Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Anticorruption Template For President Buhari: 31 Ways To Rein in Pervasive Corruption, Impunity in Nigeria

Written by: Don Okereke

Food for thought:
‘’Dear Government…I’m going to have a serious talk with you if I ever find anyone to talk to.’’ – Stieg Larson

What Is Corruption?
For the sake of clearing any iota of ambiguity and to disabuse the minds of proponents of the retired debate in Nigeria who contend that stealing is NOT corruption, a definition of corruption suffices. Transparency International (TI), the global anti-corruption watchdog succinctly defines corruption as ‘’the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It goes further to say that corruption can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs’’. Etymologically, www.vocabulary.com holds that corruption originated from a Latin word – com, or ‘’with, together’’, and rumpere, meaning to break. In other words, corruption is an action, outcome that breaks trustworthiness, good reputation. It further says that corruption encompasses a wide range of actions and inactions such as (1) Lack of integrity (especially susceptibility to bribery); (2) moral pervasion (the quality of not been in accord with standards of right or good conduct, (3) use of a position of trust for dishonest gain, (4) inducement of a public official to violate duty and (5) the process of decay; putrefaction.

Is Stealing, Corruption?
Nomenclature side, contrary to the philosophy of the old order that STEALING is not CORRUPTION, the foregoing definitions of corruption in the opening paragraph holds that stealing is an offshoot, variant of corruption; one is tantamount to the other. Stealing and other social vices can only ensue from a perverted (corrupt) mind. STEALING and CORRUPTION are birds of the same feather and MUST be treated as such.

Is Nigeria Synonymous With Corruption?
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is NOT synonymous with corruption. A recent United States investigation into the activities of the global football body - FIFA has shown that corruption is a global problem. FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his co-travelers currently enmeshed in a multi-million dollar bribery/corruption scandal are not Nigerians. The distinguishing feature in the strand of corruption in Nigeria and what is obtainable in other parts of the world is that this societal malaise is somewhat done with impunity and laissez-faire in Nigeria. Again, because of the weak institutions and lack of political will inherent in Nigeria, higher ratios of perpetrators waltz in Nigeria than in Western countries. For instance, an American firm – Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a Halliburton subsidiary was indicted for masterminding a $180 million bribery scheme to procure $6 billion in natural gas deals in Nigeria. The US authorities swiftly prosecuted and jailed the former CEO Albert "Jack" Stanley of KBR but his powerbroker Nigerian accomplices are scot-free.  

That is not to say that some big players, untouchables don’t slip away from been prosecuted for blatant corruption, larceny and unethical practices in the Western world. In what was likened to ‘’impunity of the global big players’’, not too long ago, HSBC agreed to a record $1.9 billion USD settlement with United States authorities after the bank admitted violating the United States Bank Secrecy Act, the Trading with the Enemy Act and other U.S. laws intended to prohibit money laundering.

Also recall that the FBI at one time deposed to an affidavit which reveals how one of Mexico’s most violent narcotic-trafficking drug cartels was laundering money into the U.S. through accounts with Bank of America. Sometime in 2010, Wachovia was ordered to pay a $160 million ‘penalty’ when they ‘failed’ to detect and investigate the use of their accounts by drug traffickers to launder money into the U.S., including a transfer of a whopping $378.4 billion. In the United Kingdom, Standard Chartered was fined $327 million USD for violations of sanctions laws involving transactions with Iranian entities. In Italy, the Vatican Bank came under serious media fire when information emerged that Italian prosecutors suspect it of laundering money for Sicilian Mafia Godfather on the run, one Matteo Messina Denaro. The Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican Bank, refused to disclose details of an account held by a catholic priest (Father Ninni Treppiedi) in connection with the money laundering and fraud investigation.

Does it not smack of corruption that the aforementioned financial institutions and their high-flying executives involved in the aforementioned deals wriggle out, are protected from jail terms despite staggering evidence against them? Is it that those institutions and the perpetrators are above the law? Is it that these Western governments prefer to elicit humongous sums of money as ‘fines’, ‘out-of-court-settlement’ (or whatever it’s called), from these institutions/their executives than to prosecute/convict them? Will the same practice be tantamount to corruption if brokered by the Nigerian government? Second base jare… My father tells me in Igbo language: ‘Onye aghogburu ka agbara’. Go figure it out. Please this is never an attempt to extenuate, fend for corruption in Nigeria or to derail the topic; just to prove to some sanctimonious, grandstanding, finger-pointing Western governments, institutions and folks that according to Transparency International’s classification, ‘grand corruption’ also fester in their clime.

