•Restates commitment to security, economy
•It’s not enough to fight corruption, says Kagame
•Magu seeks new approach to fight graft
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday restated his determination to focus on tackling the worsening security challenges in the country, improve the economy and give more bite to efforts at fighting corruption during his second term.
He reeled out measures his administration would adopt in its second term in office to give muscles to the war against corruption.
He spoke at the “National Democracy Day Anti-Corruption Summit,” organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in Abuja.
Buhari’s Rwandan counterpart, President Paul Kagame, also at the occasion, said as a development strategy, it was not enough to fight corruption, stressing that the key to fighting graft in Africa remained wealth creation and equitable distribution of resources.
On his part, EFCC Acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, called for a multi-stakeholders’ approach in the fight against graft.
Buhari said he would consolidate on the achievements of his administration during its first term in office in the three key priority areas.
“During the recently concluded election campaigns, I stated clearly that the major areas of priority during my second term in office as it was in my first term will be: security, economic improvement and fight against corruption. I remain committed to the fulfillment of these promises.
“Now, as this administration commences, we are taking stock of progress made so far in the war against corruption, assessing what needs to be done and devising new strategies to address existing challenges.
“I am pleased to inform you that this process has already started with the recent interaction between the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption and all anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, the outcome of the interaction, among others, would serve as the basis for a more concerted effort by this administration to strengthen the capacity of the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies.
This would be done, he added, by providing additional material, organisational and logistical support, closing existing legislative loopholes, facilitating collaboration with the judiciary and strengthening the criminal justice system as well as enforcing effective asset declaration by public officeholders in addition to ensuring sanctions by professional bodies against lawyers, bankers, brokers, public officials, and other individuals facilitating corrupt practices.
He said the government would ensure support and protection for whistleblowers, witnesses and victims of corruption.
It would also adopt and formulate the policy of ‘naming and shaming’ all those who engage in corruption while encouraging and honoring those who do not.
In addition, it will educate, mobilise and encourage Nigerians at the grassroots level to take ownership of the fight against corruption, press for a crackdown on safe havens for corrupt assets, abolishment of bank secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens on the continent and beyond.
Other measures include insistence on unconditional return of looted assets kept abroad and strengthening international cooperation through information and mutual legal assistance.
On electoral spending, Buhari said the summit themed: ‘Curbing Electoral Spending: A Panacea for Public Corruption’ was appropriate as it formed part of “the guiding principle and commitment of our administration. This is in light of recent political developments in the country.”
He said electoral spending manifested in different ways hence the need to de-commercialise the electoral process.
“Regrettably, the recent political experiences have been characterised by the corrupting influence of money on party politics and electioneering processes.
“This unwholesome practice has dire consequences on our nations, in subverting the exercise of free choice by voters, elevated corrupt and unprincipled individuals to positions of leadership and entrenching the structures of democracy devoid of accountability.
“I once stated that: corruption runs completely counter to our shared values as Africans – the values of justice, the sense of fairness, law and order, equity and equality. Corruption rewards those who do not play by the rules and also creates a system of patronage where the resources are shared out by small elite, while the majority is trapped in poverty,” the president added.
In his remarks, Kagame said it was not enough to fight corruption, stressing that Nigeria and African nations should lay emphasis on wealth creation and greater emphasis on the equitable distribution of resources, which would engender support from the citizenry.
Kagame said corruption must be fought from top to bottom, using four key principles notably “culture, responsibility, accountability and effectiveness”.
“We must discard the myth that corruption is endemic to particular cultures. Corruption is a universal weakness, not an African one, and it is not part of our destiny as a continent,” he added.
According to him, research has shown that “the biggest sources and beneficiaries of corruption are outside of Africa.
“There is one of your own who wrote a book titled fighting corruption is dangerous; so she gave me the book and as I was looking at the title, I reminded her and said you need to be thinking of writing another book to state that not fighting corruption is even more dangerous.
“This is a fight that can be won; tolerating corruption is a choice, not an inevitability. It is within our power to end it. That is the most important starting point, otherwise, it will be a waste of time to keep talking about it.”
He outlined steps to take in fighting corruption.
He said: “Corruption does not take decades to eradicate once we decide to break the habit.
“We have to set our sights high. It is not enough to fight corruption just as merely fighting poverty, it is too small an ambition for Africa. We want to create value, we want to create wealth, not merely fighting corruption.”
Earlier, Magu had said a multi-stakeholders’ approach was required in the anti-graft war.
He identified corruption as a hindrance to economic growth and perpetuation of terrorism.
He said the convictions secured by the commission since the beginning of the Buhari administration reflected a positive progression in the fight against corruption.
“In 2015 the commission secured 103 convictions, 194 in 2016, 189 in 2017 and 312 in 2018. From January 2019 to date the commission has secured over 406 convictions and recovered several assets worth billions of naira.
“Despite this record, corruption remains a challenge in our country. I believe that the fight against corruption requires a multi-stakeholders’ approach. The private and public sectors are critical players in this regard and I am glad some state governors are taking steps to establish institutional mechanisms to fight corruption.
“However, institutional mechanisms alone will not eradicate corruption, we must have the passion and the will to make a difference,” he said
He urged key players in the private sector to strengthen their corporate governance to reduce the effects of graft on the business environment.
“Gladly, this administration in its anti-corruption drive has endorsed some policies that will sanitise the business environment. The Executive Order 8 for the Voluntary Offshore Asset Regularisation Scheme and the Executive Order 6 for the Preservation of Assets Connected with Serious Corruption and other Relevant Offences, are all policy initiatives that would aid anti-corruption,” he said.
Magu added that there was no better time than now for effective collaboration amongst African states in the fight against corruption