…As Johnson-Sirleaf; Adoke; Fashola, Others Hail EFCC’s Efforts.
President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed that his administration will not shield any corrupt person from investigation or prosecution by the anti-graft agencies in the country.
The president who gave the assurance on Monday September 5 at the opening ceremony of the 8th National Seminar on Economic Crimes holding at the Training and Research Institute of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abuja promised that government will continue to support and encourage the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies to confront the monster of corruption more decisively and charged them to spare no culprit regardless of his status or position.
” We will give all the necessary support and encouragement to all the anti-ccorruption agencies to vigorously enforce the enabling anti-corruption laws. I urge these agencies to do their works fairly but firmly within the armbit of the law without regard to position or status. There shall be no sacred cows. This government will not protect any so-called sacred cows. The wheel of justice must run its full course in tackling anti-corruption cases”. Jonathan, who was represented at the occasion by Vice-President Mohammed Sambo, said that his government was committed to fighting graft and save the nation the horrific effects of corruption.
According to him,”I congratulate the EFCC for the results recorded so far. I urge the commission not to rest on its oars; for the job ahead is daunting but surmountable. There are still huge stolen assets left unrecovered abroad in safe havens. The commission must work hard in collaboration with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation; the designated central authority, to recover and return those funds. Government appreciates the peculiar challenges facing anti-graft agencies. It will do everything possible within the law to facilitate the work of the agencies. At this juncture, I would like to specially congratulate the chairperson Mrs. Farida Waziri for the tremendous achievements she has been making during this period. Billions of dollars and Naira have been retrieved. You must continue with the good work and we shall continue to give you all the support.
“ It is important to stress that fighting corruption is our collective burden. Every person pays the cost of corruption directly or indirectly. The lack of power, that bad road, that hospital without drugs and basic medical facilities, that dilapidated school, that water borehole not water all of which huge sums have been expended is the cost of corruption we all pay and will continue to pay if we do not stand up and confront the monster. All well-meaning Nigerians must therefore not only say no to corruption but also do something about it. Every little effort counts; whistle blowing, vigilance in budget implementation and projects monitoring, calling public officers to account; all go a long way to assisting the anti-corruption effort. The historic signing of the Freedom of Information Bill into Law in 2011 has provided citizens with a veritable instrument to contribute to strengthening accountability and transparency in the public sector.
“The private sector equally has a big role to play. There can be no successful corruption in the public sector without connivance and collaboration with the private sector. Consistent with current International Best Practices. Therefore, multinationals and private businesses must adopt and implement transparency codes and hold their officials to account for all financial dealings. Bribe increases the cost of projects astronomically, hinders global competitiveness and is a major disincentive to investments. We must therefore work to prevent it.”
In a keynote address, the Liberian President, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, took an historical excursion into the travails of her country, lamenting the nation’s huge losses to graft and poor governence, inspite of the enormous natural resources available in the country. Sirleaf said that through “structural and systemic reforms”, she has succeeded in stirring Liberia out of “systemic and suicidal corruption level”. She gave the credit to the independence of the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission, fashioned after the EFCC and with un-fettered freedom to carry out its job.
“The Liberian Anti-corruption Commission is independent of the Ministry of Justice. It investigates and acts on any information on corruption. The LAC is getting better. Presently, its prosecutorial power lies in the judicial system of the Ministry of Justice. There is an anomaly in this and two weeks ago, I submitted to the legislature a bill to amend the act which established the anti-corruption Commission. The fight against corruption requires the Commission to be strengthened with direct but not exclusive powers to prosecute cases involving corruption and related offence”, she stated.
While commending Waziri for her outstanding performance as the EFCC Chairman, Sirleaf said that governments of both Liberia and Nigeria must continue to instill “in our citizens the values we have lost. We sholud live within our means and always earn whatever we have”.
In her welcome address, Chairman of the EFCC, Mrs. Farida Waziri, described national economic and security challenges as man-made and largely traceable to corruption where a few individuals are bleeding the wealth of the nation and causing great pain to the larger society. Waziri said the corruption of a few has caused and is causing crushing and debilitating poverty and unemployment. “This poverty has led to despair and anger which in many cases has ignited violent unrest with attendant unpleasant consequences including loss of innocent lives and property”.
She also described entrenched corruption as being responsible for the state of the nation’s poor infrastructure including power and roads. She further disclosed that “our aspiration as a country stands threatened by corruption. This is not certainly the country of the dreams of those who fought for our independence. It is neither the country of our dream. It is equally not a country many of us wish to bequeath to the next generation”.
According to the EFCC boss, in spite of the corruption-made deteriorating state of affairs of the nation, a few are still working daily to make the situation even worse. In her view, a corruption free and transparent Nigeria will put them out of business and they are determined to maintain the status quo. “Whether we allow or stop them is part of the reasons for which we are gathered here today”, she added.
While commending President Goodluck Jonathan and the national assembly for passing and signing into law, two important pieces of legislation – the Money laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 and the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011, Waziri described the laws as complimentary to the EFCC Act 2004, the ICPC Act 2000 and the Code of Conduct Act in the fight against corruption and terrorism financing.
