Assessing Buhari’s Anti-Graft War In The Last Four Years

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President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has rounded up his first term in office and is set to begin a second term based on the mandate of Nigerians. This is the time for a holistic assessment of his first term in office in many areas with focus on the anti-corruption agenda of the administration.

The Buhari administration introduced key policy initiatives not limited to the whistle blowing policy; auditing of federal revenue generating agencies; tackling of poor levels of remittance of operating surpluses; execution of mutual legal assistance on criminal matters with several countries; execution of Memorandum of International Cooperation with several countries to facilitate repatriation of stolen funds; initiation of presidential initiative on continuous audit; establishment of efficiency unit in the Federal Ministry of Finance to review all government overhead expenditure and introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA) to block leakages of revenues accrued to the Federal Government amongst several others. This far-reaching initiative aimed at combating corruption in country is the subject matter of this intervention.

Clearly, the President Buhari’s administration has recorded several positives in the governance field, judiciary and anti-corruption agencies, details of which are unveiled hereunder:

EFCC’s Successes

First, the EFCC has raised the ante in criminal prosecutions securing 312 convictions in 2018 including that of politically exposed persons. This feat is remarkable given the performance in previous years.  In 2010, the rate of convictions was 68, in 2011 the figure was 67, in 2012, the figure was 87, in 2013, Nigeria had a figure of 117, in 2014, Nigeria recorded a figure of 126, in 2015, the conviction rate was 103, in 2016, the figure rose to 194, in 2017, the figure dropped to 189 and significantly in 2018, the figure rose to 312 – very remarkable and unprecedented.  Remarkably, this 312 figure include convictions of former governors of Taraba (Rev. Jolly Nyame) and Plateau State (Senator Joshua Dariye) in addition to the conviction of the former Executive Chairman of Ogori/Magongo Local Government of Kogi State, Mr. Gabriel Daudu amongst others. A breakdown of 2018 EFCC’s Zonal Offices Convictions reveals the following: Abuja 53; Lagos 85; Kano 36; Port Harcourt 33; Gombe 28; Benin 27; Enugu 15; Maiduguri 11; Ibadan 10; Uyo 8; and Kaduna 6 respectively.

The agency also made a strong showing in the 2018 record of concluded financial crimes and corruption cases compiled by the National Judicial Council’s Corruption and Financial Cases Trial Monitoring Committee, COTRIMCO. Out of 297 cases compiled by the Committee being prosecuted by law enforcement agencies in the country, the EFCC proved itself as the agency to reckon with, with a total of 175 cases being prosecuted by it, with 13 listed for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC. The EFCC and the ICPC are the leading anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria.  Perhaps, what is most remarkable in 2018, is the conviction of the seemingly untouchables in the society.

EFCC’s Creative Initiatives In The Crusade

In line with EFCC’s mandate including the need to effect a positive change in the country, the Commission intervened in the recent general elections in the country against voters’ inducement in order to checkmate and prevent money bags from determining the emergence of leaders arising from the polls. This intervention paid off with positive results resulting in seizure of huge cash of different denominations from politicians and their associates.  For the first time in the history of electioneering in Nigeria, operatives of the commission were deployed to monitor polling stations and collation centers to discourage vote buying.  The activities of the agency were a major deterrence to dubious politicians and their associates.

Tracking Cash Movements Within And Outside Banks

EFCC also stepped up intelligence to track cash movements within and outside the banking sector. Strategic deterrence meetings were held with compliance officers and Chief Executives of deposit money banks and bureau de change to prevail on them not to allow their institutions to be used as platforms for money laundering by politicians. International airports and other exit ports in the country were placed under surveillance leading to huge cash seizures at a few airports.

