The 30th African Union, AU, Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government Summit, held in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, recently was a glorious one for President Muhammadu Buhari. His commitment to the eradication of corruption in the country was acknowledged by his peers at the summit.
The issue of corruption in Africa assumed a deserved centre stage at the session given its negative impact on the development of member states as well as the well-being of their citizens over the decades. Given the president’s famed integrity, probity and accountability and the trajectory of his government along those lines, it fitted well that he was chosen to lead the conversation on corruption.
The highlight of President Buhari’s intervention at the summit was his speech themed: “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” Before this, he had been named AU’s “Anti-corruption Year Champion.” Designating 2018 a year to battle corruption as the continent’s public enemy number one presupposes that its evil effect has become painfully biting.
President Buhari is under no illusion that the AU honour comes with immense responsibility which he rightly noted is inspiring enough especially coming from his brother heads of state. He pledged that with the commitment, encouragement and support of his colleagues, the spectre of corruption will be exterminated from the continent.
For him, the areas of interest in the fight against the corruption scourge include organizing African Youth Congresses against corruption; mobilizing all African Union Member-states to implement the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption as well as advocating for the strengthening of the criminal justice system across Africa through exchange of information and sharing best practices in the enforcement of anti-corruption laws.
Others are strengthening the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption for a more proactive role in the anti-corruption fight and a proposal to enlist critical actors such as parliamentarians, women associations, the media, the business community, faith-based groups, the youth, educational institutions and traditional leaders as partners.
In spite of the significant stride in putting in place the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), which is a legal and policy framework in its fight against corruption, President Buhari noted that its adoption has hardly yielded the desired success in checking the evil of corruption in the continent, 15 years after.
As we felicitate with President Buhari on this continental recognition and honour, it is pertinent to recall that the fight against corruption was the cardinal selling point that earned him the electoral mandate of Nigerians in 2015.
In terms of policy framework, the Buhari government set out with the implementation of the Single Treasury Account, TSA, for all government Ministries, Agencies and Departments, MDAs. Though the pilot TSA scheme which compels government functionaries to use a unified structure of accounting-the Consolidated Revenue Account, CRA, domiciled with the Central Bank, commenced in 2012 under the preceding government, the scheme gained full expression under the Buhari administration.
Within its first year of full implementation, over N4 trillion of government’s money was recovered from more than 17000 spurious bank accounts of MDAs in commercial banks. Before TSA, government earned zero per cent interest on funds in commercial banks which was creamed off by government officials and conniving bank officials. Again, with TSA, government no longer borrows its own money through a criminal twist honed by corrupt officials and the banks.
With the full implementation of Bank Verification Number, BVN, by the Buhari government, fraud from players in both public and private sectors has been better monitored. This is given the fact that biometrics of all bank customers are captured, enabling banks to keep a tab on all transactions.
Last year, the government came up with the whistleblowing policy which is designed to encourage anyone with authentic information about a violation of financial regulations, mismanagement of public funds and assets, financial malpractice, fraud, theft, misconduct, or improper activity that can impact negatively on the Nigerian people and government to report it under a guaranteed protection from the government. Perhaps, due to the monetary reward the policy attracts, it has led to huge recoveries of ill-gotten monies, stashed away by Nigerians.
While we applaud these anti-corruption policy directions, we, however, feel that there is a compelling need for the government to take another look at the aspect of arrest and prosecution of alleged corrupt individuals especially as it relates to perceived selective application of the law.
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