What Are The Causes of Corruption in Nigeria?
The primary cause of corruption in any society is avarice! Corruption is also a function of fragile political structure and process, weak government institutions (the security agencies, the judiciary etc.). Other causes of corruption are: abject poverty especially in the midst of plenty, poor remuneration of workers, lack of transparency, deep-rooted culture of impunity (the nothing-will-happen-syndrome and mentality in Nigeria), lack of societal values - a society that basks on instant gratification, ethnic jingoism and lack of patriotism, ‘national cake syndrome’ (folks see leadership positions/appointments in Nigeria as an invitation to devour the national cake – oyel money).

Nigeria’s ‘Missing’, Squandered Oil Money and Corruption Ranking

Nigeria is said to have lost $400 billion USD to political corruption since crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity over four decades ago. Global Financial Integrity estimates more than US$157 billion in the past decade has left Nigeria illicitly’’. British Prime Minister – David Cameron was said to have pointedly asked former President Goodluck Jonathan what happened to the over $100 billion USD that Nigeria made from oil and gas in 2012. Transparency International (TI) ranks Nigeria 136 out of 176 countries with a score of just 27 out of 100 on the 2014 Corruption Perception Index. TI says ‘’85 per cent of Nigerians surveyed believe corruption has increased from 2011 to 2013 and that corruption hits hardest at the poor in Nigeria who make up more than 40 per cent of the 179 million people’’.

The Far-reaching Effects, Consequences of Corruption:
Corruption is cancerous and dangerous to the wellbeing of any nation because it mortgages the lives and future of not just the present generation but those unborn. Other short and long-term impact of corruption on Nigeria include: it undermines democracy, good governance, rule of law, accountability, erodes confidence, increases the cost of doing business, slows economic development and growth, lowers quality of public infrastructure/goods and services, increases abject poverty, leads to untimely death (importation, sale of fake drugs). Corruption also permeates the educational system: parents offer bribes to secure admission into higher institutions for their wards; lecturers accept bribes (students call it ‘sorting’) to award marks to students and so on and so forth. Some argue there is a correlation between corruption and insecurity - that corruption fuels insecurity in Nigeria. According to Ms. Diane Kohn, anti-crime Program Coordinator at the US Embassy in Nigeria, ‘’Corruption is affecting Nigeria’s security’’. Due to corruption and lack of proper inspection at our Ports, land borders and airports, it is very easy to import arms, explosives and all manner of contraband into Nigeria with a butterfly effect on instability, insecurity.

Now That Change is Here:

Nigerians passionately yearned for CHANGE. The craving for change was so electrifying that when it became apparent CHANGE was inevitable, the erstwhile administration became panicky. Hawks in the administration made subtle and apparent political maneuverings and brinkmanship to truncate the electoral process but their plans came to naught. Thank God common sense prevailed. Change must not just be a cliché; let the political change and goodwill that we have in Nigeria now metamorphose into a change of mental attitude and orientation that will permeate every strata and fabric of our national life. There MUST be a collective will and action to rein in corruption and impunity in Nigeria. An Igbo proverb suffices: ‘’ofu osisi anaghi eme oke ohia’’ (A single tree does not make a forest). There is no CHANGE and nothing will CHANGE if Nigerians only bank on President Buhari’s integrity, incorruptibility while everyone else persist in his/her old way of life.

Recommendations: How To Stop, Eradicate Corruption in Nigeria:
In an interview on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS programme, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister said, ‘’No one can fight corruption for Nigerians except Nigerians.  Everyone has to be committed from the top to the bottom to fight it”. Continuing she said, “And I think there are two key things that need to be done all along, and it’s not just in Nigeria. It’s in many developing countries that you need to do this…you need to, coupled with – by all means pursue those who are corrupt, punish them, you know, make sure there’s no impunity. But that has to be coupled with something which doesn’t get as much attention, which is building institutions...’’. To stop corruption in Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) advocates that President Buhari must inter-alia, look into ’all unresolved cases of corruption including in the aviation, oil subsidy scandal, alleged mismanagement of trillions of Naira by the Security and Exchange Commission, missing N300 billion in the petroleum ministry since 2011; and others should be urgently and satisfactorily addressed…, prioritize prevention of corruption by carrying out reforms of institutions of governance including the judiciary, the police, anticorruption agencies, and the regulatory authorities on electricity…and lead the process to domesticate and effectively implement the UN Convention against Corruption within the legal system”.

