President Buhari, who has less than one year to leave office, restated his avowed abhorrence of corruption and determination to rid the country of graft, while expressing his pride in his “legacy of fighting corruption”.
President Muhammadu Buhari has said he is happy to leave office in 2023 with a legacy and a reputation of an anti-corruption crusader.
He also promised to support efforts to eradicate corruption in Nigeria and across Africa regardless of his position in or out of office.
The President, who ‘swept’ to power on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, promising to tackle corruption, improve on the economy and secure the country, is expected to step down from office after completing his second term of four years in 2023.
He spoke in his recorded remarks played at an anti-corruption forum co-organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) and other anti-corruption agencies in Abuja on Thursday.
The event was organised to mark the 6th African Union (AU) Day of Anti–Corruption in commemoration of the adoption of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC).
It had the theme, ‘Strategy and Mechanisms for the Transparent Management of Covid-19 Funds, Lessons from the Pandemic’.
Mr Buhari, who has less than one year to leave office, restated his avowed abhorrence of corruption and determination to rid the country of graft, while expressing his pride in his “legacy of fighting corruption”.
“Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen we must continue to fight for the benefit of the present and future generations. Our youths have nowhere to go and live with dignity but in Africa. As I am leaving office next year, I am proud to leave behind a legacy of fighting corruption among others.
“Personally, I abhor corruption and I will render my best in or out office to get rid of corruption in Nigeria and Africa in general. I urge our youths to join me in this noble cause. My fellow African leaders let us work together at whatever level to get rid of corruption in Africa.
“Posterity will judge us right if we deal with corruption as appropriate. It is imperative to kill corruption in Nigeria and Africa. It will give our citizens a better life,” the president said.
While Mr Buhari acknowledged that the battle against corruption has not been easy, he stated that much work still had to be done in the areas of asset recovery, prosecution, conviction, and arrest as well as anti-corruption laws.
“I must admit that the fight has not been a bed of roses. Truly, a lot more work on many fronts is required. For example, civil and public servants must be ethical and professional at all times. The private sector must contribute to curbing corruption.
“The international community needs to close safe havens. The judiciary requires more impetus. Perhaps, an International Anti-corruption criminal Court is needed. Family and religious values have to be upgraded, and schools have a lot of work to do for a better society,” Mr Buhari said.
Mr Buhari, who raised the hope of many Nigerians about his resolve to tackle corruption and its attendant problems with his mantra, “Corruption will kill Nigeria if Nigeria does not kill corruption,” in his inauguration speech in 2015, is generally believed to have performed below expectations in that regard.
The recent pardon his administration granted two convicted former governors of Taraba and Plateau states, Jolly Nyame, and Joshua Dariye, respectively, while their jail terms already affirmed by the Supreme Court were still running, was the last straw believed to have exposed the president’s insincerity about his avowed anti-corruption war.
The latest Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released in January, also indicated worsening corruption in Nigeria, with the country scoring 24 out of 100, a point lower than its performance in the previous 2020 CPI report.
Nigeria’s ranking of 154th out of 180 nations assessed in the report was also five places down five places from its position in the 2020 report.
President Buhari maintained on Thursday that the fight against corruption must be sustained in Africa for the benefit of present and future generations.
“Our youths have no place to go and live with dignity but in Africa. As I am leaving office next year, I am proud to leave behind a legacy of fighting corruption among others,” he said.
‘Establish International Anti-Corruption Court’
The president also called for the establishment of an International Anti-Corruption court to try offenders, a proposal PACAC had suggested to the administration since its early days of its coming on board.
He urged African leaders to intensify the fight against corruption and create more disincentives for the pilfering of public funds.
Speaking further, the President charged African leaders to empower and allow the Anti-Corruption agencies to deliver on their mandates.
The President also told African leaders that “we must get rid of corruption in Africa if the continent is to realise its full potential.”
“I have come to realise that nations in Africa have to ensure that national resources are not taken to safe havens around the world and we must curtail Illicit Financial Flows in all their ramifications. Also, we must work collectively to recover all resources taken abroad. We must show looters that crime does not pay by depriving them of the proceeds of their crime.
“Also, elite greed and irresponsibility must be eradicated in Africa. Again, ethics, decency, decorum and respect for rule of law must be promoted in Africa. It is important to develop strategies for behavioural change in Africa if corruption is to be tamed. This will ensure that national resources are allowed to serve the population and not a tiny few,” he added.
MDA’s complicit in frauds from COVID-19 funds
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owasanoye, said his agency enforced Section 6 of the enabling law to investigate the utilisation of the Covid-19 funds.
He also noted that when funds were released to assuage the impact of the pandemic, it observed discrepancies and infractions in some instances in the procurement and payment made by some ministries.
“Some implicated MDA’s refused the monitoring team access to their records thereby impeding the successful inquiry into their activities. These MDAs are flagged and will be investigated for breaches and infractions of the law and Covid-19 intervention funds guidelines and other procurement abuses,” Mr Owasanoye said.
President Buhari lauded his administration’s intervention during the COVID-19 pandemic
“In Nigeria, we responded to the COVID-19 Pandemic swiftly and having tamed it, we have realized the need for more awareness campaigns on health issues and more investment in the health sector. Again, service delivery requires checkmating corruption,” he said.
The UNODC Country Representative, Oliver Stolpe, proposed some specific measures to facilitate the effective implementation of the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act (POCA).
The proposals included the promulgation of unified Standard Operating Procedures for the management of seized and confiscated assets by the various law enforcement agencies.
Mr Stolpe also called for the creation of a shared registry and certification process for court-appointed asset managers, the establishment of a jointly managed storage facility and broadening the interpretation of sections of POCA to allow relevant CSOs to receive allocations from the Confiscated and Forfeited Properties Account.
The programme was co-organised by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ICPC, and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and other members of the Interagency Task Team (IATT).