The appeal by the federal government for the support of the British Government in building the capacities of anti-corruption institutions in Nigeria is not only germane and timely but also necessary for the success of Nigeria’s war against corruption. This is more so considering the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed that his second term, which is billed to commence on May 29, 2019, will be tougher for the nation’s looters.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, made the call in during a courtesy visit by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mrs Catriona Laing, and the Director for Africa, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom, Ms Harriet Mathews, in Abuja on Tuesday. He said that fighting corruption without putting up measures to prevent the scourge would not yield the expected results.
“We believe that if the institutions are strong and have adequate capacities, they will be able to work efficiently and effectively to prevent corrupt practices. We will record substantial success if we deal with corruption from the roots by preventing it from happening.
” The SGF called for support from the British Government in the repatriation of looted funds from Nigeria. He said that most of the funds were laundered and kept in banks outside the shores of Nigeria, adding that the funds would have been tracked if they were available in the country.
Mustapha advocated the flexibility of British laws to allow for easy flow of capital from its government and financial institutions into Nigeria. He said Nigeria became a friend of China in terms of its infrastructure being executed with resources from China because the Chinese gave long-term credits at fairly reduced interest rates.
“The institutions in the UK still run commercial lending which Nigerian economy cannot absorb. We believe that the way your country may be able to redeem some of its lost relationship is to make its laws flexible to allow easy flow of capital to Nigeria,” he added. Laing said that the visit was to identify areas of partnership with the incoming federal government, as well as to explore areas the British Government would continue to support the government.
She said that the reaffirmation of the federal government to continue to fight corruption, provide security and diversify the economy was a welcome development. She pledged the commitment of the British Government to continue to support Nigeria to ensure that these areas of priority were achieved. It is instructive that the Buhari administration is anchored on the three pillars of the fight against corruption; insecurity, particularly the Boko Haram insurgency; herders/farmers clashes, kidnapping, etc; and economic recovery.
However, given the fact that the success of the tripod depends, to a large extent, on the success of the anti-corruption crusade, it has no doubt attracted more government’s attention, priority and commitment.
Thus, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCB), among others, have been reinvigorated to make them play their respective roles in the fight against corruption more effectively.
Although these agencies have recorded some breakthroughs in the anti-corruption fight like securing some high profile convictions, including the jailing of two former state governors as well as the recovery of humongous amount of looted funds and property, they are still hamstrung by paucity of funds and defective legislations.
Consequently, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, had recently emphasised the need to review certain laws in line with international best practices. The EFCC boss also advocated a percentage of assets recovered by the EFCC to be given to the commission.
He said, “One of the issues that concern us in the EFCC is the issue of non conviction based recovery. It is of great concern that the burden is on us to prove in court that this is a proceed of crime, while in other climes the accused has to prove that the property he has actually represents the fruit of his labour.
There is the need for the Act to make a provision for an application of the proceeds of crime into recapitalising the anti graft agencies.
” Magu further said, “In some jurisdictions like the UK proceeds of crime are further used to strengthen the agency. In EFCC, we have been struggling for years to build our headquarters and when I think of the billions of naira we recover, I can see what would have happened if we are allowed to apply a percentage of this recovery into our operations.”
We, therefore, view Nigeria’s appeal to Britain towards institutionalising the anti-graft agencies as the right foot forward in the Buhari government’s march to the next level of achieving its tripartite goals in the change mantra.
Notwithstanding its extant assistance in Nigeria’s anti-graft war, Britain owes a moral and historical obligation to go a step further to aggregate towards institutionalising preventive mechanisms as a proactive and more result-oriented component in Nigeria’s fight against corruption.