Having reconciled the meaning, causes and effects of corruption in Nigeria, as a patriotic and passionate Change Agent, I took it as a duty (a national assignment) to brainstorm comprehensive ways the Buhari administration can successfully stem the tide of endemic corruption and impunity in Nigeria. Agreed corruption permeates the nation’s fabric hence there are no quick fixes. To rein in pervasive corruption and impunity in Nigeria, the fight against corruption must be holistic and premised on: (1) Deterrence/Prevention (2) Early detection (nipping it in the bud!) and (3) Imposition of rigorous sanctions/punishments or restitutions on convicted culprits/masterminds of corruption in Nigeria. Granted corruption akin to prostitution is challenging to be completely exterminated in any clime, outcomes in Scandinavian countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland), in Singapore amongst others, proves that corruption can indeed be subdued to the barest minimum if the political will is there and the right measures are implemented. The following steps will surely go a long way to stop or rein in wanton corruption and impunity in Nigeria:

1.   Leadership by example: The aura, mien and body language of a leader makes a lot of difference. If you are a no-nonsense person, your wife, family members and friends will know there are lines that must not be crossed when dealing with you. Buhari supposedly instructed his aides after he won the presidential election to always respect traffic rules. Granted that may not be practicable for security reasons but this demonstrates his desire not to be above the law. With President Buhari’s ascetic and Spartan disposition, hopefully gone are the days when Nigerian public officials flaunt, rub in their ill-gotten wealth with reckless abandon. A classic example on how the body language of a leader can send a wrong or right signal. Mr. Teh Cheang Wan, a former Minister of National Development in Singapore was said to be an alter ego of then Prime Minster Lee Kuan Yew (LKY). The former was investigated for accepting two bribes of $500,000 and he reportedly made an attempt to have audience with his friend – Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew but the later refused to see him. Mr. Teh Chean Wan got the message. He committed suicide thereafter before he could be formally charged.

Dear President Buhari, the cliché in your inaugural speech that “you belong to nobody and that you belong to everybody’ is quite cheering. Insha Allah, the next few months to four years will tell if this was mere rhetoric. For your information, a Civil Society Group – CDD West Africa has launched a twitter handle - @Buharimeter to track your campaign vow delivery. Social media played a fundamental role in your popularity and victory at the polls; it can as well play a role in your failure if you slack. For a start, President Buhari, we are told your predecessor(s) amassed, arrogated about a dozen (i.e. 12) ‘Presidential jets’ to the office of the President. You don’t need all that; sell off at least 10 of those jets. Recall the British Prime Minister is not entitled to any ‘Presidential jet’. Courtesy of ‘First Lady’ Aisha Buhari, Nigerians now know that anyone that wanted to see her predecessor had to pay $50,000 before s/he can have access to the first lady. This must not continue.

2.   Public declaration of assets for ALL public officers and that of their “IMMEDIATE FAMILY” members (husband, wife and children) on appointment or assumption of assignment and after disengagement. – We understand that Mr. President and the vice president have declared their assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). Nigerians are clamoring that the CCB expedites the process of making the declaration public. Other public officials must follow suit and publicly declare their assets forthwith. Nigerians are very creative; geezers are known to embellish or ‘pad up’ their asset declaration to include assets they don’t currently own but intend to acquire when they ascend to power, leadership positions. The essence of their immediate family members also declaring their assets is to ensure the public official doesn’t pass off his/her loots to his/her family members. It does not end by making those asset declarations public, relevant law enforcement agents, citizens must invoke the provisions of the freedom of information law to ascertain physical evidence of such declared assets and point out discrepancies where they exist. On a lighter note, Nigerians will not raise eyebrows if it emerges that President Buhari’s updated asset declaration includes a horse because it is fresh in our minds that his Nigerien counterpart offered him one as a gift. Hopefully that’s not a Trojan Horse?

