The executive secretary of the Public Complaints Commission, Alhaji Bala Mohammed Abdul has said that the fear of being jailed under the public procurement act has made some state governors to shun the legislation in their respective states.
According to him, as a result of the absence of the act in many states, which prohibits such practices as over invoicing of government contracts and other related purchases, corruption has continued to thrive unhindered in the public sector at the detriment of the states and their peoples.
Abdul stated this as a guest speaker during the first annual public lecture in honour of Professor Jonah Elaigwu, president of the Institute of Governance and Social Research (IGSR) which held in Jos at the weekend.
He said, “There is so much crisis in Nigeria today as a result of corruption. There is electoral corruption, nepotism, favouritism and other forms of corruption in Nigeria’s public sector including procurement scam whereby the purchase of an item is inflated so that the difference between the inflated price and the actual price is shared between the person who does the purchasing and the sellers or it is taken by the purchaser alone with the connivance of the seller.
“This is where most of the governors and the executive members are being jailed. Anybody who takes you to the court of law under the procurement act is considered your worst enemy because you can hardly escape it. That is why some state governors have not enacted the procurement acts in their states.”
The public lecture was organised by 1982-1992 Political Science Alumni of the University of Jos with the theme “Fiscal federalism and the question of return of looted assets and proceeds of crime.”
He noted that fiscal federalism in Nigeria is characterised by constant struggle and agitation for change and resource control due to the “centrifugal and centripetal tendencies in our disaggregate system” which he said often impacted negatively in the country’s economy.
He identified asset recovery as a vital means of fighting corruption and promoting development in the country as shown by increased allocations to pro-poor sectors following the repatriation of USD 505 million from Switzerland.
The executive secretary, however, warned that when following a traditional conviction- based approach to asset recovery, investigators must do more than locate the offenders and acquire sufficient evidence to connect the assets obtained to the unlawful activity so that judicial order for confiscation can be obtained.
He added that for Nigeria to reap the full benefits of the fight against corruption, it is not enough using recovered assets to fund anti-poverty projects and to promote development as such efforts require better oversight mechanisms and management involving the society.
According to him “There are more than fourteen anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria. Mere tracking, tracing, freezing of corrupt funds and looted assets have not helped the Third World countries in spite of the various Mutual Legal Assistance entered with the First World countries under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption where looted resources are identified, frozen and confiscated, the victim state is never indemnified.
“There is no policy direction in that respect up till date. Such confiscated loots are left in the coffers of the Federal Government and most often than not abandoned and left at the mercy of other hoodlums and natural depletions. We are still chasing after the Abacha loot till today. Large sums of money remain frozen in other countries of which close to USD 1.3 billion is presumably held in Luxemburg. There are also many other looted funds being pursued for recovery in many other countries, therefore , there is the need for Nigeria to establish a body for proper management of the recovered stolen funds and assets.
“Again corruption should not be one sided where somebody from my area found to have stolen public fund is left whereas another person from a different area found to have committed the same offence is being hounded. So, the fight against corruption must be all inclusive for it to succeed and achieve its intended objective.”
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