President Muhammadu Buhari has said that his administration will no longer settle for conditional repatriation of looted public funds stashed abroad.
He said efforts will be intensified at strengthening international cooperation through information and mutual legal assistance.
This was as the President indicated his renewed commitment to strengthening the capacities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies.
According to the President, the platforms for achieving this will be the provision of additional resources, organisational and logistical support.
President Buhari made the commitment yesterday in Abuja at the National Democracy Day Anti-Corruption Summit, organised by the EFCC.
While restating his campaign promise to anchor his priorities on the tripod of providing security, economic development, as well as fighting corruption, the President disclosed that his administration was already taking stock of the strides made so far, in a bid to adopt improvement strategies, where necessary.
The President said: “During the recently concluded election campaigns, I stated clearly that the major areas of priority during my second term in office, as it was in my first term, will be: Security, economic improvement and fight against corruption. I remain committed to the fulfillment of these promises.
“Now, as this administration commences, we are taking stock of progress made so far in the war against corruption, assessing what needs to be done and devising new strategies to address existing challenges.
“I am pleased to inform you that this process has already started with the recent interaction between the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption and all anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria”.
Specifically, Buhari expressed the hope that the outcome of the interaction between PACAC and anti-graft agencies will enable his government to: “Strengthen the capacity of the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies by providing additional material, organisational and logistical support;
“Close existing legislative loopholes, facilitate collaboration with the judiciary, and strengthen the criminal justice system;
“Enforce effective asset declaration by public office holders and ensure sanctions by professional bodies against lawyers, bankers, brokers, public officials, and other individuals facilitating corrupt practices;
“Ensure comprehensive support and protection to whistleblowers, witnesses and victims of corruption.”
He added that same will help him “adopt and formulate the policy of ‘naming and shaming’ all those who engage in corrupt practices while encouraging and honouring those who do not;
“Educate, mobilise and encourage Nigerians at the grassroots level to take ownership of the fight against corruption;
“Press for a crackdown on safe havens for corrupt assets, abolishing of bank secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens on the continent and beyond;
“Insist on the unconditional return of looted assets kept abroad and further strengthening of international cooperation through information and mutual legal assistance.”
In his keynote address, the President of Rwanda, Mr. Paul Kagame, charged African leaders to ensure the creation of value and wealth, as they make the fight against corruption one of their priorities.
“We have to set our sights high, it is not enough to fight corruption just as merely fighting poverty, it is too small an ambition for Africa. We want to create value; we want to create wealth, not merely fighting corruption.
“We must discard the myth that corruption is endemic to particular cultures; corruption is a universal weakness, not an African one, and it is not part of our destiny as a continent. The biggest sources and beneficiaries of corruptions are outside of Africa,” Kagame said.
He said tolerating corruption was not a choice, even as he noted that not doing anything at all was more dangerous.
Meanwhile, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has argued that corruption was fuelling terrorism in the country.
In his welcome address, Magu informed the audience of the President’s commitment to the fight against corruption, even as he commended him for non-interference.
Magu linked electoral spending to voter inducement, noting that the Commission’s involvement had reduced the incident to the barest minimum.
He further disclosed that a total of 406 convictions were recorded between January and now.
In his presentation entitled, “Curbing Electoral Spending And Voter Inducement In Nigeria: The Role of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies”, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, regretted that the incident of vote-buying had the capacity to undermine the nation’s democracy.
In the estimation of Jega, the evil of inducement during elections could only be tackled through effective and coordinated strategies.
“Nigeria is one of the nascent electoral democracies in which the vast potentials of democratic developments are being rapidly undermined by negative use of money in elections.
“It is important to recognise that negative use of money to influence electoral outcomes and voter inducements are all part of the endemic ‘bribe culture’ in countries such as Nigeria,” Jega said.
In his presentation, a former President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Ayo Salami, said President Buhari had shown sincerity in the fight against corruption.
Salami, who spoke on the theme, “The Use of Public Funds In Election Litigation and the Integrity of the Judiciary”, accused lawyers of complicity.
“Lawyers have become complicit in this decadence; taking undue advantage by charging high fees in naira and foreign currencies.
“Most of the time, the senior lawyers insist on collecting their professional fees in cash, in order to avoid the funds being traced directly to them and also to evade payment of tax.
“A common trend is having over 10 Senior Advocates appearing in a matter for just one of the parties and you wonder what value those numbers are adding to the legal representation in court,” the former PCA said.
Other dignitaries in attendance included national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande; foremost Kenyan anti-corruption crusader, Prof. Patrick Lumumba; senior government officials as well as service chiefs.