3.   Encourage genuine whistleblowing – While the United States and some Western governments are bent on silencing the likes of Edward Snowden and Julian Asange (WikiLeaks) for taking whistleblowing to a whole new level, others contend their actions are in the best interest of humanity. Edward Snowden’s revelations have profoundly impacted and will continue to impact United States domestic and foreign policies. For one, the United States National Security Agency (NSA) which hitherto had almost unprecedented powers is been asked to be accountable and a bit more transparent. Here in Nigeria, it is not easy been a whistleblower. The erstwhile Central Bank Governor and current Emir of kano – Mallam Lamido Sanusi Lamido was unceremoniously booted out from the apex bank after he lifted the lid on Nigeria’s endemic corruption by alleging that $20bn was missing from the Nigerian treasury. There was even an attempt by one ‘Wendell Simlin’ to frame up Sanusi as one of Boko Harams’s sponsors through a document he circulated online. The metadata of the Word document subsequently uncovered the said Wendell Simlin to be (Pastor?) Reno Omokri, President Jonathan’s social-media adviser. Symptomatic of the Jonathan’s laissez-faire attitude to graft and malfeasance, Reno Omokri kept his job despite the profound embarrassment this caused the administration. One is gladdened by a report on Premium Times Newspaper of June 6, 2015 to the effect that the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) has pledged to protect corruption whistle-blowers in Nigeria. In statement by the ICPC spokesperson, one Rasheedat Okoduwa, the Commission ‘’threatened to investigate and prosecute any official or head of government Ministries, Departments or Agencies that victimizes staff who expose corruption corrupt practices in the MDAs’’. We can now have Whistleblowers Association of Nigeria (WBAN).

4.   Using Technology To Fight Corruption - Thanks to technology, Nigerians can use their mobile devices to capture corrupt practices and upload them online – YouTube, Twitter etc. Please take note that Nigerians can avail themselves the following platforms: website - http://stopthebribes.net/ where they can fill a form, by sending a mail to info@stopthebribes.net, an SMS to 08131234567, 09035200933, a tweet with the hashtag: #stopthebribes or with an iPhone and Android Apps to report incidents such as assault, unlawful detention, unlawful arrest, illegal roadblocks, bribery and other societal malaise. Transparency International also advocates an initiative known as ‘’citizen monitoring of public works or infrastructure’’. This entails the government making information – cost of contracts awarded etc. easily accessible and involvement of conscious citizens in monitoring those contracts and to report malfeasance to appropriate authorities. Perhaps this is what ex-president Jonathan meant when he promised that he will use technology to fight corruption.

5.   Strengthen and Reform Anticorruption Agencies, public institutions - As President Obama once articulated, ‘Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men’. There must not be sacred cows or smoke-screens in the fight against corruption! To tame corruption in Nigeria, President Buhari must have the ‘balls’ to step on big toes. It is high-time the EFCC, ICPC were strengthened, reformed and made independent. Nigerian anti-corruption agencies must not to be apron strings of the Executive arm of government or an instrument to witch-hunt political opponents.

6.   Separate the office of the Minister of Justice from that of the Attorney General of the FederationThere is no gainsaying the fact that separating the office of the minister of justice from that of the attorney general of the federation will boost Nigeria’s anti-corruption drive. A situation where the Minister of Justice doubles as the Attorney-general of the federation and wields the power to arbitrarily, unilaterally terminate or discontinue any case instituted by the EFCC, ICPC et al, no matter the merits of the case, is subject to abuse and encourages corruption.

7.   Implement Far-reaching Judicial reform – In an interview, Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo concurs that ‘’Nigeria’s judicial system as presently constituted is slow and makes it easier for people to get away with criminal acts’’. He went further to say ‘’we have to fix the criminal justice system to ensure that criminal trials are speedy and that anyone who is guilty of an offence will be punished for that offence’’. While you are at it Sir, your administration will do well to send a bill to the National Assembly for a Special Court that will handle corruption cases with dispatch. Granted provisions have to be in place to avoid abuse, the National Assembly will do well to pass the ‘’Bill for an Act to make Comprehensive Provisions for the Confiscation, Forfeiture and Management of Properties derived from unlawful activities and for other connected Matters (HB.693) into a law if they have not done so.  

Judicial reform is not complete if the Judiciary/the Nigerian Bar Association does not purge itself of bad eggs in its midst. Financial autonomy to the judiciary and good remuneration to judicial officers will also go a long way in guaranteeing their autonomy and stamping out corruption in their fold.

