastructure and Value-Added Goods.
Many studies have shown that the primary reason for Nigeria’s lack of progress since 1960 has been the failure to combat corruption effectively. It is the primary objective of the strategy to enhance the effectiveness of the nation’s resources by reducing the vulnerability of the Nigerian public institutions, private sector and society at large to corruption.
The need to combat corruption and improve governance has been acknowledged by successive governments and the people of Nigeria. As a result, since independence, there have been a vast number of institutions, laws and other initiatives to combat diverse manifestations of corruption.
One of the critical gaps and peculiarity in the national anti-corruption agenda is the location of the accountability and anti-corruption functions within multiple and operationally diverse institutions, which despite their closely related and even overlapping mandates have hardly coordinated their policies, strategies or operations.
This limited synergy results in the overall ineffective, inefficient and occasionally even counterproductive use of the institutional, legal, human and financial resources dedicated by the government and people to preventing and combating corruption.
In terms of the inhibiting weaknesses that are currently hampering the effective reliable and effective law enforcement in cases of corruption, the problem analysis identified various key contributing factors.
These include lack of effective investigations due to weak skill sets, limited resources, and weaknesses in case selection and management; lack of capacity for efficient prosecution, due to limited numbers of prosecutors, lack of sufficient training, and difficulties to attract the required numbers of competent and committed candidates to join the legal departments of the ACAs.
Others include weaknesses in the Legal Framework, including shortcomings in the Evidence Act and the Criminal and Penal Procedure Acts, as well as absence of specific laws on Plea bargaining, Whistleblower and Witness Protection and Non-Conviction Based Asset Forfeiture.
There are also weaknesses as concerns organisation, procedure, human resource management, motivation and incentives in the operational departments of anti-corruption law enforcement bodies; and limitations in the independence of the leadership of ACAs, including issues such as a perceived self-censorship, and insufficient security of tenure.
In order to address these multiple challenges, the retreat, and subsequent expert consultations identified a host of short, medium and long term measures.
Focus on Prevention
The objective of this technical intervention is to institute a regime of accountability, transparency and integrity measures across public institutions, which will increase the capacity of such institutions to prevent corruption.
To understand the successes, challenges, constraints and possible remedies related to corruption prevention, consultations were held with experts in particular of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAS) as well as selected non-state actors engaged in the prevention of corruption.
These experts examined the current and desired states of public organisations under three aspects: Capacity & Systems, Processes and Organisation Culture.
In the area of prevention, the key weaknesses of the current regime were identified as follows: weak internal accountability and transparency of public sector agencies; weak public accountability / feedback mechanisms of ACAs resulting in perceived lack of transparency of ACAs.
Key actions for addressing the above weaknesses will include: produce a standard method and related tools to assess the organisational, procedural and other measures designed to maintain internal accountability and transparency of public sector agencies.
Key responsibilities for implementation will include: TUGAR in collaboration with ICPC Preventive Department and relevant MDAs will lead work on weak internal accountability and transparency of public sector agencies and the development and implementation of a corruption risk assessment and Systems Review methodology;
EFCC, ICPC, CCB, NEITI, BPP, PCC, Police, in cooperation with Public Service Commission, NJC, and Police Service Commission will jointly design ways and means that will render their institutions more transparent and accessible to the public; including the provision of regular feedback to the public on their operations.
Engaging the Public
The objective of this technical intervention is to break up the collusion that fosters corruption (whether between public actors, public and private actors or between those actors and members of the larger society) through public engagement and involvement.
To understand the successes, challenges, constraints and possible remedies related to public engagement, consultations were held with both state and non-state actors. The expert group discussions examined the current and desired states of three key dimensions of public engagement: the need and impetus for change, shared values and public ownership of the fight against corruption.
In the area of public engagement, the consultative process identified the following key problems, which the national strategy would need to address: lack of public support and ownership of the fight against corruption; stakeholder apathy and cynicism, making it difficult for the anticorruption bodies and the Government in particular to effectively engage the public in the fight against corruption.
There was also collusion of networks in the public sector in the conduct of corruption; and perceived lack of channels to report corruption safely.
Actions to address the above weaknesses will include a host of measures aimed at informing citizens more effectively that the fight against corruption is a shared concern and responsibility.
The interventions will also include robust public information on the existing laws and institutions against corruption, on the avenues for citizens in particular to get involved with these institutions and initiatives, educating citizens on how to identify the signs for corruption as well as avenues to report cases of suspected corruption safely.
The outreach and public awareness departments of the members of IATT in cooperation with the National Orientation Agency will be responsible for driving the public engagement activities.
Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation
The overall responsibility for implementation of the strategy will rest on the Federal Government. During the second phase of the strategy, this responsibility will increasingly be shared by the MDAs and during the third phase the States and Local Governments.
The monitoring and evaluating component will be designed to facilitate the judicious allocation and use of resources and maximisation of synergy among the ACAS and other Public Institutions as well as non-state actors.
The Objective Verifiable Indicators (OVI) will include interventions to address issues such as overlapping mandates, prioritisation and allocation of internal resources, inter-agency cooperation and collaboration.
TUGAR, under the overall supervision of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, will play a support and coordinating role, and facilitate the interaction, coordination and cooperation between the members of IATT in the implementation of the strategy.
In this context, TUGAR, led by Ms. Lillian Ekeanyanwu, will also facilitate the cooperation provided by other MDAs in the implementation of the strategy as well as the support provided by international development partners.
Non-state actors will have a primary role to play in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the strategy. Therefore all state actors that have specific roles in the implementation of the strategy will ensure that they will, as appropriate, provide the avenues and platforms for the involvement of relevant non-state actors the in design and execution of the individual reform measures.
The strategy appears cogent and attractive enough; the loophole to its effective implementation may be the lack of the political will by government to follow through on actions and recommendations to curb corruption in Nigeria. The increasing discerning public, which is waiting to see leadership by example in the fight, also have a role to play. Fighting and overcoming corruption is a national effort, simple.