President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

How FG can strengthen anti-graft war, says SERAP

NEWS DIGEST–In its latest report, “Nigeria Anti-Corruption Performance Assessment Survey,” made public in Lagos on Tuesday, anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, scored the Federal Government low in its fight against corruption.

The 57-page report was a documentation of a survey carried out by SERAP in the country’s six geo-political zones between November and December 2018.

It captured the views of 2,655 Nigerians across Adamawa, Kaduna, Kano, Ondo, Lagos, Rivers and Enugu states as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The survey assessed the impact of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight in the last four years in the education, health, energy, police and judiciary sectors.

It concluded that despite that anti-graft war is a cardinal programme of the current administration, corruption has not abated.

In fact, majority of the Nigerians, whose views were captured in the report, believe that in spite of government’s anti-graft crusade, the level of corruption in the country will rise “in the coming year,” rather than reduce.

They are of the view that government’s anti-corruption efforts are “inadequate and unconvincing.”

They also hinged their skepticism on the fact that “elections do not result in a different government,” adding that “most leaders are corrupt and only pursue personal interests.”

The report, on its page 21, stated that, “When asked to project the level of corruption in the coming year, about 41 per cent (of respondents) believed it will either increase or remain the same with about third of the respondents expecting corruption levels to increase.”

SERAP said the outcome of the survey should “trigger reflection among the various anti-corruption bodies in Nigeria.”

But the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, believes that the Buhari anti-corruption crusade is a huge success.

In December, Magu said his agency had recovered not less than N794bn, $261m, £1.1m and 407 mansions, since the Buhari anti-graft campaign began in 2015.

But there is scanty information in the public domain as to what the government is doing or has done with the huge sums Magu said has been recovered.

Again, not a few Nigerians believe that the Buhari anti-corruption fight is selective.

From the outcome of its survey, SERAP believes that government must rejig the anti-corruption fight going forward.

In the report, which it published as part of its implementation of the Anti-Corruption in Nigeria project, funded with UK aid from the British people, the advocacy group called for “proper and effective coordination among all anti-corruption agencies,” going forward.

Reform police, judiciary, others

It advised government to pay particular attention to the five sectors covered by its survey — the police, judiciary, power, education and health.

The survey rated the police as the public institution with the highest rate of bribery, based on the judgment of 829 of the respondents, representing 66.6 per cent.

The power sector, education, health and the judiciary, ranked after the police on the prevalence of bribery.

To this end, SERAP wants the government to improve on the financial oversight of the five sectors.

It recommended that government “order an independent financial audit of the Nigeria Police Force, and the ministries of power, education and health by a qualified auditing company that conforms to international standards for auditing public sector entities; and ensure that the audit report is made public.”

SERAP believes the Nigeria Police Force is in serious need of reform and therefore called on the Inspector-General of Police to “streamline and prioritise internal control mechanisms by establishing an Ethics and Integrity Unit at each police station.”

“The unit should include a human rights officer, an anti-corruption officer, and an officer responsible for service delivery complaints,” it recommended.

Furthermore, it said the Police Service Commission should “establish mechanisms for police whistle-blowers to anonymously and directly report incidents of police extortion, embezzlement, and other corrupt practices.”

It called for “prompt, thorough and effective investigation and prosecution of allegations of police bribery and corruption.”

Judiciary needs transparency, housekeeping

SERAP called on the National Judicial Council and the Chief Justice of Nigeria to “publish annual reports of all activities involving the judiciary, including expenditure, and provide the public with reliable information about its governance and organisation, including the number of judges found to be corrupt.”

It added that the authorities in the judiciary must “identify and review all outstanding cases of judicial corruption and refer such cases to appropriate anti-corruption agencies.”

It said the judiciary must create an atmosphere that “encourages victims of judicial corruption to speak out so that they can enjoy access to effective remedies.”

National Assembly must pass relevant bills

For the anti-graft war to be more effective, the advocacy group believes that the National Assembly must be more proactive by passing the Proceeds of Crime Bill, the Whistle-blowers Bill, and the Witness Protection Bill among others.

Besides, SERAP said the legislature must publish all reports of investigations on corruption and corruption-related matters it had carried out in the judiciary, education, power and health sectors among others since the return of democracy in 1999.

Amend Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act

SERAP believes that there is an urgent need to amend the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, to allow for better public scrutiny of assets declaration by public officials.

It said the amendment “should be based on the public interest to know, and on the principles of transparency and accountability.”

It said the asset declaration forms of all public officials must truly be made public.

It also recommended the publication of detailed quarterly reports on the work of the Code of Conduct Bureau, “including the number of public complaints received, the number of public officers investigated, and the names of those officers sanctioned by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.”

More accountability needed in states

SERAP said governments of various states should show leadership in addressing allegations of corruption within their domain.

It said, “State governors and state Houses of Assembly should make public quarterly budget execution reports that detail monthly state government income from federal allocations and other sources, and state government expenditure, including allocations to the state judiciary and ministries and on provisions of basic public services like education and health.”

It said states must hold public hearings as part of the budget making process to allow for greater public scrutiny of government spending priorities.

It further recommended that states “publish annual budgets immediately upon their passage and disseminate these widely, including posting them on the Internet.”

SERAP called for full compliance with the Freedom of Information requests and make public commitment to ensure the full application of the FOI Act in respective states.

Human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), commended SERAP for the report, which he described as a “confirmation that the masses are united in demanding a new society where public funds will not be criminally diverted by unpatriotic elements but channeled towards the development of the country.”

Renowned professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode, said the report had put the country in the spotlight.

pulse news