- Â As CISLAC, GII canvass for greater transparency
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has taken the war against corruption to Ghana, in a bid to tackle the anti-development scourge ravaging the West African region and the rest of Africa.
The crusade was spearheaded by the Secretary to the Commission, Mr. Adegboyega Aremo, who was part of a delegation of the Transparency International, Nigeria Chapter, who visited Accra, Ghana on a three-day exchange visit between TI Nigeria and TI Ghana.
The visit was facilitated by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) which is the focal organisation for TI Nigeria, and coordinated by Mr. Lukman Adefolahan, a senior Programme Manager with CISLAC.
Aremo, who was accompanied by some top members of the Local Advisory of TI Nigeria, including the Anti-Corruption Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Centre for Democracy and Development, and the Media (THISDAY) visited various relevant organisations in Accra, including the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) led by Mrs. Linda Ofori-Kwafo; the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO); the Private Enterprise Federation, Ghana (PEF); and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
The EFCC number-two man used the exchange visit to enlighten the Ghanaian organisations about the operations and latest updates in EFCC’s war against corruption in Nigeria, including the recovery of stolen funds to the tune of N750 billion so far this year, the current personnel status of the EFCC, which he put at 4,000; the introduction of assets confiscation and forfeiture and also plea bargaining which has helped the agency to recover more funds and has also reduced the cost and time of corruption trials back home in Nigeria.
Aremo called on the agencies visited to collaborate with the EFCC in the interest of regional security and in an effort to stop illicit flow of funds from Nigeria to Ghana and vice-versa, in a bid to curb corruption in the region and around Africa.
According to him, â€œThere must be a political will and official support to fight corruption, whether in Ghana, Nigeria or any other country in the region. The current President in Nigeria has the political will to fight corruption.
â€œThere is need for the Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) to forge a common regional partnership to discourage cross-border corruption. Approval has already been received to establish EFCC Television and a Radio station to take off in January 2018. Currently, we have about 4,000 officers in EFCC and there are 750 more undergoing training.
â€œThe fight against corruption is not for one country alone. We must face it together through a common consensus. The issue of assets tracing and forfeiture and Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) are found in both Nigeria and Ghana. The problem of corruption is deep particularly with regards to our culture.
â€œThere is need for greater collaboration across the region in fighting corruption. The EFCC academy is open for training for people and ACAs across the region. This will hasten cross-border fight against corruption. And unless the political class supports the fight against corruption, very little can be done,â€ Aremo added.
Speaking to some media organisations in Accra, the EFCC chieftain said media ownership and non-interference is also crucial in boosting the fight against corruption, including the judiciary.
According to him, â€œMedia ownership is also an issue and an obstruction to corruption reporting. But where the media owner does not interfere with information on corruption, much can be achieved. Before now, some public officials, especially the military, were untouchable. But the scale of corruption became too much which attracted media attention and widespread condemnation.
â€œThe judiciary also has a role to play especially on the issue of politically exposed persons (PEPs) who secure plea bargain. Recent directives in the Judiciary called New Practice Directives (NPD) now give speedy hearing to issues of treason, corruption and terrorism.
â€œThere must be an interface between the anti-corruption agencies and the Media to ensure progress in the anti-corruption fight. Money laundering is a cross-border phenomenon. It is difficult to keep illicit flows in Nigeria right now because of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) and a strong Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). Whistleblowers are also helping in the fight against corruptionâ€, he added.
He also informed the agencies about a coming programme where the EFCC would invite all anti-corruption agencies across Africa to a summit in Abuja, to fashion out more effective strategies on combating illicit financial flows and corruption across the various regions and the continent as a whole.