8.   Rein in slap-on-the-wrist sentences, bastardized plea-bargain regime which fuels corruption in Nigeria. The wise saying of Aesop, that ‘we hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office’ is very apt in Nigeria. Quickly recall the example of one Yakubu Yusuf, ex-deputy director of the Nigeria Police Pension fund who was convicted for stealing about N32bn and was sentenced to two years imprisonment with an option of fine (N750, 000) which he paid pronto after the court judgment and took a waltz. Is it not ludicrous that the duo of Messrs. Yakubu Yusuf were fined N750,000 for ‘stealing’ N32billion, Michael Igbinedion jailed 6 years with an option of fine - N3million for laundering N25billion while another Nigerian, 31-year old Kelvin Ighodalo was jailed 45 years for stealing a Sony Ericson mobile phone valued at N50,000 belonging to Governor Rauf Aregbesola? Or is justice for sale in Nigeria? The ilks of Emmanuel Nwude, Tafa Balogun, Diepreye Alamiesigha, Cecelia Ibru, Lucky and Michael Igbinedion etc. were all given a pat on their back for very weighty offences. Dr. Peter Odilli, ex-governor of Rivers State still enjoys ‘immunity’ even after stepping down as governor having secured a dubious ‘perpetual’ injunction restraining the EFCC from arresting or prosecuting him. Other influential politicians and money bags have frustrated their trials with adjournments and technicalities. Whatever happened to the Farouk Lawan bribery scandal?

9.   Financial Autonomy for Local Government Areas – Local Government Areas (LGA’s) has become conduit pipes for some unscrupulous governors to siphon public funds. Yes, let the States have some oversight function over the LGA’s but let the Local Councils receive their allocations directly from the federation account as against the existing practice of channeling their funds through the respective states.

10.                     Invoke a coherent national census – Mr. President, please what is the population of Nigeria? You often hear – Nigerian population is ‘about’ 170, 179 million but we can’t say for sure how many we are. Nigeria does not need opaque, Byzantine and devious approximations in the name of census. How can we plan, know the number of voters, number of people that need food, employment, healthcare or allocate resources and infrastructural projects if we can’t even say for sure how many people we have in Nigeria?

11.                     Reform the security agencies (Police, NSCDC, the Army, Navy, Air force, other para-military agencies), encourage professionalism and provide adequate remuneration, equipment to them. At the risk of extenuating corrupt practices but it is valid that poor remuneration and condition of service of these public officials immensely promotes corruption. The Police and other Security Agencies are a reflection of the larger society. There are reported cases of cultists, felons and terrorist sympathizers wangling their way into these agencies. Efforts must be made to fish out bad eggs especially at the point of entry (recruitment). Military and para-military personnel’s in the Western world earn reasonable wages and can afford the basic necessities of life hence they don’t have to take bribes to sustain themselves. Again, the laws there are working and with the increasing use of body cameras and gadgets by security agents in the aforesaid climes, there is a high chance of erring security agents to be caught, sacked and convicted if they derail.

12.                     Probe and Root out corruption in the military: Transparency International avers that corruption in Nigeria’s military must become a top priority. Nigeria’s military establishment scored a very poor ‘E’ grade on a scale from ‘A’ to ‘F’ in the last Transparency International UK’s Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index, which appraises corruption risk in Defence establishments around the world. With trillions of naira (billions of dollars) expended on the fight against Boko Haram yet the Nigerian military hitherto struggled to confront, rein in a so-called rag-tag Boko Haram. Nigerians and indeed posterity will like to know the quality and capacity of Nigeria’s military inventory and how military budgets were expended all these years. If you need a reference material in this regard, may I humbly recommend this article by Sonala Olumhense’s: ‘’Let us probe Nigeria’s Defence Spending” and the abovementioned Transparency International Defence anti-corruption yardstick.

13.                     Put an end to sale of application forms, recruitment scams by government agencies – It is preposterous for the Armed forces, the Immigration and other government agencies to ‘extort’ money from prospective applicants in the name of ‘’application fees’’ since these government agencies have annual budgets for recruitment and training.

