Changing Strategy Of The Anti-Graft War

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Ag. Chairman, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu

If there is something at the moment that is daunting and challenging in Nigeria for many years, it is the fight against corruption. This assertion is based on the rapid increase in the incidence of corruption in the country.
The consistent rankings of Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by the global corruption watchdog – Transparency International also justifies this view. Specifically, the 2012 ranking of Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt country in the world has since made observers to look harder on Nigeria.
Indeed, this country has had a long history of corrupt practices. The outcomes of the commissions of inquiry on alleged corrupt practices involving public officers, especially between early 1950s and 60s, is a veritable proof.
Although political economists agree that it is difficult to estimate how much Nigeria has lost to corruption since independence in 1960, the Economist of London once noted that the country lost close to 400 billion dollars between 1966 and 1999.
That figure has since increased going by a recent publication by Pricewater Cooper, PwC, a leading audit and  assurance rating company by global acclaim. The company stated that Nigeria lost 174 billion dollars to corruption in 2015.
It further claimed that unless the country radically reforms its public and private sector administration, it may lose as much as 37 percent of its total GDP by 2030.
However, available records reveal that successive administrations since independence have put in place measures and mechanisms to fight the menace.
These measures include the establishment of commissions of inquiry into allegations of corruption, trial of suspected Nigerians, strengthening of anti-graft units of the Nigeria Police Force and the establishment of anti-corruption agencies and commissions, among others.
Further to these measures, in 1962, available records reveal that a commission of inquiry, commonly known as the Justice Coker Commission, uncovered the diversion of millions of pounds belonging to the Western Region’s Marketing Boards. The records also revealed similar official inquiries that discovered widespread corrupt practices in the Eastern Region.
In a renewed fight against corruption, more than 51 public office holders were convicted of embezzlement and abuse of public office by a military tribunal in 1984.
The then Federal Military Government said it was collaborating with the World Bank to recover monies stashed in some commercial banks in foreign lands by past leaders.
In order to strengthen the various measures put in place to rid the country of corruption, a former President, General Olusegun Obasanjo, established two special anti-graft bodies – the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in 2000 and 2004 respectively.
But the measures and the establishment of the anti-corruption agencies have not yielded the anticipated results. This has cast doubts on the capability of the institutions to effectively stem the problem.
Although the immediate past Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, commended the effort of the agency and said it had recorded about a thousand convictions in the years of its existence, statistics reveal the contrary. The actual figure was put at between 750 and 800.
Besides, Nigerians have always disputed the EFCC’s claim. But even if that figure was correct, what appreciable difference can it make given the very high rate of the menace?
Similarly, the Attorney General and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, speaking on recovered funds, said the EFCC had so far recovered not more than $2 trillion (about N400trn) in 12 years. But the question is, can this amount be considered significant particularly when compared to what has been stolen from the public till since independence?
In all, can it be said that the EFCC’s effort is commendable, given that it secured the conviction of some persons involved in high profile cases including a former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, and few former governors?
Not many Nigerians will agree with that proposition. The success or otherwise of the anti-corruption agencies in the fight does not entirely depend on the number of convictions secured.
The issue, however, is that there are inherent flaws in the processes of investigations and prosecution of corruption cases and this has to be addressed squarely.
The anti-graft war is far from being successful partly because the judiciary and the rule of law haven’t taken their rightful places. For this war to be won, therefore, the rule of law must be upheld and the judiciary must be impartial. A former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, captured it succinctly:
“When the rule of law is weak, corruption will remain a nagging problem. Without an honest criminal justice system, the wealthy, especially the corrupt, can escape the consequences of their crimes; such impunity reduces the perceived cost of corruption.”
The weak enforcement of the extant anti-graft laws and lack of political will to prosecute high profile cases have made the fight against corruption grossly ineffective. This should prompt the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to adopt a new strategy in its fight against the problem.
This is imperative since the conventional method of fighting corruption through the police and other specialized anti-corruption agencies have failed to yield the desired result over the years.
To this end, the Federal Government may consider the establishment of a truth and restitution commission where all those who stole our monies from independence till date would be made to return what they misappropriated.
However, those who would disregard the commission and fail to comply with the non-conventional method should be made to forfeit all they have stolen from the public coffers using the force of law.

 

Arnold Alalibo