The Polygraph Mechanism

The Polygraph, also known as Psycho-Physiological Detection of Deception, is a scientific and modern tool for law enforcement investigations and integrity testing. The Polygraph is essential in the 21st century investigations in that it helps to create new investigation leads, verify truth of statements, reveal new evidence, screen out dead ends in investigation. The scientific design of the Polygraph actually helps an innocent person to pass! And research has shown that anxiety and stress levels of the examinee has no impact on the outcome of the test. The Polygraph does not interfere with life support devices such as pacemakers and it has zero threat to the health and safety of the examinee. This friendly investigation tool is being used extensively by the EFCC in it’s investigations and has resulted in high success rates of its cases. The Polygraph is admissible in Nigeria courts. The EFCC also employs the use of Polygraph in it’s recruitment process. During the conference in Uganda, the Polygraph Expert from the EFCC presented the technology to other heads of the Anti-corruption Agencies and they all resolved to benchmark the Polygraph technology and domesticate it’s use in their various agencies.

The Polygraph mechanism was deployed in the case of FRN vs Rosulu Idowu Oluronke at the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja Judicial Division before the Hon. Justice L. B. Lawal Akapo Charge No: ID/1003C/2014. The defendant, who was a registrar in a Lagos High Court, had connived with Fred Ajudua, who was in Kirikiri Prisons, to defraud Rtd General Bamaiyi of the sum of over $300,000 under the pretense of helping to seek the services of Legal Counsel. In the course of the investigation, the Polygraph was used and later tendered as evidence in court to corroborate other existing evidence. The defendant was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The Appeal Court upheld the judgment in 2017. Several Anti-graft agencies have sought the collaborative assistance of the Commission to help them set up their Polygraph programs and bring them up to par with the standards of the Commission’s Polygraph Program. The Commission is the first country in Africa to use Polygraph for criminal investigations and prosecution.

Recovery Of Looted Assets

EFCC has stood out as one of the foremost Anti-corruption agency in Africa in terms of recovery of looted assets. In the last 4 years about one trillion naira in cash and properties has been recovered to the government treasury.

EFCC’s Preventive Mechanisms

EFCC has launched several initiatives aimed at re-orientation and enlightenment of the people against corruption. Some of these initiatives include: the Nigerian Women; Against Corruption Project; the Clean Hands Campaign for Children; The creative Youth Against Corruption; Integrity Club was established in Schools across the country and Engagement with members of Civil Society Organisations amongst others.

Establishment Of Zonal Offices

EFCC has established zonal offices in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria namely: Abuja, North Central, Lagos, South-West, Port Harcourt, South-South, Enugu, South East, Kano North West and Gombe North East.

Additional offices were also established in Maiduguri, Ibadan, Kaduna, Benin, Uyo, Ilorin, Makurdi and Sokoto respectively.

Other giant strides recorded by the Commission include: Inauguration of new headquarters, Recruitment of new officers and men, Recruitment of New Officers and Men.

Creation Of Departments

EFCC has created additional departments to boost operations as follows: Procurement and fraud section, Foreign exchange malpractices, Investigation, Capital Market and Insurance  Fraud Section, Cybercrime  Section, Forensic/financial investigation, Tax fraud section and Creative Communications Unit.

Key Policy Initiatives Against Corruption

Significantly, these achievements are happening during the Buhari administration that is committed to the agenda of tackling corruption in many ways.  One example that can be cited in favour of the Buhari’s administration is the new Whistleblowing Policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance in December 2016 which has since yielded several recoveries. These include N13.8 billion from tax evaders and N7.8 billion, $378 million, #27,800 in recoveries from public officials targeted by whistleblowers.

Secondly, the National Economic Council (NEC) under the Chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, approved the audit of key federal revenue generating agencies, which has so far yielded a total sum of N526 billion and $21 billion. The money was underpaid to the Federation Account between 2010 and 2015.

Significantly, the Buhari administration is also on record as addressing issue of poor levels of remittance of operating surpluses by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.  This blockage of leakages is already posting phenomenal results.  The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) remitted N7.8 billion in 2017, with prospect of achieving similar feat in 2018.  This figure was against the sum of N51 million remitted between 2010 and 2016 an indication that it is no longer business as usual.

Executive Bill For Mutual Legal Assistance

Significantly, the Buhari’s Administration has also submitted an Executive Bill for the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between Nigeria and other foreign countries, to facilitate the identification, tracing, freezing, restraining, recovery, forfeiture and confiscation of proceeds, property and other instrumentalities of crime.