14.                     Please entrench a culture of justice, equity, fairness. End this culture of ‘na mu ne’ (Hausa: favoritism, ‘he’s one of us’). Let’s herald a Nigeria where merit is not sacrificed in the altar of nepotism and mediocrity. Let the best, most qualified be recruited, appointed! Enlistment into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), State Security Service (SSS) and other prestigious federal and State establishments MUST not be exclusive preserve of candidates with powerful godfathers. A situation where a plethora of Nigerian graduates, job-seekers seldom believe there is merit anymore is not good for Nigeria’s posterity. Many Nigerian youths have lost faith in Nigeria; they will bluntly tell you that it is not what you know or studied in the university but who you know. Punch Newspaper of November 7, 2012, Page 9 goes thus, ‘’The Federal Character Commission says it has started investigations into 16 federal government agencies for secretly employing people in violation of the Federal Civil Service guidelines’’. A while ago, the Nigeria Customs also smashed a fake job syndicate in its fold. ‘’An audit committee in the Nigeria Custom discovered that 44 Cadets on training got their appointment letters by bribing corrupt officers of the Service’’. An ‘’Employment Scandal rocked the Nigeria Immigration Service’’. A unique feature in the aforementioned scenarios: the recruitment exercises were not advertised; slots were exclusively reserved for powerbrokers and their cronies. The foregoing buttresses the well-known fact that many government jobs in Nigeria are seldom advertised or competitive. In saner climes, these are very serious infractions and heads will roll. In Nigeria, you will hear a Committee has been set up and that’s the end of it.
15.                     Mandate ALL revenue generating, collecting Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) to henceforth remit EVERY dime they collect/generate to the federation account. This is pertinent because probe of the Stella Oduah bullet-proof car saga showed that some agencies in the Ministry of Aviation seldom remit revenues within their purview to the federation account.

16.                     Make the prerogative of mercy or Presidential pardon more stringent – Granted this right is entrenched under Sections 212(1) and 175(1) & (2) of the Nigerian Constitution and empowers the President and State governors to grant conditional or unconditional pardon to a convict, or to substitute, reduce, commute or remit the length of sentence and/or the severity or quantum of punishment and penalty or forfeiture, imposed on that person by a court of law. Given the unprecedented furore, controversy generated by ex-President Jonathan’s pardon of his former boss – ex-Governor of Bayelsa state - Mr. Diprieye Alamieyeseigha, Shetima Bulama (former MD of Bank of the North) and five others, it is high time this prerogative of mercy was made more stringent and doesn’t become an instrument of political patronage. This discretionary power must be exercised with the highest sense of responsibility, probity, equity, circumspection and consistent with the letters and spirit of the law. Otherwise just as former Niger-Delta militants were given a clean slate via a presidential amnesty, another Nigerian President/Governor could wake up one morning in the near future and pardon the ilks of Boko Haram’s leader - Abubakar Shekau.

17.                     Electoral reform – Election rigging – thwarting the popular, collective will of the citizenry is arguably one of the worst strands of corruption. Often times you hear that so and so Governor or political office holder has lost his seat sequel to the courts upturning his/her supposed ‘victory’ at the polls and that is where it ends. The politician goes home with what s/he looted during his stint and is a free man. Beef up the Election Offenses Commission to vigorously prosecute electoral offenders.

18.                     Check Political Campaign Funds and Illegal Donations – As you know, it appears Nigerian political parties are above the law. Preparatory to the 2015 presidential election, the PDP in flagrant disregard to extant laws raised a whooping N21 billion for its presidential candidate, though the party later suggested part of the money was for the building of its secretariat. Recall that Section 38 (2) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act expressly forbids companies from donating gifts, property or money to any political party or association. More so, Section 91 (2) of Nigeria’s Electoral Act 2010, as amended, specifies that ‘’the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall be N1 billion. By the way, are funds, donations to an aspirant, the exclusive preserve of that candidate or is it for the party? For instance, say N2 billion was contributed to Buhari’s presidential campaign and N1 billion was expended, what happens to the balance? Does it become your money or that of your Political Party? Such issues should be straightened out.

19.                     Ensure strict financial regulation and intelligence surveillance of financial transactions – Tightening the noose on financial institutions will check corruption and another variant of it – unprecedented level of money laundering from Nigeria. Beam searchlight on the plethora of Nigerian bank branches outside the shores of the country, some of them may be conduit pipes for money laundering.
20.                     Genuine cooperation and partnership with Western governments, institutions to check money laundering– As they say, it takes two to tango. The ilks of James Ibori, Sani Abacha et al could not have perfected their trade if Western financial institutions did not get their own cut. The Global Financial Index (GFI) reveals that the massive outflow of illicit money out of Africa to the West is ‘’facilitated by a global shadow financial system comprising tax havens, secret jurisdictions, disguised corporations, anonymous trust accounts, fake foundations, trade pricing, and money laundering techniques’’. UK Banks facilitated late Sani Abacha’s laundering of $4 billion USD (£2.8 billion). Also, the EFCC Chairman – Mr. Lamorde asserted that ‘’as much as $14 billion USD in cash was taken out of Nigeria between January and August 2012 through Nigeria’s airports’’.

