Says corruption fighting back with enough resources
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on Tuesday, called for change of tactics in the fight against corruption in the country, saying he was convinced that there are many practical steps that could be taken.
Osinbajo, who spoke at the opening of 20th Anniversary African Regional Webinar of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, on Combating Corruption and Illicit Financial Flow: New Measures and Strategies, said Nigeria must democratize the fight against corruption, as well as ensure adequate protection of whistle-blowers.
He said the devastating effect of secret corporate ownership and beneficial ownership on economies across Africa required stakeholders on the continent, including governments, to collaborate to stem the tide of corruption.
According to him, “For us in the developing world and especially in Africa, breaking the wall of secret corporate ownership is crucial because secrecy around corporate ownership is implicated in our underdevelopment.
“Although anonymous companies are not always illegal, nevertheless secrecy provides a convenient cover for criminality and corruption.
“Our experience in Nigeria as in other developing countries is that anonymous corporate ownership covers a multitude of sins including conflict of interests, corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, and even terrorism financing.”
He noted that following a commitment President Muhammadu Buhari made at London Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016, to establish a public register of the beneficial owners of all companies operating in Nigeria, the country, joined the Open Government Partnership, OGP, same year and submitted a National Action Plan prioritising the establishment of an all-encompassing and publicly accessible register.
“Nigeria is in the process of amending its corporate law to implement these measures and mandate the disclosure of beneficial interest in a company’s shares and prescribe punitive measures for failure to disclose”.
On Anti-corruption fight in the country, Osinbajo said: “Let me conclude by saying there is no magic bullet to ending corruption, stemming IFFs or promoting asset recovery and asset return. We simply must work hard at it and be determined to succeed. We must make corruption expensive for those who engage in it and send the unequivocal message that corruption simply does not pay.
“We must also make all members of the international community see the benefit of shared prosperity and inclusive growth and development. It is the unenviable but noble task of ICPC and other anti-corruption agencies to make corruption unattractive to its disciples and facilitate new approaches to stemming IFFS and promoting asset recovery and return.
“As you ruminate on the key issues to dominate the UN General Assembly Special Session on Corruption in 2021, I urge you to come up with concrete proposals for Nigeria to take to the UN and also for all of our colleagues in the region, to take to the United Nations in order to begin to positively shape policy in a way and manner that best promotes the interest of our country and region.
“Domestically, we must also be prepared to change, to some extent, our tactics in the fight against corruption. Listening to Edward Kallon, I am convinced that there are many practical steps that can be taken.
“We must democratise the fight against corruption. Many of our citizens are interested in the fight against grand corruption. Grand corruption as you know cripples the economy. But they also want to see action in what would be regarded as petty corruption – in their interfaces with government officials either in the search for certifications, approvals of any kinds, licenses and all of that. Many want to see that corruption at that level is tackled effectively. And I think that we must begin to look at innovative ways of doing so.
“Secondly, we must protect, even more, whistle-blowers – persons who come forward with information against corruption. We must protect those who are ready to fight against corruption and who are prepared to do so without necessarily disclosing their identities, and even those who are ready to disclose their identities.
“The thing that we must take note of is that corruption fights back. And it is fighting back and it has the resources to do so.
“In recent times, one of the chief ways that we are seeing more frequently is the use of unscrupulous individuals who are paid to use social media platforms to make outrageous allegations against persons perceived to be fighting corruption.
“The technique is not new, the idea is to tie everybody with the same so that you cannot recognize the truly corrupt or the truly corrupt activity, and genuine whistle-blowing is discredited as a result. And because our court system is slow, they count on the possibility that these victims may not pursue litigation or prosecution, you must devise a new legal strategy to ensure that this dirty trick not only fails but are penalized.
“The fight against corruption is nuanced and hydra-headed, it is not going to get easier by the day, as a matter of fact, it will get more difficult by the day and many will become discouraged in standing up against corruption.
“But it is our duty both as individuals and institutions especially in developing countries where corruption has such a devastating effect, to ensure that we prioritize the fight against corruption and continually device new ways and new approaches even as the hydra itself continue to manifest in different ways.
“I am happy to note that the ICPC has creditably discharged itself of its mandate in the past twenty years”, he added.
In his address, the ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said the Commission had in the past 20 years, recorded a number of achievements.
“From 44 petitions in 2000 to 1, 934 in 2019. It has received cumulatively 19, 381 petitions in 20 years, successfully investigated about 5,000 of the petitions and prosecuted almost 1,000 and secured convictions in about 20 per cent of the cases over the years including successfully defending up to the Supreme Court a challenge to the constitutionality of the enabling Act.
“Within the same period, we have conducted 47 System Study Reviews on public sector MDAs and 5 CRAs in different key sectors of the economy including transport, education, health and the e-government system.
“Furthermore, it has established 449 ACTUs in MDAs. established ACAN as training arm of the Commission, developed the National Values Curriculum being taught through different subjects at primary and post-primary |evels In schools across Nigeria, trained 13, 739 public servants at ACAN and opened 15 state offices across Nigeria with at least 2 offices in each geo-political zone.
“The Commission made input to the Introduction and design of BVN by Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and Bankers Committee and IPPIS and GIFMIS to mention a few achievements”, the ICPC boss added.
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