Civil society groups score Buhari low on anti-corruption war

Eighteen notable Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Wednesday in Abuja declared that the anti-corruption efforts of the present administration is failing due to negligence, connivance and lack of clear institutional framework to prosecute the war.

The organisations were Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Partners for Electoral Reforms (PER), State of the Union (SOTU), Say No Campaign (SNC), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and Civil Society Network Against Agenda (CSNAC).

Others were Accountability Mechanism for Maternal New Born and Child health in Nigeria (AMHiN), Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Protest to Power (P2P), Centre for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT), Organisations of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTWA), National Procurement Watch Platform (NPWP), African centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) and Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP).

The Executive Director of the CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, and Chairman of the PER, Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, who briefed newsmen on behalf of others also present at the meeting, said that corruption has assumed worrisome heights, entrenched in a systemic fashion which has become symbolic of a colossal failure.

“On transparency and accountability in asset recovery, in 2016 at the Anti-corruption Summit in London, the administration committed to strengthening asset recovery and management legislation through the passage of the Proceeds of Crime Bill to provide for transparent management of returned assets and non-conviction based approach to asset recovery; and develop internationally endorsed guidelines for the transparent and accountable management of returned stolen assets. Two years after the Summit, the administration still lags in fulfilling the commitments.

“Although the EFCC disclosed, during the 7th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) held in Vienna in November 2017, that 2.9 billion USD have been recovered between May 2015 and Oct. 20, 2017, but there is little information and absence of clear guidelines on how these recovered assets are utilized to maximally benefit the common citizens whose interest government had promised to protect,” Rafsanjani said.

According to him, with the overlapping mandates of anti-corruption agencies on asset recovery management, it is unclear which of the many anti-corruption institutions leads in the coordination of asset recovery efforts, even as crucial legislature with a potential to establish an acceptable asset recovery management framework like the Proceeds of Crime Bill, 2014, is stalled without explanation.

Nwagwu on his part said the absence of independent, comprehensive review of how many assets that could be repatriated from all agencies with the power to seize assets, and verifiable information on the end-use and the impact of reinvested assets, is a systemic challenge to a successful anti-corruption fight.

He added that absence of legal requirement for Nigerian companies to maintain a register of Beneficial Ownership continues to provide a breeding ground for beneficial owners who hide behind legal person members of a company without being identified.

He said, “There is no legal requirement for Nigerian companies to maintain a register of Beneficial Ownership. The country lacks Central Register of Beneficial Ownership information and clear rules on access for all law enforcement and tax agencies to Beneficiary Ownership information are not available. Nigeria lacks legal framework for prosecution of non-disclosure of beneficial ownership.”

He therefore demand immediate development of clear policy actions on asset recovery as recommended by Global Forum for Asset Recovery in 2017 to revert current trend and successfully combat corruption in Nigeria, and to include CSOs in the nation-wide discussion on the management and the end-use of recovered assets.

While frowning at the continuous violation of the Public Procurement Act 2007 through the non-appointment of the National Procurement Council as required by law, the CSOs lament that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) continues to arrogate the powers to approve contracts in clear violation of the Public Procurement Act to itself.

“This act of FEC does not show a government ready to abide by the rule of law and ensuring transparency in contract awards. We therefore call on the government to follow the law and set up the National Procurement Council as the Act stipulates,” they said.

They added that the anti-corruption efforts cannot be won in the absence of the non-compliance of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as presently observed by various government agencies, and also commended the judicial pronouncement that the FOI Act applies to all the states of the federation.

They also frowned at the series of unresolved cases of high profile corruption allegations involving politicians including those currently serving in the present administration and demand immediate actions.

 

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