Sagay’s Committee Recovers N1tn

Itse Sagay
  •  Buhari orders sale of recovered assets to avert return to owners
  •   Promises to review cost of governance

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) thursday in Abuja said it had recovered at least N1 trillion which it said had been deployed to fund the Social Investment Programme (SIP) of the federal government.

This is coming as President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday disclosed that instructions had been given to relevant authorities that all forfeited assets be sold, “and the money put in the Treasury Single Account.”

He has also promised to look into the cost of governance, and flush out corruption wherever it may be found.

Briefing State House reporters after the committee met with President Buhari, PACAC Chairman, Professor 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 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.

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.

Meanwhile, President Buhari has promised to look into the cost of governance, and flush out corruption wherever it may be found.

Buhari made this pledge while hosting members of the PACAC in the State House.

He recalled the experience of the past, when seized assets alleged to be proceeds of corruption were returned to initial owners after his military government was ousted from office, vowing that he would not allow such to repeat itself.

According to him, instructions had been given to relevant authorities that all forfeited assets be sold, “and the money put in the Treasury Single Account.”

A statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the president expressed appreciation to members of the committee led by Sagay, for the “major sacrifice they’ve made in accepting the assignment to serve the country,” adding: “Some of the elite won’t trust you, and you will be alienated, no matter how close you are to them.”

He said: “Let’s see who will now take back the money from the treasury, and give back to those people, as was done in the past.”

According to Adesina, Sagay praised Buhari and congratulated him on his anti-corruption drive, reporting that the committee had worked towards realising the objective of its creation.

“We congratulate you for being a star of the anti-corruption struggle in Africa. You attach a lot of importance to the fight against corruption, and we have tried to achieve the aims you had in mind when you established PACAC,” Adesina quoted Sagay.

According to the statement, Sagay highlighted duties of the committee to include: training, capacity building for anti-corruption agencies, adding that it had helped in developing a programme of non-conviction assets recovery, which he said was recording a great successes.