Abimbola Akosile

Transparency International, the global anti-corruption movement, has urged Nigeria to strengthen her anti-corruption bodies and also increase transparency on assets recovery.

The call was made by the Director of Africa for Transparency International (TI), Chantal Uwimana, in a recent workshop to follow up on the commitments the government of Nigeria made at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London in May on fighting corruption in the country and international cooperation.

The Nigerian government has announced that more than $10 billion in looted cash and assets have been recovered, the agency acknowledged in a release, but urged the government to do much more to empower the people.

“The people of Nigeria are suffering from the economic downturn. They need to know that the government is using all of its resources to benefit public services. This requires a serious crackdown on corruption, as well as transparency when it comes to how recovered stolen assets will be used. Words are not enough,” said Uwimana.
“We need to know who stole the money and when they will be brought to justice. There should be no impunity for the corrupt,” she said.

According to the release, the anti-corruption agencies were urged to speed up the process of investigations so that the suspects can be formally charged and their identities made public. Thereafter the judicial process should be expedited so that the funds can be released and made available for public spending.
In London, Nigeria committed to the transparent and accountable management of stolen assets and greater cooperation to uncover and stop international enablers of corruption in the global financial system.

“We want to see progress on this in Nigeria and with the law enforcement authorities in other countries. This is not a problem specific to Nigeria. The global financial system has to tackle this by holding the enablers of corruption – the lawyers, bankers, accountants for example – to account,” said Uwimana.
Nigeria also committed to signing on to the Open Government Partnership as a means of increasing openness, transparency and accountability in government. Transparency International called on the government to follow through with this commitment without delay.

The agency also called for the government to commit to a timetable for introducing legislation to strengthen the Proceeds of Crime Bill, currently in draft, and enact whistleblower protection legislation.

“Greater transparency would send a strong signal to citizens about the seriousness of government in terms of translating these commitments into concrete action. 75 per cent of Nigerians surveyed recently felt that corruption had increased in the period 2014 – 2015 while 78 per cent felt their government was doing badly in the fight against corruption, and this points to very low levels of public trust in government”, the release noted. TI also sought the adoption of a national anti-corruption strategy with a clear vision for change and targets to guide and ensure the sustainability of the current anti-corruption drive.

This, according to the watchdog, will provide a much needed framework for coordinated action between State and non-State actors both nationally and internationally in the fight against corruption. It will also help ensure that the country’s anti-corruption agencies are adequately resourced to carry out their mandate.