President Muhammadu Buhari has dropped the hint that his administration was on course to strengthen the capacity of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies. This, he said, would result in equipping  them with additional material, organisational and logistical support.

The president revealed this on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in his remarks at the National Democracy Day Anti-corruption Summit, organised by the EFCC, with the theme: “Curbing Electoral Spending: A Panacea for Public Corruption.”

“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.”

According to him, the process was kicked off with the recent interaction between the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption , PACAC, and all anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria.

Aside the strengthening of the EFCC and all other anti-corruption agencies, the interaction between PACAC and anti-corruption agencies in the country, according to the president, would further lead to the closing of the “existing legislative loopholes, facilitate collaboration with the judiciary, and strengthen the criminal justice system; enforce effective asset declaration by public office holders and ensure sanctions by professional bodies against lawyers, bankers, brokers, public officials, and other individuals facilitating corrupt practices.”

Also is the ensuring of “comprehensive support and protection to whistle-blowers, witnesses and victims of corruption; adopt and formulate the policy of ‘naming and shaming’ all those who engage in corrupt practices while encouraging and honouring those who do not; educate, mobilise and encourage Nigerians at the grassroots level to take ownership of the fight against corruption.”

Others, the president enumerated are: to press for a crackdown on safe havens for corrupt assets, abolishing of bank secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens on the continent and beyond and insistence “on the unconditional return of looted assets, kept abroad and further strengthening of international cooperation through information and mutual legal assistance.”

With the pursuit of these, the president said he hoped for better response from Nigerians on the anti-corruption fight of his government.

“As we work to integrate these outlined measures and others into the anti-corruption drive with renewed vigour, we look forward to the active support and cooperation of all.”

In reference to the theme of the summit, he noted that the topic was most appropriate in the light of past and recent political experiences in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole.

The president regretted that Nigeria’s recent political experiences have been characterised by “the corrupting influence of money on party politics and electioneering processes.” This, unwholesome practice, he said, has had “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.”

In his welcome address, the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu noted that President Buhari has always projected anti-corruption as one of the agenda of his government, and as such, was hopeful of a clear horizon for the anti-corruption fight as the president begins his second tenure. In reference to the theme of the summit, Magu observed that the principles of democracy have been bastardized over the years by the ruling elite in some countries across the globe, and that Nigeria, in particular, has had a fair share of the unbearable scourge of a chronic "elite-capture syndrome," which he said is primarily achieved by manipulating the electoral processes, using stolen public wealth to subvert the wishes of the people.”

Magu further stated that electoral spending by politicians is often linked to voter inducement in Africa, dubbed local “votes buying", in local parlance, noting however, that “whenever one is induced to sell his vote, he automatically loses the moral equilibrium to challenge corrupt tendencies of those elected.” On the other hand, vote-selling by the electorate, he said has mostly been due to factors that include lack of proper political education.

According to him, “Political parties often induce voters with money because they lack appropriate and realistic policies to convince the electorates to vote them into power, thus breeding multi-dimensional adverse effects on good governance and creating gaps for corruption to thrive.”

The EFCC under his watch, Magu said, understood this very clearly and for the first time was involved in the process of monitoring illegal cash movements with a view to preventing vote buying during the 2019 elections in Nigeria.

“To that end, the Commission arrested and arraigned some of the people involved and so far, some have been convicted. This undoubtedly indicates a departure from the past. The post-mortem of the last elections suggests that the activities of the EFCC during the polls drastically reduced the prevalence of voter inducement in the country,” he said.

The EFCC boss further disclosed that the Summit’s brainstorming will also proffer strategic solutions to the lingering crisis of pre and post-election malpractices, particularly as it relates to deploying stolen public funds to perpetuate injustice.

He noted that the efforts of the Commission’s officers and men culminated in securing multiple convictions and recovering of funds and properties worth billions of Naira.

“The convictions secured by the Commission since the beginning of this administration reflect a positive progression. In 2015, the Commission secured 103 convictions, 194 in 2016, 189 in 2017 and 314 in 2018. From January 2019 to date, the Commission has secured over 406 convictions and recovered several assets worth billions of Naira", he said.

Despite this record, Magu noted that corruption remained a challenge in the country, observing that the fight against corruption requires a multi-stakeholder approach. The business environment, he said will never be sustainable if the people remained sympathetic to the destructive act of corruption and urged Nigeria’s captains of industries to strengthen their corporate governance policies to reflect practical anti-corruption principles.

In further praise of Buhari administration’s anti-corruption drive, Magu observed the federal government’s Executive Order 8 for the Voluntary Offshore Asset Regularization Scheme and the Executive Order 6 for the Preservation of Assets Connected with Serious Corruption and other Relevant Offences, are all policy initiatives that have aided anti-corruption fight.

Former  head of Kenyan's anti-corruption agency, Professor Patrick Lumumba, who offered a “Review of Anti-corruption Strategy in Africa and the Way Forward” urged Nigerians to have a change of heart in the fight against corruption to move the country forward. He said he held the view that the long term health of not only Nigeria but the Continent of Africa demands that the critical majority of the masses must have a change of heart towards anti-corruption fight.

According to him, “that is why it gladdens my heart that beyond the convictions, we are also educating the population and creating an environment where the perpetrators of darkness will not have the oxygen to breathe.”

Lumumba notes that “corruption undermines democracy. We don't have schools, health facilities is because of corruption. When our young women and men die in the Sahara and Mediterranean Sea, it is because of corruption. If Africa continues to punch below it's economic and political will, it is because of corruption, and Africa cannot survive if corruption is what we embrace.”

Retired honourable Justice Isa Ayo salami, OFR, former President, of the Appeal Court, who presented a paper on "The Use of Public Funds in Election Litigation and the Integrity of the Judiciary," commended the efforts of the EFCC under the leadership of Magu in the fight against corruption.

"Permit me to express my profound appreciation and also commend the good work of the organizers of this conference and the entire members of the Commission under the able leadership if it's Acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu for a display of unwavering commitment, dedication and determination in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

"It is worthy of mention that in spite of all odds, confronting them from different quarters, the Commission has performed exceedingly well over the years. No doubt the fight against corruption requires strong will and dedication, which I believe is not lacking in this instance.”

On his part, the former chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, who spoke on “Curbing Electoral Spending and Voter Inducement in Nigeria: The Role of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies”, advocated for urgent review of the existing legal framework in the fight against corruption.

"Urgent review of the existing legal framework, Constitution and Electoral Act, paying attention to strengthening political finance and vote buying legislations, is necessary and should commence immediately," Jega said.

The event also featured Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda; Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad,  heads of anti corruption agencies in Africa, members of the Diplomatic Corps,  relious leaders, media owners and managers, leaders of civil society organization, service chiefs among others.

Media & Publicity

June 11, 2019