She assured the President that the EFCC in collaboration with sister agencies will vigorously implement these laws to realize their spirit and intent. “We shall count on your support and that of the National Assembly and the judiciary to enforce the laws without respect to personality or status.
She also informed the audience that the EFCC has recorded commendable results in the last 7 years with assets over $11 billion recovered and over 650 convictions to her credit, promising that the Commission is poised to do much more. “The sophistication, complexity and variegated nature of the problem demands much more radical, drastic and unorthodox approaches. Our society seemed to have been complacent and tolerant of corruption for too long.”
She also called for total transformation in the nation, adding that the reason many seek political office today is every other thing other than service. “Politics appears the biggest industry for illicit wealth acquisition. The foundation for bad governance is therefore laid in the nature of our politics. The only language in our politics is money. Integrity and competence hardly play any role. It is therefore not a coincidence that the root of our corruption is largely connected with public officers otherwise regarded as Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).
She urged the forum to consider and recommend a more practical approach for the courts to determine corruption cases in an expeditious manner that not only instil public confidence in the justice system but also prevent the enjoyment of assets associated with corruption.
She also reiterated her advocacy for special courts which she said must be complimented with a simplified evidence procedure that allows front loading of evidence as in election petition cases and putting time lines for conclusion of cases.
“Whatever constitutional impediments that exist should be quickly addressed. This will ensure that those accused of corrupt practices, face justice squarely; devoid of all rigmaroles. In addition to universally accepted approaches to combating corruption; each country must devise its home grown solution to best suit its local requirement as the current protracted and endless trial of corruption cases is an indictment of our justice system”, Waziri stressed.
In his own remark, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN said that the theme of the seminar was apt and topical given the present state of interdependencies and connectivity of global economies. He revealed that his office has taken seriously the issue of stolen asset recovery. According to him,”This is borne out of the desire to ensure that corrupt persons are not only punished but are prevented from enjoying the proceeds of their crimes. In this regards, we have continued to assist relevant agencies to recover and repatriate stolen assets to Nigeria. Only recently, we negotiated the recovery and repatriation of the sum of 22.5 million pounds sterling from the Island of Jersey being the proceeds of money laundered from Nigeria.
“I wish to seize opportunity to commend the Attorney General of Jersey for the support and cooperation we received and urged other jurisdictions to also extend to us, the much needed cooperation to enable us repatriate stolen assets within their jurisdictions. Our experience has shown that despite international condemnation of corruption and money laundering, many jurisdictions where stolen assets are located are either reluctant to repatriate such stolen assets to victims states or impose stringent conditions for its repatriation with attendant negative consequences on victim States.
“We also intend to vigorously purse stolen assets and the confiscation of other instrumentalities of crime within the country by strengthening our confiscatory and forfeiture laws. In this regard, we have commenced work on a comprehensive Assets Forfeiture legislation that will address the present inadequacies in our various laws. The Nigerian proceeds of crime acts and bribery acts are also in the pipeline. What these legislative interventions portend for Nigeria is that we are actively responding to global initiatives to make corruption a high risk venture that is ultimately not rewarding.
“To end this remarks, i wish to assure our distinguished invited guests and participants that the office of the Attorney General of the federation is not at loggerheads with the EFCC or indeed any other anti corruption agency. Corrupt persons will know doubt rejoice at such a prospect, but let me assure you that “the prospect of a house divided against itself” will not come to pass while i occupy the exalted office of the Attorney General of the federation.
“We are partners in the prosecution of the war against corruption, money laundering and terrorism. In this regard, i will continue to give all anti-corruption agencies the needed support and cooperation to succeed in the discharge of their statutory mandate.”
In his goodwill message the head of delegation of the European Union, Ambassador David Macrae commended the EFCC in its efforts towards ensuring good governance in Nigeria. In his words, “various anti-graft agencies play a key role all over the world in improving good governance and contributing to the development process of countries. Nigeria is not an exception. Here, the EFCC among other agencies is playing a key role in fighting corruption and evolving the political and democratic process.
“It is in recognition of the importance of achieving good governance that the European Union has been providing significant support approaching N6 billion to the EFCC/NFIU in order to improve their technical and operational capacities and integrate civil society in the fight against corruption through advocacy and awareness.”
He also said that the EU’s cooperation with the Federal government of Nigeria is intended to strengthen existing institutions with a view to improving their performance and results. In that regard, he assured of further support to the anti-corruption agencies.
He said the EU recognizes the role played by the anti-corruption agencies in their commitment to moving the anti-corruption agenda forward adding that “we see strong anti-corruption agencies as critical to the transformation agenda of the current administration”.
The occasion, hugely successful and well-attended, was graced by Vice-president Mohammed Sambo; the Liberian President, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; Governor of Lagos State; Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN, his Benue and Kebbi states counterparts; Mr Gabriel Suswam and Seidu Dakingari, former Minister of External Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, Head of Europen delegation, Mr David Macrae; Minister of State for Works and his Foreign Affairs counterpart among others.