21.                     Ensure that award of government contracts, crude oil blocks etc. are very transparent and in line with global best practices.

22.                     Enable unfettered access to public information and free speech. Unnecessary bureaucracy enshrined in the freedom of information law must be purged.

23.                     Unbundle and reform the byzantine NNPC said to be a cesspit of corruption and an ATM to previous administrations. The NNPC MUST not continue to be a regulator and a player in the oil industry. Transparency International is tasking the Buhari administration to publish a believable audit of accounts for the US$20 billion hole that former Central Bank Governor and now Emir of Kano – Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, alleged was in the accounts.

24.                     By every means possible, encourage local refining of petroleum and subsequently remove the fraudulent petroleum subsidy that supposedly drained about N2.7 trillion from the Nigerian treasury (more than half of the 2013 budget) during President Jonathan’s administration. Since Nigeria is still losing 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily to oil bunkering (the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) says Nigeria lost $11 billion USD to oil theft, vandalism in a 2013 report) despite the so-called ‘Crude oil Pipeline Protection Largesse’ awarded to some Niger-Delta militant kingpins, the contract is a fraud and should be canceled forthwith.

25.                     Stop the fraudulent import duty waiver racket. Any good news on the import duty waiver controversy involving Coscharis motors during the Oduahgate saga? What happened to the ‘’Special Audits of Accounts of Civil Pensions for the Period 2005-2010 report’’?

26.                     Make the use of ‘Security votes’ auditable – This Security vote conundrum is probably the biggest conduit pipe for corruption by public/government officials in Nigeria. Imagine the 36 State governors entitled to upward of N6 billion each annually as security votes and they owe no one any explanation as to what they use the money for. Granted they should have security votes but let there be a requirement for them to account to say the National Security Adviser (NSA), how such monies were/are appropriated.

27.                     Rein in wanton profligacy by government and payment of outrageous salaries, allowances to public officials. It is commendable that Mr. President is bent on reducing the number of Minsters and possibly ministries. This gale of slashing of salaries by upwards of 50% pioneered by the governor of Kaduna state – Mallam El Rufai should be emulated by other governors and other public officials. It beggars belief that some state governors gallivant and carouse in ‘Private Jets’ abi helicopters, a good number of them had the effrontery to contribute N50 million each to the reelection campaign of the erstwhile president while owing civil servants some 10 months’ salary arrears. National Assembly members must rise to the occasion and also slash their unconscionable entitlements said to be the highest in the world. It is unacceptable for the remuneration of a Nigerian Senator to treble President Obama’s annual salary. The so-called ‘Constituency fund’ must be well-harnessed and accounted for. Suggesting via his twitter handle @benmurraybruce on how the current government can cut the cost of governance, newly elected Senator Ben Murray Bruce and Chairman of Silverbird Group says, ‘’we must be realistic. If we have to borrow to pay salaries, it’s a sign we must cut salaries including for Senators.’’ He went further to say, ‘’...left for me, we must sell the Presidential fleet. Public servants, including the President, must only use made in Nigeria Peugeot as official cars.’’

28.                     Create a ‘Special account’ where loots, forfeitures from corrupt individuals are lodged. The Nigerian public space is constantly awash with the news of purported discovery and repatriation of the so-called ‘Abacha loot’. In addition to previous ‘Abacha loots’ repatriated to Nigeria, Switzerland recently discovered fresh Abacha loot to the tune of $380 million (about N75.2bn). To paraphrase the infamous question Mrs. Patience Jonathan posed to parents of the abducted Chibok girls; ‘na only Abacha waka come abi na only Abacha loot Nigerian ‘oyel’ money? Is it because Abacha is late? The gap-toothed General nko? What of the one that midwifed our current democracy after Abacha’s demise? The Ota General nko? Those ones did not loot ‘oyel’ money abi? Okay, ‘continuu’…all these Abacha loot they are returning, how’s the government spending the money sef? Folks contend that the looted monies returned to Nigeria are re-looted again by the establishment.