Signing Of MoUs  With Countries

The government has further signed agreements and MOUs with various countries to boost international cooperation for the investigation, tracking, freezing and return of stolen assets.  In addition, the government has also set up the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), which is aimed at strengthening controls over government finances through a continuous internal audit process across all MDAs, particularly in respect of payroll.

Introduction of TSA

The government has also introduced the Treasury Single Account Policy by virtue of which all MDAs are advised to close their accounts with Deposit Money Banks and transfer their balances to the Central Bank of Nigeria with effect from September 15, 2015.  This policy has resulted in the consolidation of more than 17,000 bank accounts previously spread across Deposit Money Banks in the country. Secondly, the policy has resulted in increased transparency in public financial management amongst several advantages.

Buhari As AU Anti-Corruption Czar

The Buhari’s administration also attended and participated in the International Anti-Corruption Summit organised by the UK Government in May 2016 with President Buhari being recently appointed by the AU to drive the continent’s anti-corruption agenda. Nigeria was elected to lead the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2018 alongside Argentina, France and Romania.

Establishment Of Efficiency Unit

The federal government has established an efficiency unit in the Federal Ministry of Finance to review all government overhead expenditure so as to reduce wastage and provide efficiency and quantifiable savings for the country. The policy has resulted in savings on travels, sitting allowances, and souvenirs to the tune of N17 billion.

NNPC Performance Monthly Reports

Significantly, in an effort to deliver on transparency and accountability, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been publishing its performance monthly report in newspapers and various new media platforms and most importantly on the NNPC website.

Creation Of New Data Management System

The government has also created a new prison Data Management System as well as the creation of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Response Teams to some states as some of its major achievement in the area of transparency and good governance.

Establishment PACAC

There are other far-reaching achievements of the Buhari’s administration including reforms in the judiciary. One example of these reforms is the establishment of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) to, among other things; promote the reform agenda of the government on the anti-corruption effort, and advise the administration in the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of required reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system. The work of PACAC has been quite significant and far-reaching. PACAC has empowered Judges and Prosecutors to operate effectively in carrying out their responsibilities through workshops on the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. PACAC has also trained both federal and state prosecutors on proper drafting of charges and has also helped anti-corruption agencies devise clearer strategies for obtaining forfeiture of assets suspected to have been acquired fraudulently, mainly from State Coffers, before prosecuting suspected culprits.  PACAC has also reviewed existing laws like the Money Laundering Act, 2004, the EFCC Act, 2004 and the ICPC Act, 2000 to identify and highlight sections directly conferring powers of forfeiture on Nigeria’s anticorruption agencies.  Lately because of these reforms, there has been a significant increase in the use of Non-Conviction Based Asset Forfeiture Mechanisms by anti-corruption agencies.

Significantly, PACAC has also drafted a bill for establishment of Special Crimes Court to speed up anticorruption related matters.

These are some of the initiatives introduced by the Buhari administration during its first tenure in office.  However, there are still a lot to be done in combating the menace of corruption in Nigeria. Indeed, combating corruption which is regarded as the elephant in the room is still work in progress.

The second term of President Buhari’s administration promises to be more result oriented in the context of the anti-corruption agenda for several reasons. First, the President has acquired reputation locally and internationally as an anti-corruption President. The Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON is also reputed as a public figure who will not steal public funds. Thirdly, the major anti-corruption agencies notably, EFCC and ICPC are led by seasoned technocrats and administrators with no nonsense attitude towards corruption. EFCC is led by Ibrahim Magu, who is incorruptible while ICPC is led by Professor Bolaji Owasanoye who is adjudged incorruptible and technically sound. Fourthly, the work of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption PACAC has assumed unprecedented levels in terms of achievements and reforms against corruption.

Based on the foregoing and many other indicators including strong political will of the administration, we look forward to increased tempo in activities in combating corruption in the country as President Buhari assumes office in the administration of the country for the second term in office. [THE NATION]

 

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