The current prosecution of some judges, for alleged corrupt practices and the ongoing trial of some politicians and public functionaries in the immediate past administration on allegations of diverting some funds meant for arms procurement, has left Nigerians and the world in no doubt that President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war is on course.
Many Nigerians are pleased by these actions especially the one which touches a section of the public service hitherto thought to be shielded by the system from external scrutiny. Coming on the heels of this development was the disclosure by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), of a massive corruption ring around some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government and the recovery of over 100 exotic vehicles including amoured bullet proof sport utility vehicles (SUV) involved, worth over N450 million.
Any observer following the activities of the ICPC can easily recall that the recovery of looted public assets including money and property worth billions of naira, has been a consistent achievement of the Commission in its interventions over the years. Another achievement is the high success rate of its prosecution of suspects in the corruption cases it has handled. Virtually all its cases decided so far in the courts ended in the conviction of the suspects. This feat is largely credited to its painstaking investigation process and diligent prosecution.
However, the Commission is simultaneously pursuing a more ambitious plan to weed out corruption from the body politik of the nation by the institutionalization of the anti-corruption fight in every segment of the society. This tall but achievable dream was launched some years ago by a former chairman of the Commission, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola JSC rtd. His successor, the current chairman of the Commission, Mr Ekpo Nta has now carried it far. The focus of the initiative is to prevent corrupt acts from even taking place at all or to expose them before they could be perpetrated full blown.
The preventive option is a way of reinforcing the anti corruption war by enlisting the support and participation of every section of the citizenry and it is considered by the United Nations Convention on Corruption (UNCAC) as the most innovative and proactive way of fighting corruption down to the roots within and across national borders. This is the area where the ICPC is uniquely making the difference in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. It is anchored on three main strategies. They include advocacy against corruption, building of formidable coalitions of various segments of the society to fight it in both public and private sectors and strengthening of institutions to withstand and rebut corruption.
Advocacy against all forms of corruption is one of key strategies of the Commission’s operations and it is one of its core mandates. Through conferences, seminars, workshops, town hall meetings and other relevant fora, the Commission has consistently sought to create public awareness on what constitutes corruption in our day to day living ranging from the big issues of looting, embezzlement, misappropriation and abuse of position to issues of gratification often taken for granted as normal favours, or perks of position and issues of dishonesty for gain often explained away in such terms as “everybody does it*.
In this regard, the Commission has been able to sensitize, enlighten and educate various groups of stakeholders on the dangerous implications of such corrupt acts on the society and why people should refrain from engaging in them. In addition, the Commission regularly issues statements of caution to warn people against acts of corruption that many often claim ignorance of.
The second corruption prevention strategy operated by the Commission is the engagement of various groups of stakeholders in different sectors for concrete actions against corruption through active collaboration and partnership with the Commission. This endeavour which is steadily building a formidable coalition against corruption in every sector and facet of the Nigerian sociiety is being prosecuted on many platforms.
They include the Integrity First Initiative which is a collaboration with the business community to fight corruption and the National Anti-corruption Coalition which is a partnership with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) against corruption. Others are the Local Government Integrity Initiative to institutionalize the fight against corruption in Local Government administration, the Religious Leaders Forum which is carrying anti-corruption outreaches to the churches and mosques and the National Assembly Forum which so far has been used to prosecute the integrity campaign in both the National Assembly and in 30 state assemblies.
ICPC also operates the National Anti-Corruption Volunteer Corps (NAVC) in all local government areas of the federation and they monitor both the public and private sectors. More significantly, the Commission operates what could called anti-corruption warriors in the various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government at various levels. These are the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Monitoring Units (ACTUs) which monitor compliance with regulations and report violations and infractions promptly to appropriate authorities.The whistle blower role of the ACTUs has helped on several occasions to nip corruption in the bud or expose it in the MDAs.
Perhaps the most ambitious engagement with stakeholders that is very dear to the Commission is its bid to inculcate hatred for corruption of any kind in the mindset of the up and coming generations of Nigerians from their formative years to adulthood. In this regard the Commission has set up Anti-Corruption Clubs in secondary schools. It also operates Students Anti-Corruption Vanguards (SAVs) in tertiary institutions across the country.
In addition, the Commission has, in collaboration with the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), developed a curriculum to teach integrity values of honesty, discipline, fairness, contentment and patriotism in secondary schools. At the tertiary level, the Commission is also collaborating with some universities in this regard. One of them, the University of Calabar has approved a general studies course in corruption studies which is a compulsory course for all students. The Commission also collaborates with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) through seminars at the orientation camps to prepare fresh graduates for integrity challenges of employment.
The third major strategy of the preventive option is the strengthening of institutions and establishments, especially the ones prone to corruption, to prevent them from being manipulated to commit corrupt acts. In this regard, the Commission has carried out system study reviews on many institutions to check areas of leakages facilitating corruption and strengthen in-built mechanisms for compliance with due process and other regulations. For instance, this has proved to be very effective in the aviation sector and has curbed corruption at the nation’s airports.
In realization of the need for anti-corruption fighters to have requisite knowledge and skills to prosecute the war successfully, the Commission runs a world class anti-corruption academy. The Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN) training programmes have empowered various categories of the Commission’s staff with modern up to date knowledge and skills in anti-corruption fighting, including forensic science. The academy is also involved in training various groups of stakeholders in the public as well as private sectors such as banking and finance professionals to effectively deal with corruption issues.
The scourge of corruption may appear to be a monumental threat in Nigeria today. However, as these systemic and structural measures being put in place by the ICPC increasingly find expression in the minds and practices of the citizenry, the decline of corruption and its eventual rejection by the Nigerian society’s is just a matter of time.