Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) has revealed in Abuja, that it has recovered at least N1 trillion looted funds, which it said, had been deployed to fund the Social Investment Programme (SIP) of the federal government.
Briefing State House reporters after the committee met with President Muhammadu Buhari, Thursday, PACAC Chairman, Prof. Itse Sagay, said the N500 billion spent on SIP in 2017 and another N500 billion in 2018 were proceeds of recovered assets by the committee.
According to him, whatever the committee recovers from looters is pumped back into the system, adding that corruption in Nigeria is a cancer that has eaten deep into every aspect of the country’s national life.
Sagay, who said the menace which had been part of the system for over 50 years, could not be done away with within a brief period, added that even in the court, officials would not allow a lawyer to file a case without extorting money from him.
“I think the Minister of Information is best placed to say how much (has been recovered) but I can say roughly, internally, it is almost about N1 trillion because you saw that in 2017, N500 billion was spent on this Social Investment Programme and in 2018, the same amount for the programme. So, it must be roughly about N1 trillion, although we also have monies that were recovered from abroad being ploughed back into the same system.
“When you have a disease that has been alive maybe 50 years, you cannot get rid of it overnight. My own personal experience about corruption, it exists at every level. That is the frightening aspect through all sectors of the society.
“As a lawyer, going to court to file a paper, every official of the court imposes a personal tax which has nothing to do with the official filing fees to do his job. These are clerical officers and much lower people, and this pervades all aspects of Nigerian society,” he said.
Sagay, who insisted that corruption had become a culture in Nigeria, submitted that it would take a long time to conquer the scourge as he canvassed the need to re-orientate the citizens by running awareness campaigns against corruption.
He also advocated the need to give incentives to those who are not corrupt to encourage others that a corrupt-free life is rewarding.
Sagay also said all that the committee could do was to concentrate on fighting corruption in the corridors of power by focusing on those who divert government resources for their personal benefits.
“So, corruption has become a culture, some people are corrupt without even thinking that they are corrupt, it is part of them. They think it is an entitlement. So, it is going to take a long time to get rid of it.
“That is why the National Orientation Agency and the major document that has been produced, ‘Anti-corruption Strategy,’ lays some emphasis on acculturising Nigerians with regards to the fight against corruption, going to schools, (non-governmental organisation) NGOs, civil society organisations and so on, to preach the message of anti-corruption, to give incentives to those who are not corrupt so that people will be encouraged to imbibe that culture.
“It is a long term thing. All we can do as it’s being done is that concentration is at the top where powerful people are using state funds for themselves. Eventually, it will go down as this culture is being progressively imbibed,” he said.
On regular claims that corruption is fighting back, Sagay said the intensity of corruption fighting back has reduced with the expiration of the eight National Assembly where he alleged that corruption was vigorously fighting back.
According to him, the main opposition to the fight against corruption was coming from the last National Assembly, adding that the current ninth National Assembly is however, “determined to work hand in hand with the government and therefore with us in achieving the highest level of non-corruption in society”.
He expressed hope that the new management of Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) in collaboration with the recently constituted committee would recover the N5 trillion owed the company.