CSO Committee Commends FG Move Towards Transparency in Recovery of Corruptly Acquired Assets

  •  Seeks greater disclosure of actual looters

Abimbola Akosile

The Civil Society (CSO) Advisory Committee for the European Union (EU) funded project, ‘Support to Anti-Corruption in Nigeria’, has commended the Federal Government’s efforts aimed at ensuring transparency in the recovery and management of corruptly acquired assets.

The Committee has however, called for more detailed information to be released regarding the process, in a bid to ensure greater transparency and public confidence and support; in a detailed release signed by the committee chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraj.

In a statement in Abuja at the end of their sixth meeting, the group of civil society organisations (CSOs) constituting the Advisory Committee to the project, which is being partly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), welcomed the initial steps taken by the federal government to announce the amounts and values of properties so far recovered, but insisted on further disclosure by the federal government of the names of those from whom they were recovered.

In their view, the disclosure of the names of those from whom the assets were recovered would go a long way in discouraging further acts of corruption and the looting of public funds and other resources in future.

The CSOs stressed that unless there for was full disclosure and total transparency in all aspects of the recovery and management of the stolen assets, the federal government could not hope to win complete public trust and the confidence of the international community and partners in the process.

They restated their call, first made in March 2016, for the inclusion of CSOs in an institutional transparency framework, which should be ongoing, such that citizens and members of the public would be adequately informed at all times about how much had been recovered, where the assets are held, the institutions and agencies that have control over such assets as well as the procedures for their disposal.

The CSOs condemned the ongoing and apparently wide-spread secret and irregular recruitment of personnel in public institutions, citing recent exposures of such practices in the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS).

The Committee members noted that while they were not opposed to policies and practices that would create jobs for Nigerians given the high level of unemployment in the country, opportunities for employment must be availed to all Nigerians and recruitment in public institutions must be open, transparent and follow the due process. They therefore called on the federal government to take strong and urgent measures to check the secret and irregular recruitment exercises in various public institutions.

The CSOs welcomed the commitment made by Nigeria to combat corruption as contained in its Country Statement issued at the London Anti-Corruption Summit held on May 12, 2016, in the United Kingdom, including the pledge to establish a public central registry of company beneficial ownership information, the promise to work towards the full implementation of the principles of the Open Contracting Data Standards in public procurement processes and activities; the plan to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and implement the Open Data Charter; and the undertaking to enhance company disclosures on payments to government for the sale of oil, gas and minerals to complement ongoing work within the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

The Committee applauded other pledges made by President Muhammadu Buhari at the summit, including the commitment to institute various measures to punish the corrupt and support victims who have suffered from corruption; to strengthen Nigeria’s assets recovery laws; to develop internationally acceptable guidelines for the transparent and accountable management of returned stolen assets; and to drive out the culture of corruption wherever it exists, including by promoting integrity in public institutions.

The CSOs pledged to monitor to the implementation of these commitments, saying they were prepared to offer their assistance and expertise to the federal government whenever necessary or required in furtherance of the objective of ridding the country of corruption.

Stakeholders present at the meeting, which was held in Abuja on June 8, included, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ), ActionAid Nigeria (AAN), Publish What You Pay (PWYP), and Integrity.

Institutional members represented included the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), the European Union (EU), United Nations Office for Drug and Crimes (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).