AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna and Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has again declared that his administration was winning the war against corruption in the country.
He said the successes recorded so far by anti-graft agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had bolstered Nigeria’s international image.
Buhari added that his government was poised to use cutting-edge information technology to strengthen the achievements and ensure that no government financial transaction was done in secret.
He assured that he would work towards making sure that reforms were deepened in such a way that there would be no hiding place for looters.
The President stated these on Tuesday in Kaduna at the Passing out parade of Detective Inspector Course Five, of the EFCC.
Buhari said: “The fight against corruption is becoming much more effective. I make bold to say that Nigeria is winning the war against corruption. We have been working within the frameworks of National Action Plan for Open Government Partnership (OGP), National Anti-Corruption Strategy which is an adaptation of United Nations Convention against Corruption and the Global Forum for Asset Recovery (GFAR).
“Several of the reforms have been effective for several years with great impact on revenue and expenditure management. These include; the Government Integrated, Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS), Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), Treasury Single Account, and Bank Verification Number (BVN).
“Executive Orders, such as Preservation of Suspicious Assets Connected with Corruption (Executive Order 6), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Act 2018; and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 2018 have been operating for a few years and effectively limiting system opportunities for corrupt practices.
“This administration, right from the inception, aligned with the Open Governance Partnership and Global Forum for Asset Recovery in addition to existing commitments to African Union and Economic Community of West African States’ Conventions Against Corruption, and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
“These frameworks focus significantly on systems reforms in order to prevent corruption. Nigeria’s active participation in these global anti-corruption platforms means that the country is subjecting itself to periodic review of its progress in implementing the articles of conventions thus the fight against corruption.
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”Our fight against corruption is being recognised by the international community as real and effective. The face of the country abroad is also changing as the international community is beginning to see Nigeria making substantial progress in the enthronement of transparency, accountability and good governance.
“The President of the 7th Session of United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) had this to say when announcing Nigeria as Vice Chairman of Conference of State Parties: ‘It is an election well-deserved. Nigeria has demonstrated remarkable determination in the fight against corruption.’ Nigeria retained the position of vice chair of the 8th Session.
“During the 10th Session of the Conference of State Parties, the Implementation Review Group Report also noted the high number of Asset Recovery cases successfully initiated by Nigeria in cooperation with other countries under the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) framework.”
Stressing that his administration was poised to use cutting-edge information technology to combat administrative corruption and espouse fiscal transparency, Buhari explained that all government financial transactions would soon be done in the open with the implementation of the various reform agenda.
The President noted that the various national reforms and collaborative efforts with international organisations were designed to strengthen anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria.
His words: “My resolve is to ensure that the reforms are deepened such that there will be no hiding place for corrupt persons and proceeds of corruption. My aim is to ensure that no government financial transaction is done in secret and all are subjected to public scrutiny.
“The objective of this administration is to institute a level of transparency in governance through mainly information technology platforms. Just as advanced democracies and some developing countries, I am determined that within a short period, citizens would be able to follow core government operations on line.
“Our government has reached advanced stage in Fiscal Transparency. The Appropriation Bill is placed online within hours of its presentation in National Assembly. The Budget Office of the Federation has been engaging interest groups in the budget cycle. A pilot scheme of 10 MDAs has been test running online display of their budgets and expenditure movements.
“Our commitment to online disclosure of Beneficial Owners of Companies generally within the framework of the Corporate Affairs Commission and in the extractive industries through Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) is on course.
“I am aware the portals are ready but owners of companies are unwilling to comply with all disclosure requirements. I urge all well-meaning Nigerians to fully comply.”
The President said he was “determined that recovered assets are effectively managed with greater impact on fiscal operations of government and social investment policies of our administration.”
He praised efforts of the EFCC in making the war against corruption effective.
He added: “I have listened attentively to the report in the speech presented by the Chairman of EFCC. The report is an attestation that right policies have been put in place to fight corruption and the fight is becoming much more effective.
“I congratulate the EFCC on its good work and I urge that the current level of success be sustained and accelerated.”
Buhari also expressed happiness that the EFCC was making steady progress by the recruitment, training and deployment of a special force of 665 cadets to its zonal offices within the past two years.
In his opening remarks, the acting Chairman of the EFCC. Ibrahim Magu, stated that corruption was deadlier than cancer, coronavirus, Ebola virus and Lassa fever.
He also said the commission secured 1,893 convictions between 2015 and December 2019.
Magu added: “Corruption is worse than cancer, Ebola virus, coronavirus and all other deadly diseases put together. Corruption is responsible for the insecurity and other vices experienced in Nigeria today and if we can remove corruption from our system, insecurity will disappear.
”In 2015, 103 convictions were secured. By 2016, 195 convictions were recorded, 314 convictions in 2018 and over 1,281 convictions in 2019.”
Magu also said that the commission was “currently developing its Statement of Strategy for 2020 to 2025, in line with the five pillars of National Anti-Corruption Strategy.”
He added that the EFCC, with the support of development partners, has built one of the best investigative laboratories in West Africa.
The laboratories, according to him, have aided investigators and prosecutors in achieving accuracy and deployment of “incontrovertible” evidence in courts.