‘Why anti-corruption drive is imperative for sustainable economic growth’ – Prof. Shola Akinrinade

Professor Shola Akinrinade is the Provost of the Anti Corruption Academy
of Nigeria (ACAN)- the training and research arm of the Independent
Corrupt practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). In this
interview with ABOSEDE MUSARI, he recounts the various studies done in the
past one year of the academy’s refocused agenda, pointing at how the
issues of financial impropriety has been addressed in about 400
Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

What has been your experience in the last one year that you have been the
Provost of ACAN?
In the last one year, specifically in October 2014, when I assumed office,
it was just to get our things ready for the real programme. What has
happened is that there’s been a transition from ICPC Academy to Anti
Corruption Academy of Nigeria. It’s not just a transition in name, but in
focus, scope of activities and direction of work of the academy. The
Academy was set up in 2004 as the ICPC training school. It functioned like
that till 2014, when I was appointed. There was a conscious decision on
the part of the board to change the direction of work and to expand the
scope of activities of the academy in line with best practices in fighting
corruption in other parts of the world.

Between 2004 and 2014, all the academy was doing was to train its own
staff and hosting them in the academy premises. What we had was a hostel
for the training school and there was no luxury. But by 2014, the board
approved the change to ACAN with a new remit, which is to engage with the
larger society in developing a national response to corruption in terms of
building people’s capacity to fight corruption nationally. Not just
something left for the agencies, but something you are taking to every
part of the country, every segment and building the consciousness of

So our work remit has expanded to include training people in good
governance and all matters relating to anti corruption, trying to build
capacity of agencies and individuals to understand corruption within their
domain and to fight it. So, everything we’ve done has gone beyond merely
training the staff of the commission, but now we are engaging with the
larger society on matters of transparency, accountability, good
governance, integrity and things that build the environment for a
sustainable fight against corruption. Indeed, there is a whole change of
direction. We are building alliances with various sectors of the society,
trying to develop their capacity to tackle corruption within their own
sectors. We’ve worked with Chartered Institute of Bankers, universities,
health and aviation sectors and we have other programmes that started last
year, which will continue this year.

Apart from our internal training, last year we had a workshop for
universities, polytechnics and colleges of education on academic and
procurement integrity. We realised that our tertiary education system is
the gateway to the future of this country because it is the institutions
producing the manpower that drives the economy and the technical capacity
of this country. So, if you can get it right with them, then we are not
looking at the future. We are addressing people that are there now and
those that are going to be important in this country in the future.
People raise questions about the quality of graduates of the Nigerian
university, polytechnics and colleges, the teachings taking place in our
schools and the kind of performance of our teachers, and students in
external examinations. But look at the result of SSCE recently released,
less than 34 per cent could transit to the next level because those are
the ones that passed Mathematics and English and other relevant subjects.
People are not looking at the structures. The structural response is what
we are looking at to do. Look at the basis of failure in corruption within
the system. When lecturers are failing to do their work the way they ought
to, they are not training teachers they ought to. When people they trained
leave and are working in the industry and cannot even perform, what

UBEC and basic education are the gateway to our education system. If there
are problems there, you know you are creating problems for the future.
What have we done? We work with them to create integrity within their
system. We worked with the aviation sector, targeting low-level corruption
at our airports, trying to build the capacity of operators in the airport
to tackle corruption within their own system. We are sensitising them and
creating awareness on the need to create the right image for this country.
When somebody enters this country for the first time and all the person
gets are requests for money, bribes from different people, it sends a
wrong signal.
What kind of experience do they go with?

We had an international conference in partnership with the United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime to drive policy making within the system. The
United Nations Development Programme commissioned us to train civil
society organisations who are engaged in anti-corruption work. This is to
build capacity on sustainable basis. Everything we are doing is not just
for now, but to raise the bar in the fight against corruption. We had
training with the local governments. You know the importance of local
governments in governance in the country. The average Nigerian identifies
more with the local governments. If there’s no integrity, if there is
massive corruption at that level, we would be failing a lot of people. We
are taking that training now to the level of local government chairmen,
secretaries, director of finance and revenue officers. The essence is to
make sure we are able to entrench integrity at the lowest level of
governance. The last one we had was with the legislators. We’ve worked
with legislators from states Houses of Assembly all over the country. We
completed the process recently when we had legislators from Lagos, Kwara
and Oyo. states The essence is to build legislative integrity and tackle

It’s a whole range of activities meant to address and build capacity in
different segments of the society. Some of the things we started, which we
couldn’t complete, but are still on is the proposal to have a workshop for
the media on the war against corruption. The media is crucial to defining
and driving the agenda. On the fight against corruption, if we can get the
media on our side, a lot will be achieved because they move our message to
different parts of the country. But if the media is corrupt, then there is
a problem. We are talking about how the media can advance the agenda.

