By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – A coalition of 20 prominent Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, in Nigeria, on Wednesday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to reconsider his anti-corruption strategies, insisting that the country, under his watch, has continued to lose enormous amount of resources to illicit outflows.
According to the group, led by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, ” In May 2016, the Prime Minister of the UK at that time, David Cameron, called Nigeria and Afghanistan ‘fantastically corrupt’ nations. President Muhammadu Buhari astonishingly agreed, adding that he expects UK and other partners to expedite the return of stolen Nigerian assets back to Nigeria. Today, taking the opportunity at the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day, we must ask “Is Nigeria still fantastically corrupt?”
“Nigerian public officials have been very quick to make numerous international commitments to tackle corruption and lack of transparency – 14 commitments were made as part of the Open Government Partnership effort. In some cases, a modest progress has been made. The World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index has improved due to concerted efforts of the government and the civil society.
“However, majority of the 14 commitments remain unfulfilled. 20 commitments were also made by the Buhari administration in London 2016 during an anti-corruption conference.
“One and half years later, not a single commitment has been completed. 50% of anti-corruption commitments are under-way while 25% are inactive. 25% of these commitments are in progress.
“Public contracting remains shrouded in chaos and lack of transparency. Beneficial Ownership register is nowhere near completion and crucial asset recovery legislation such as the Proceeds of Crime Bill has been hopelessly stalled in the National Assembly”.
“Unless the Justice system expedites politically exposed cases and forfeits meaningful amounts of recovered assets; unless the National Assembly stops political boycott of key appointments and passes much needed legislation, and unless there is a tangible strategy of the government to damage-control shocking plundering of public resources, public perception on anti-corruption is unlikely to improve.
“Despite some acceleration in the rate of repatriation and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption, we still do not see the investigations, prosecutions and convictions at the highest levels of our political class. Also despite some indisputable evidence, many corrupt politicians and businessmen and women seem to be above the law and out of reach of law enforcement.
“A report by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claims that in 2016/17, 286 cases were brought to conviction, which would signal a remarkable improvement to 53 convicted cases in 2012 out of 353 court proceedings. However, this nominal improvement disguises the fact that Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) have been too often acquitted on dubious grounds.
“Nigeria still loses enormous amount of resources to illicit financial outflows. It is estimated that around 35 billion USD are annually lost to illicit financial flows. These indirect and dodgy movements of monies earned in Nigeria and leaving the country through the back door poses great challenge to our development and economy”.
Aside calling for scrapping of the concept of ‘Security Vote’, the CSOs, said there was need for more transparency in the procurement of military equipment and weapons.
“This year, and approaching elections in 2019, should be a wake-up call for unprecedented rise in insecurity and gradual sliding of the rule of law in many parts of Nigeria. More and faster progress needs to be made to curb arms trafficking and organised crime.
“Despite nearly 500% of increased military budgets over the last decade, front line troops still complain about lack of equipment and resources to combat insurgency. Corruption has literally killed tens of thousands of people across Nigeria due to corruption in the security sector”, the statement further read.
Other CSOs behind the statement are African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, YIAGA Africa, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), YES Project, Connected Development, Say No Campaign (SNC), Centre for Information Technology and Democracy (CITAD), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Partners for Electoral Reforms (PER), Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC),Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA).
As well as, Accountability Mechanism for Maternal New Born and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN), Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Centre for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT), National Procurement Watch Platform (NPWP),bAfrican Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP), State of the Union (SOTU) and Lawyers Network Against Corruption (LAWNAC).Source: