By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on every African, especially the younger generation to collaborate on every front towards ensuring that corruption becomes a thing of the past on the continent.
Named in January 2018 as the African Union Anti-corruption Champion, President Buhari made the call Sunday when he declared the 2018 Africa Youth Congress against Corruption (AYCAC2018) with theme: ‘Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation,’ open at the old banquet hall of the State House, Abuja.
Buhari noted that: “As Africa promotes regional integration and global prosperity, corruption remains a major stumbling block to the realisation of the seven (7) aspirations of the African Union Agenda 2063 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” and for that reason he said: “We must therefore fight it from all angles and avenues without ceasing. And only a united front led by the African youth can change this present narrative to a great story of African transformation.”
Borrowing from the words of the late fiery lawyer and renowned Nigerian anti-corruption crusader, Gani Fawehinmi that: “You do not justify your crime by a defence that there are other criminals,” the Nigerian implored youths drawn various countries across Africa “to challenge corruption in your different countries as we are doing in Nigeria and do not compromise”.
Describing corruption as “once-hidden taboo and hydra-headed challenge that freezes our aspirations and dents the hopes of our youth for a newly emergent Africa,” the president made a clarion call to the African youth, saying: “To the young people of Africa, this fight against corruption is yours to lead and to win in order to reverse the negative trends of corruption and its implications for Africa.”
He explained that: “The youth of Africa must pool their energies to effectively ensure that our natural and mineral resources remain on the continent for value addition, job and wealth creation as well as to create affordable health-care and quality education for our people. Winning the fight against corruption is very much in your hands!
“Of particular interest to the youth, as reflected in the Nouakchott Declaration, is the emphasis on the imperative of investing in the demographic dividends through anti-corruption, education and sensitisation campaigns, targeting young people as a means of bringing about behavioural change.”
Buhari had stated earlier that African leaders, in seeking for structural transformation on strengthening collective anti-corruption fight, during the mid-year summit of the African Union Assembly, African Heads of State and Government adopted the Nouakchott Declaration on the Anti-Corruption Year that they must join hands to speed up the fight against corruption.
The president was optimistic that the Abuja congress will take adequate stock of policy and institutional mechanisms in the fight against corruption as well as the role of technology amongst others.
Noting that the Nouakchott declaration on the anti-corruption year also took cognisance of the fact that corruption is not only an African phenomenon but a global one, especially with illicit financial flows where he said: “Africa, regrettably is in fact a net creditor to the world,” Buhari expressed confidence that participants will give due support to the continental strategies to stem illicit financial flows out of Africa; expedite stolen assets recovery and return; strengthen the capacity of national anti-corruption institutions; explore the link between corruption and conflicts; strengthen oversight by citizens on budget performance.
According to him, “You should also strongly advocate the universal signing and ratification of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption by all member states of the African Union.
“At the end of your deliberations in this congress, I am confident that you will come up with an agenda for action on winning the fight against corruption that will serve as the rallying cry of the African Youth towards a corruptfion-free Africa.”
He said the people should strive for an agenda for action that will be result-oriented and serve as a roadmap for the African continent.
President Buhari was particularly appreciative of the contributions of some youths blazing the trail with innovative ideas in fighting corruption.
He commended the efforts Mr. Moussa Kondo from Mali for his Accountability Lab in the Republic of Mali, designed to build sustainable coalitions of accountapreneurs; Maxence Melo, from the United Republic of Tanzania, founder of JamiiForums for strengthening the viability of whistleblowing policy tools and Nigeria’s Damilola Olawale, founder of Code IT for using technology to give young people the tools to demand transparency in the management of public resources.
He said: “These young people have done impressive work in pushing the boundaries of innovation in the pursuit for greater accountability. “And so today, we celebrate them and indeed we celebrate all of you – anti-corruption youngsters. You are the unsung heroes of our thematic year of the African Union, the high-impact achievers.
“You are the real African champions.”
In teaching what he says he believes are the A, B, C of fighting corruption, Buhari said: “A stands for Action. Let us all move from talk to action. I urge you to develop tangible projects in your community to instill transparency and accountability of the highest standard. I look forward to receiving your Creed of Transparency from this congress with a view to forwarding the recommendations to the next summit of the African Union in February next year.
“B stands for building bridges. The youth have a unique opportunity to spearhead the building of inter-generational and cross-sectoral bridges in our various communities. Often, fighting corruption requires partnerships with unlikely allies. Be open to exploring constructive partnerships with a wide base of actors. Again, I look forward to all of you joining the Transparency Champions Network that was created following the Regional Youth Consultations.
“C stands for culture. So, let us cultivate and equip ourselves with African culture, right attitude and mindset change that will enable us to stand firmly against corruption. By so doing, accountability and change will begin with you and me.”
Commending President Buhari’s doggedness in the fight against corruption and for coopting the youth into the fight against corruption, Commissioner for Political Affairs African Union Commission, Amb. Minata Samate Cessouma, said corruption in anti-good governance preventing sustainable growth, peace and stability.
She said winning the war against cuorruption in key to the African Union and that the fight is best won as a collective exercise. She also congratulated President Buhari for putting young people at the centre of the fight against corruption.
Saying that the theme for the summit is apt and call to action for the youth, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, said corruption a universal phenomenon but with extremely debilitating effects on Africa.
According to him, “It Impedes growth and development and denies the use of very scarce, limited resources for development.”
Reiterating President Buhari’s pledge to partner with African youth in the campaign against corruption, Onyeama said: “It is a daunting task, so I urge all of you to support our champion to eliminate corruption in our continent. Youth can do this through advocacy in their various countries. They should create synergy to fight as a unit to twin this fight. You must demonstrate enough passion and zeal that will help to change the narrative of our continent. Show zero tolerance to corruption, take the conversation beyond here; give wide publicity- schools, markets, faith-based organisations.”
He said “with President Buhari we are a team fired up to take whatever it takes to succeed.”
The acting chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, who spoke on behalf of anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria, regretted that corruption in Nigeria and Africa are very high.
He said as law enforcement agencies they have remained in the front line in the fight against corruption.
He listed actions and policies such as the whistleblower, asset forfeiture, Single Treasury Account (TSA), Bank Verification Number (BVN) – the unique identity for each customer that can be used for easy identification of beneficiaries of fraud, Executive Order in continuous audit and return of stolen funds $321 from Switzerland, as some of the measures taken by government to curb corruption in Nigeria.
Also calling for collaboration, Magu said: “We must come together to secure our nation and the African continent so that we can secure the future of our teeming youth”.
The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), also urged that “Youth must see fight against corruption as an obligation and a task that must be achieved,” stressing that “Without killing corruption, there will be no sustained development in the continent.”
Malami described corruption as “an injustice to the state, youth, children, women, aged, Africa and Africans,” and that “It is a breach of the human rights of Africans which must be rejected vehemently.”