President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent lamentation that corruption in the public sector is hampering the ability of government to deliver services to the people underscores the dire need for hands to be on deck in order to fight the cankerworm to a finish. President Buhari, therefore, called on the National Assembly to fast-track the passage of the Special Crimes Court Bill.
He was speaking at the opening of a two-day summit for top level of government on “diminishing corruption in the public sector,” organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC) in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation, at the presidential villa, Abuja.
The overall objective of the summit is to promote accountability and transparency in the public sector for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Describing corruption as an existential threat to the country, Buhari noted that the sum of N1 trillion had been released for constituency projects with nothing tangible to show for it.
He, however, observed that with the intervention of the ICPC, some contractors have returned to sites of abandoned projects. He said: ‘‘The fight against corruption is of course not only for government and anti-corruption agencies alone. All arms and tiers of government must develop and implement the anti-corruption measures. I invite the legislative and judicial arms of government to embrace and support the creation of Special Crimes Court that Nigerians have been agitating for to handle corruption cases.’’
President Buhari noted that the passage of the Bill was a ‘‘specific priority’’ of this administration’s Economic Recovery & Growth Plan 2017-2020.
Speaking on his recent directive to all agencies of government to enrol into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the president directed ICPC to beam its searchlight on public institutions that are yet to comply. He noted that the new directive on IPPIS was intended to halt the padding of personnel budgets and the diversion or misappropriation of capital budgets.
‘‘I am aware that the commission recently conducted System Studies and Review of many MDAs to evaluate systems and processes relating to transparency and accountability in personnel and capital spending through which you successfully blocked over N9 billion from being diverted from 2019 personnel budget. That was a proactive prevention measure. I have directed that all agencies of government must get on the IPPIS in order to eliminate the padding of personnel budgets.
‘‘I urge ICPC to beam its searchlight on all agencies yet to get on the IPPIS and our e-government platform in order to fully halt the padding of personnel budgets and the diversion or misappropriation of capital budgets,’’ he said.
President Buhari also used the occasion, which marked the launch of the Constituency Projects Transparency Group (CPTG) Report Phase One, to reiterate his appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians to join in the fight against corruption.
‘‘The war against corruption cannot be won without prevention, enforcement, public education and enlightenment. I encourage the ICPC and other law enforcement agencies to intensify their efforts in public education, enlightenment and engagement with citizens. I also urge our development partners, civil society organisations, and the media to continue to support our efforts to strengthen ethical values and integrity in Nigeria,’’ he said.
On the activities of ICPC, President Buhari commended the new board of the anti-graft agency for major enforcement and preventive initiatives including the System Study Review, tracking of Zonal Intervention Projects, otherwise called Constituency Projects, and collaboration with the National Social Investment Office.
The president said: ‘‘It is on record that in the past ten years One trillion naira (N1trillion) has been appropriated for constituency projects yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen.
Earlier in his remark, the ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, accused Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) of massive corruption in contract implementation. He said the commission’s found out that MDAs contracts were inflated and poorly executed.
The ICPC boss noted: “We discovered that some agencies of government are favourites for the embedding of constituency projects in irrespective of their core mandate and capacity of these agencies to deliver or supervise projects. The attraction appears to be either corrupt tendencies within such agencies the inherent weaknesses within them.
“Duplication of contracts with the same description, narrative, amount, location awarded by the same MDA in order to bring the amount allocated within the approval threshold of the executing agency or to expend allocation to sponsor of the constituency project.
On assets recovery, Owasanoye said in the past 10 years, the commission has recovered over 250 physical assets “worth about N32 billion in seizures, interim forfeiture orders and final orders. We also have cash recoveries in interim and final orders in Naira and USD amounting to over N3 billion.
Although, the Buhari administration’s war against corruption is recording huge success, more needs to be done if the desired objective of eradicating corruption is to be achieved, especially as the government’s enters the next level. This is expedient as Nigerians may not accept anything short of the delivery of the dividends of democracy when Buhari would have completed his eight-year tenure on May 28, 2023.