29.                     Reinvigorate the National Orientation Agency (NOA) as well as the Federal and State Ministries of Information to continually enlighten Nigerians on the implications, consequences of corrupt practices through time-tested public enlightenment instruments: use of posters, handbills, and adverts on print and electronic media (jingles). In other words, an avant-garde version of the old War Against Indiscipline (WAI) will do Nigeria a lot of good.

30.                     Will Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) please stand up! The FIRS must not be a paper-tiger!  Our undoing in Nigeria is not the absence of good laws or lack of institutions; it lies in the implementation of laws and inability of institutions to carry out their functions effectively. One of such institution is the FIRS. Section 8 (1) of the FIRS Act mandates the agency to ‘’adopt measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from tax fraud or evasion’’. Section 35 (3) also mandates the FIRS to ‘’cause an investigation to be conducted into the properties of any taxable person if it appears to the FIRS that the lifestyle of the person and extent of the properties are not justified by his source of income’’. So why are they allowing these powers to lie fallow?

31.                     Finally, beam your searchlight on real estate acquisitions and investments in Nigeria. Nigerian corrupt officials learnt hard lessons from the mercurial Mr. James Ibori, erstwhile governor of Delta state currently serving jail term in the United Kingdom with his assets confiscated in that country. The newfound stratagem of Nigerian corrupt government officials is using front-men to ‘wash’ their ill-gotten money in posh real estates, shopping malls and hotel chains in the nook and cranny of Nigeria. Buoyed by proceeds of corruption and money laundering, some apartments in Abuja and Lagos are more expensive than commensurate apartments in New York or London. Anybody can trace the antecedents of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Steve Jobs etc. and say this is how they made their money. How many of Nigeria’s present day nouveau-riche, high-flying billionaires were known 15-20 years ago? Let the EFCC or the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) audit these posh Estates in Nigeria: their owners, residents and their source(s) of income and evidence of tax payments. Perhaps there should be an extant provision in the statues of EFCC mandating prospective buyers of houses above a certain threshold to tender legal evidence of their source(s) of income to the EFCC before sealing such deals. We don’t need a seer to convince us that a civil servant, whose annual remuneration barely amounts to N3million but owns a N60 million naira house (not inherited and have no private business), is patently corrupt.

Nigeria is in dire need of a radical and comprehensive corruption prevention, detection and speedy prosecution/conviction regime (stiffer penalties and increased jail terms). If Nigerian law slams 5 years jail term on WAEC examination cheats why can’t there be stiffer penalties for corruption/stealing? José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International, reminds us that ‘’Nigeria’s new president (Muhammadu Buhari) has committed to fight corruption. Nigerians must hold him to that promise and the corrupt must be brought to justice.” We equally appeal to our Western friends bent on making their famed cities (London, New York, Switzerland etc.) the financial capital of the world, to do less pontification and take radical steps to stifle loopholes that encourage wheeling dealing of looted money in their clime.

I close by quoting Bess Myerson, first Jewish Miss America, 1924-? Who said, "The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference." All hands must be on deck if we must fight and annihilate corruption in Nigeria! See Something, Hear Something, Say Something! 


Written By:

©Don Okereke
(Entrepreneur, Security Analyst/Consultant, Ex-Serviceman, Writer/Blogger, Change Agent)
Contact me on: donnuait (a) yahoo.com
Follow me on Twitter: @DonOkereke

June, 2015

1.    Transparency International
2.    Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
3.    Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC)
4.    Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC)
5.    Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL)
6.    Anti-corruption Network
7.    Citizens Arise Movement of Nigeria (CAMON)
8.    Niger-Delta Anti-corruption Network (NIDAN)
9.    Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC)
10.                       Grassroot Anti-corruption Awareness Network Initiative
11.                       Nigeria Anti-corruption Ambassadors (NACA)
12.                       Nigeria Liberty Forum (NLF)
13.                       Inter-Agency Task Team on Anti-corruption (IATT)
14.                       Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-corruption Reforms (TUGAR)
15.                       Anti-corruption Internet Database (ACID)
16.                       Anti-corruption Authorities
17.                       Transform Nigeria
18.                       Concerned Nigerians
19.                       Stop Corruption Nigeria
20.                       Integrity Nigeria
21.                       CDD West Africa
22.                       OSIWA
23.                       SERAP
24.                       CLEEN Foundation
25.                       www.antigraft.org

No comments: