• Says emphasis should be on deterrence, Whistle Blower Protection Bill to be passed soon
• Dogara: Only strong institutions can fight corruption
• Investigators probe UK firm over naval vessels imported by Tompolo
Damilola Oyedele and James Emejo in Abuja with agency report
The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and other anti graft agencies of engaging in public spectacles, rather than the substance in the anti-corruption fight, in the bid to impress the Nigerian public.
He also reiterated the commitment of the National Assembly to ensure the passage of the Whistle Blower Protection by July, in addition to ensuring the timely passage of other anti-corruption bills.
This is as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, stated that only strong institutions can successfully fight corruption, particularly from the root.
Both men spoke at the presentation and a book signing of ‘Antidotes for Corruption- The Nigerian Story’, written by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) in Abuja on Monday.
Saraki acknowledged that the anti-graft agencies might be under pressure to justify their existence, but maintained that the need for painstaking investigations to secure convictions must not be sacrificed.
He called for the adoption of measures that promote accountability, transparency and openness to make it difficult for corruption to take root.
“Prevention is better than cure,” Saraki said, and faulted the approach of the anti-corruption war as favouring punishment over deterrence.
This, he said, has caused the anti-corruption fight to record limited successes, noting that since the inclination of the justice system remains to protect the rights of the citizens, it therefore becomes hard to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
“It requires months, if not years of painstaking investigations. It requires highly experienced and technically sound investigation and forensic officers.
“It requires anti-corruption agents and agencies that are truly independent and manifestly insulated from political interference and manipulation. We must admit that we are still far from meeting these standards.
“More often, therefore, because our anti-corruption agencies are under pressure to justify their existence and show that they are working, they often tend to prefer the show over the substance.
“However, while the show might provide momentary excitement or even public applause, it does not substitute for painstaking investigation that can guarantee convictions,” Saraki added.
He noted that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has raised corruption to the front burner of national discourse among the citizens.
The Senate President said the parliament took a major step towards openness by publicly releasing the details of its 2017 budget, when it passed the N7.44 trillion federal budget last week.
“For the first time in our political history, the budget of the National Assembly changed from a one-line item to a 34-page document that shows details of how we plan to utilise the public funds that we appropriate to ourselves.
“This is a very significant step forward and we are very proud of it,” Saraki said.
He added that in addition to the Whistleblower Protection Bill, the Proceeds of Crime Bill, Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill and the Special Anti-Corruption Court (which would be set up through constitutional amendment) would soon be passed.
Dogara, in his address, called for institutional reforms that would make it hard for people to engage in corrupt acts.
“The motivation was always there for corruption, but now what is important is not just fighting the old corrupt system. Really, if we must make progress, our focus should be to replace the old order that was corrupt with a new order that makes corruption near impossible to take place.
“So when those who celebrate the successes of the fight against corruption in terms of the high profile investigations, high profile prosecution and even detention, they are missing the point because that is only dealing with the symptoms of corruption.
“That is punishing corruption. But how are we developing remedies that we can apply to ensure that the tree dies?” Dogara asked.
Dogara warned that the country might end up “punishing corruption but not fighting corruption” if institutions are not strengthened to deal with the menace, arguing that only strong institutions can fight corruption in the country.
He said: “As a country, we ran into a situation where corruption was becoming the norm, there was this moral cult that we had created that celebrated corruption.
“The motivation was always there for corruption, but now what is important is not just fighting the old corrupt system.
“Really, if we must make progress, our focus should be to replace the old order that was corrupt with a new order that makes corruption near impossible to take place.”
Dogara acknowledged that Melaye’s book would be followed by as avalanche of criticism, as “Dino himself is a combination of so many things”.
“He is highly opinionated, often pugnacious. So, obviously, he will be a magnet for opinionated criticism as well, he will not escape that,” he said.
Melaye, in his remarks, said corruption remains endemic in Nigeria.
He disclosed that he was duped in the course of writing the book.
After the book’s presentation, pledges amounting to N27 million were realised.
Businessman, Aliko Dangote, who was represented at the occasion, launched the book with the sum of N10 million.
Chaired by a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Umar Ghali Na’Abba, the ceremony had in attendance Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, former governor of Kogi State Idris Wada, former First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Mohammed Bello, and Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, among others.
Mrs. Jonathan, clad in an olive green lace blouse, with matching wrapper and headgear, was applauded as chants of “Mama Peace” rented the air, when she walked to the podium to sit with other dignitaries.
Investigators Probe UK Firm
Meanwhile, anti-corruption investigators in four countries are examining a British firm’s links to a multimillion-pound defence deal involving a former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, better known as Tompolo.
Investigators in the UK, U.S., Nigeria, and Norway are scrutinising Cas-Global, a British security firm, after it was alleged that the firm paid a bribe to a Norwegian official as part of the sale of seven decommissioned naval vessels to Tompolo, reported the London-based Guardian newspaper on Monday.
In 2012, Tompolo’s firm, Global West Vessel Service, a privately-owned contractor for maritime security, was awarded the multimillion-dollar contract by the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration (NIMASA) to import six fast-speed Hauk-class guided missile boats that had been refitted with new weaponry.
His firm also acquired the KNM Horten, a fast-attack craft, now said to be used for anti-piracy patrol in Nigerian waters.
Tompolo was said to have closed the deal with Norway through Cas-Global, believed to be a shell maritime security company.
CAS-Global was reportedly used to evade a requirement by Norway that arms dealers obtain export licences from their country’s foreign affairs ministry and CAS-Global was licensed for such transactions. KNM Horten was sold to the British firm in 2012 and recorded as working for a fishery firm.
According to The Guardian, the case has not yet been resolved but is set to take a significant turn Tuesday when the verdict in the first court case arising out of the allegations is due to be announced in Oslo, Norway.
In the UK, Cas-Global has been the subject of investigation since 2014 by the City of London police’s specialist anti-corruption unit.
The investigation is part of an effort by the UK to improve its record on prosecuting companies said to pay bribes to foreign officials and politicians to land contracts overseas.
For many years, the UK has been castigated for failing to prosecute firms for this type of corruption.
In a report on Monday, campaigners from the UK anti-bribery group, Corruption Watch, also criticised the British government for failing to spot what they believed were signs of potential corruption when Cas-Global was given an export licence in the deal – claims rejected by British ministers.
The nature of Cas-Global’s business is not apparent from its accounts filed at Companies House since it was set up in 2008. Last month, Companies House declared that it was intending to dissolve the firm, as it appeared to be moribund. The firm could not be reached for comment.
The Norwegian authorities are prosecuting a civil servant, Bjørn Stavrum, over allegations that he was paid $154,000 by Cas-Global to help secure the sale of the naval vessels. Stavrum denies the claims.
According to the indictment, Stavrum, who was responsible for the sale, was paid the money directly into his bank account in two instalments in 2013.
“The payments were improper, among other things because of Stavrum’s position, the amounts involved, and because they were kept hidden from his employer,” the indictment alleges.
Prosecutors allege that the payments were designed to disguise how the vessels were being sold to Tompolo – a purchase that would have needed an export licence from the Nordic authorities.
Tompolo has denied being involved in corruption.
The City of London police said its detectives “continue to actively investigate the suspected bribery of a Norwegian public official in connection with the purchase of ex-naval vessels from 2012 onwards.
“The joint investigation with the Norwegian authorities has led to the arrest of four men”.
The City of London police added its detectives “are also liaising with the American and Nigerian authorities in respect of enquiries connected to financial transfers”.
The export of the vessels has been investigated by Corruption Watch, which has used the Freedom of Information Act in the UK to obtain documents about the case.
The campaigners said that the case demonstrates the need to strengthen anti-corruption measures when export licences are being awarded.
Paul Holden, Corruption Watch’s investigations director, said: “The UK government is clearly open to charges of hypocrisy if, on the one hand, it urges countries like Nigeria to fight corruption, while making no effort to prevent corruption in its own export licence process.”
Mark Garnier, junior minister at the Department for International Trade, rejected the claims, saying: “The government does not think that it is appropriate to base an assessment merely on the perception of corruption in the destination country.”