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Poor synergy among Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies seen frustrating corruption fight

....as Transparency International deplores lack of transparency in security funding

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and experts on anti-corruption have expressed concerns over what they described as poor co-operation and synergy among anti-graft agencies, saying it’s frustrating efforts to curb corrupt practices which has cost Nigeria more than $600 billion so far.

They also note that due to this poor cooperation, in addition to the absence of legal framework assets recovered locally and intentionally and running into billions are often mismanaged and not accounted for.

Available records show that corruption in Nigeria has not improved over the years. The country scored 25 out of 200 points in the 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI) as against 26 points in 2019. It also ranked 149th in 2020 as against 146 in 2019.

Vaclav Prusa, Consultant, Civil Society Legislative, Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) said a root cause of poor synergy is the lack of clarity in division of mandates in these institutions such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) among others. According to him, “the ministry of justice complicates the matter and also undermines their own law enforcement.”

Prusa said this at a three-day workshop on “Reporting Corruption in Nigeria” for selected journalists; organised by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) in collaboration with CISLAC and Transparency International (IT) in Abuja.

He decried that the Nigerian government is unwilling to fight corruption, while pointing out the case of the Panama papers where no fewer than 110 Nigerians were exposed. The consultant regrets that six years later, the Nigerian government has neither instituted investigation or shown any willingness to dismiss public officers, and Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).

“No PEP resigned. Despite assurances from EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) no investigation on anti-money laundering, tax evasion, corruption etc. followed,” he added.

Read also: The bane of corruption

Prusa warned that failure of the Nigerian government to take serious action with the Pandora papers will undermine the fight against corruption in the country.

Musa Auwal reiterated that regulatory deficiencies are fuelling corruption in the country and the continent at large. He revealed that it is the root cause of the annual loss of over 18 billion dollars to Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) out of Nigeria.

On his part, Bolaji Owasonye, chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) described corruption in Nigeria as “ubiquitous, brutish, predatory, and barefaced”, stating that “the variant of corruption in Nigeria is difficult to treat.”

The chairman, who was represented by Abbia Udofia, Director, System Study and Review Department of the commission highlighted several other challenges facing the agency in the fight against corruption to include, conflicting legislations; Inadequate funding;
Inadequate manpower, Poor technology; insufficient national coverage; Inadequate legal and institutional frameworks for witness protection among others.

According to the chairman, the delay in prosecution of cases, and restriction of prosecution of ICPC cases to state high courts are also bottlenecks. To this end, he said there is a need for proactive amendment of relevant laws such as the CPROA 2000.

Owasonye however informed that the commission witnessed a drop in recoveries in 2021, from a total of N 82.57 recoveries in 2020 to 3.2 billion in 2021. The chairman also disclosed that a total of 833 and 1,098 projects were tracked in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Speaking further, Owasonye decried the proliferation of illegal academic institutions in the country. He said the commission has shut down a total of 115 illegal degree awarding centres across the country.

Apart from the public service sector and education, Samuel Asimi, Programme specialist, CISLAC noted that corruption is also prevalent in the security sector. He expressed concern that despite trillions of naira thrown into the sector, insecurity is persisting and worsening in some regions.

He stated that Nigeria spends an estimated $670 million slush funds known as security votes every year, but regrets that these funds are usually unaccounted for and not audited.

“Despite this and other withdrawals by the present and past administrations from the excess crude account, the security situation has failed to improve,” Asimi said.

He stressed that the security sector plays a key role in the economy, warning that there will be no sustainable development with corruption.

In his opening remarks, Samuel Kaninda, Regional Advisor for Africa, Transparency International, noted that Nigeria is the most populous country and its development will impact on the continent significantly. To this end, he tasked the Nigerian media to hold government accountable and expose corrupt practices.

“Resolving the issue of corruption will address Nigeria’s development objectives and the entire continent,” he stressed.

Vladimir Kerk, Resident Representative, KAS in his welcome address stated that the media remains an important tool in preventing corruption by using its power to demand transparency from the public and private sector.

Kreck, who was represented by Samson Adeniran, KAS Programme Manager, said the goal of the workshop is to build the capacity of journalists in various media platforms across the country in order to effectively report on corruption with a view of combating it.

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