•ICPC uncovers N5.17bn fraud in agric ministry, school feeding programme
By Omololu Ogunmade
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called for the “rediscovery of our cherished traditional ethical values of honesty, integrity, hard work, truth, and justice, unity, faith,” saying, “corruption and corruptive tendencies are abhorrent to these core ethical values.”
This came as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) disclosed that it had uncovered N2.67 billion meant to fund children’s school feeding during the lockdown in some individuals’ personal accounts.
The commission said it also uncovered over N2.5 billion appropriated by a dead senior civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture to himself and his cronies.
The president made the call in the State House at the ICPC’s Second National Summit on “Diminishing Corruption and Launch of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy,” in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the anti-corruption agency.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the policy was put together by the ICPC, in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and the National Orientation Agency.
Adesina said Buhari recalled how he fought corruption as a military head of state in 1984 and introduced War Against Indiscipline (WAI), as a platform for the promotion of moral conduct, integrity, and hard work.
The president argued that progress could only be made when dividends of democracy are delivered to the citizenry and arms and tiers of government also work together.
“I believe that it is when the three arms and the three levels of government work together that the government will be enabled to serve the country. We will also see the positive impact of our efforts reaching all and sundry across the country,” he said.
He said in accordance with the theme of this year’s summit, “Together Against Corruption,” which he said was derived from the theme of the country’s 60th independence anniversary, “all tiers and arms of government can attack corruption and realise the vast potentials of our country.”
Buhari challenged the judiciary to embark on reforms that will fast-track the delivery of justice for the common good, saying if transformation must be achieved, the public sector must be rid of corruption and a forthright judicial system entrenched.
He also advocated the enactment of laws that would enhance the reform of the legal system without putting into consideration the status of anyone adding that the re-orientation of the people along the ethical line is necessary to achieve this.
“We need to deploy resources to address our common needs rather than the greed of a callous few. We need a corruption-free public sector to achieve this transformation; we need a judicial system that dispenses justice without undue delay and technicality.
“We need laws and legal system to be reformed to deliver justice to every citizen without regard to status and finally, we need ethical re-orientation of the people to achieve this goal. When we work together against corruption we can defeat it,” he added.
The president who presented publications by the ICPC at the event also commended and presented awards to some Nigerians, including Opeyemi Peter Adeboye, Chikezie Favour and Matilda Daniels who won the ICPC Youth Music and Essay Competitions on the promotion of anti-corruption values as well as the 2020 Public Service Integrity Awardees.
He also commended Francis Osagie Erhabor, a Chief Superintendent of Police and Hamza Adamu Buwai of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment whom he said demonstrated the will to look away from graft and corruption.
“I congratulate all the awardees. Even though COVID-19 has not permitted the kind of ceremony that you deserve, Nigeria is proud of you. You are a pride to your families, institutions, and to Nigeria,” he said.
ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said the commission uncovered N2.67 billion paid to some federal colleges to fund children’s school feeding during the lockdown in personal accounts.
The commission which said it also uncovered over N2.5 billion appropriated by a dead senior civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture to himself and cronies, also listed other assets recovered from the ministry to include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land.
Owasanoye said under the open treasury portal review conducted from January to August 15, 2020, the commission found that out of the 268 ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs), 72 had cumulative infractions of N90 million.
According to him, 33 MDAs reported that N4.1 billion was transferred to sub-TSA while the satisfactory explanation could not be given about N4.2 billion paid to individuals.
He said: “We observed that transfers to sub-TSA were to prevent disbursement from being monitored. Nevertheless, we discovered payments to some federal colleges for school feeding in the sum of N2.67 billion during lockdown when the children are not in school, and some of the money ended up in personal accounts. We have commenced investigations into these findings.”
The ICPC chairman also said under the commission’s 2020 constituency and executive projects tracking initiative, 722 projects with a threshold of N100 million (490 ZiP and 232 executive) were tracked across 16 states.
Speaking with State House reporters after the event, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, said when prosecution of corruption cases drags for a number of years, it is an expression of support for corruption.
He therefore emphasised the need for all organs of government to work together and confront the menace of corruption with a view to enhancing anti-graft war.
Lawan also appealed to citizens to join the fight against corruption, as he disagreed with beliefs that this current administration’s fight against corruption has been selective.
He said: “The emphasis is to ensure that all hands are on deck. First of all, without the legislature, there wouldn’t have been the ICPC. In the fourth session of the National Assembly, the ICPC bill was passed, which was assented to by the then president. That is to tell you the level of the need and imperative for togetherness in the fight against corruption.
“When you have a judiciary that works to ensure that cases of corruption are treated with dispatch, you will agree with me that, that will help in the fight against corruption. If a case of corrupt practice or alleged corrupt practice will last up to four, five, six or ten years or so, you’ll know that something is wrong and that is giving some kinds of tacit support to the corrupt practice.
“But if there’s always dispatch in the treatment of such cases, that will expedite action by the Judiciary to give support to the fight against corruption.”