These are issues we have been trying to address.
We are trying to have a discourse in healthcare delivery, to work with the
health sector. We call it the National Dialogue on promoting integrity,
accountability and transparency in healthcare delivery. We all know the
challenges and the impact of lack of transparency, corruption in
healthcare delivery. What we are doing is to build an alliance so that
people can begin to address the issues.

In terms of direct impact, we can’t begin to analyse now, but we know from
feedbacks from those who trained with us that people are beginning to get
the message, which is very important. The important thing is to create
attitudinal change. The message must be internalised. When you want to
create change, it shouldn’t be on the surface, it must be something that
people must believe in totally. It is that internal belief that will drive
the process long after we are not training anybody. People who imbibed it
on their own, and see it as their own fight will continue to drive the
agenda. That is why we are doing a kind of catch them young. With the
national values curriculum, anti corruption modules is being introduced
from primary schools, as a way of teaching people about values. With the
academic initiative on anti-corruption, we are trying to take it to the
university level.

Late last year, we developed the curriculum and modules for
anti-corruption elements for general studies in our tertiary institutions,
which we want to work with regulatory authorities to introduce. It’s like
getting people to internalise it from day one. We also work with various
MDAs, about 400 of them. In terms of people we’ve reached, people who
trained directly under us last year are about 1776. You know what that
means when they begin to work in their various agencies.

Don’t you think the media is critical to stakeholders in fighting corruption?
For any venture to succeed you need communication. People must know what
is happening. This is why we are actually looking for support from the
media on the corruption workshop that we want to run. We need the support
of the larger society to help reach this critical segment of society. At
the end of the day, if you can have the media on your side, at least they
can help us define the narratives, drive the agenda and tell the story.
They help us sell the opinion. Some of us look forward to the writings of
some columnists.

There are some columnists who are so influential with their columns such
that people look out for them, and they cut across newspapers. When we
have the media on our side, the agenda is made simpler. People respect
their opinions. Indeed, the media is important to us.
Beside the usual trainings, is the academy going to be offering degree

When we started, we designed a Masters programme in anti-corruption
studies targeted directly at practitioners. There will be modules
depending on the kind of work you are doing with your agency. You can’t
come to me as a job seeker and say you have a Masters degree in anti
corruption studies. Work is experience. Our Masters programme is targeted
at building the capacity of people already on the job. But again, we still
have issues because we need to work with universities to get this on
board. We are already discussing with two universities. Both have
programmes and centres dealing with anti-corruption studies, so they are
first reference in terms of who we are partnering with. Beyond that, the
certification courses in anti-corruption studies, which we are thinking of
running for people like journalists who are interested in the crime beat
and anti corruption reporting.

For people in the public service sector, those dealing with procurement,
those in audit and all those who have contact with things that have to do
with integrity and corruption, we are trying to do a certificate course
for them. There are initiatives that are on that will affect the larger
sector of the society for good.

There must be a structural response, because its not enough to train. Take
for instance the anti-corruption conference that we want to do. Critical
to us is how we can engage the policy makers with proposals that are
realistic. How can we use research to drive anti-corruption policies? Our
country has one of the largest collections of anti-corruption agencies and
legislations. We need to ask ourselves how effective they are. And we are
saying that many of these things must be informed by research. When we are
developing new policies, how does it relate to things we have found
practical in terms of research?

You studied some sectors such as aviation, universities and the health.
What impact were you able to make in these sectors and
How were you able to correct certain issues in those areas?

The ICPC is a large body. There is a whole unit charged with systems
studies and planning research and review section. But nobody works in
isolation. When we do corruption risk assessment, it’s not just to study
the system and an agency but to help them get it right. For these past
years, the training for universities, polytechnics and colleges of
education was the consequence of the system study of the university that
identified the number of areas of infraction. The study formed the basis
of the training we ran for the universities, polytechnics and colleges of
We now work with them directly. We give them a template of integrity plan
and that this is how they should draw up their own response. And we go
back to discuss with them how they entrench integrity in their system on a
sustainable basis. We did it also with UBEC. It’s based on knowledge to
work with them and get them to achieve their goals. Our purpose is to
strengthen organisations. Any training we do, is to look at the weaknesses
in their systems and help them to overcome it.
The aviation sector was slightly different. There has been studies and
identification of training needs. But we need to go beyond what we are
doing now to get to the root of the problem. While we are treating the
manifestations at the airport in terms of the operators, we need to go to
the root of the problem. That will be the next level of our training in
the sector.
What are the specific challenges you identified in these sectors?
There’s only one problem in this country- integrity issues. It’s a major
problem because if you can get it right in terms of transparency,
accountability, if people cannot imbibe the right values towards public
sector funds, we’ll still have a long way to go. We have integrity deficit
in various segments of the society. We can’t deceive ourselves. If I begin
to tell you what we found in different agencies, I won’t be helping them
and I wont be helping us. Our aim is to strengthen, not to destroy them.
And if I go public with the things they are doing, that’s what you’ll see.