ICPC convokes 2nd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption as it marks 20th Anniversary

As part of activities marking its 20th Anniversary celebration and Nigeria’s 60th year of nationhood, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other related Offences Commission (ICPC), in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), recently convoked the 2nd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

The Summit, which theme was “Together Against Corruption,” witnessed the presentation of ICPC @ 20 Legacy Book, Nigeria Corruption Index, as well as the Presidential launch of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy. The Policy, which is for the “good and ethical conduct of the Nigerian citizenry” had earlier been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its 20th meeting, held on August 19, 2020.

Other highlights of the Summit were the presentation of Integrity Awards to two distinguished Nigerians, CSP. Francis Osagie Erhabor of the Nigeria Police Force and Mallam Hamza Adamu Buwai of the Federal Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment, for exhibiting exceptional acts of integrity; as well as presentation of Awards to AdeboyeOpeyemi, Maltida Daniels and Chiekezi Favour as winners of ICPC Music and Essay (Senior and Junior Category) Competitions respectively.

Speaking during the Summit, President Muhammadu Buhari, described the theme of this year’s summit Together Against Corruption, as apt, saying “Together as a nation, as a people, the three arms and three tiers of government working together, we can attack corruption and realize the vast potentials of our country.

The President noted that to attain the required transformation, a corruption-free public sectorand a judicial system that dispensed justice without undue delay and technicality were needed.

We need to deploy resources to address our common needs rather than the greed of a callous few. We need a corruption-free public sector to achieve transformation, we need a judicial system that dispenses justice without undue delay and technicality.

‘We need laws and legal system to be reformed to deliver justice to every citizen without regard to status and finally we need ethical re-orientation of the people to achieve this goal. When we work together against corruption we can defeat it,” he emphasized.

President Buhari also commended the Commission and OSGF for organizing the summit, noting that the programme was an “opportunity for the three arms of government to indicate their roles in meeting the aspirations of Nigerians to have a corruption-free society.

“I commend the ICPC for its enforcement and prevention measures including system review of capital and personnel budget, regular analysis of the open treasury platform, enforcement action against diversion and mismanagement of public funds, working with FIRS to increase the number of companies and persons within the tax net, tracking of constituency and executive projects, budget utilization for the benefit of ordinary Nigerians and the monitoring of implementation of budget of the Executive in key sector like the agriculture,” he lauded.

The President further expressed satisfaction with the participation of young Nigerians and non-state actors at the event, stating that “nobody must be left behind and all hands must be on deck in the fight against corruption.” He therefore urged all Nigerians to join the anti-corruption fight of government in order to return the country to the path of development.

In his goodwill message, the President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, stated that the parliament was supporting the anti-graft fight through robust legislations, vigilant oversight as well as carrying out enquiries and investigations to expose corruption where necessary.

According to the Senate President, “Because of our constitutional powers of oversight, we have become conversant with the matrix of corruption and are then able to put together a robust legal framework to criminalize all manifestations of graft in and out of government.”

‘To support this fight against graft, we have our Legislative Anti-Corruption Strategy, (LACS), which seeks to do three things namely, provide robust legislation; conduct vigilant oversights as well as carry out inquiries and investigations to expose corruption wherever it’s found.”

‘The implementation of the above strategy will see to it that the legal framework being put in place, will ensure that the anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies are independent, well-funded and open to oversight and public scrutiny.”

Senator Lawan also revealed that “Our various committees, especially the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, as well as that on Judiciary, are carrying out legislative actions to enhance the effectiveness of agencies saddled with the task of preventing corruption and also giving more impetus to agencies in the enforcement sector of fighting corruption.”

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, while making his contribution called for the rejigging of anti-corruption strategies and tactics, saying that anti-corruption fight should be waged without any extraneous consideration.

The apex court boss, therefore, enjoined law enforcement agencies to do their due diligence before prosecution of cases, pointing out that the act of prosecutors sourcing out evidence after trial had commenced was not only ’condemnable but it slows the adjudication of justice especially in the fight against corruption.’

Justice Muhammad further pledged the judiciary commitment to the fight against corruption through the deployment of all available legal means.

In another goodwill message, the Chairman, Nigeria Governors forum (NGF) and Ekiti state Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who spoke via Cisco WEBEX described the event as ‘an eloquent testimony to the innovation which the current leadership of ICPC has brought into the anti-corruption war.

The Summit according to him was a commendable one because it provided a platform for the “critical actors in policy, governance, enforcement and adjudication to take a hindsight, insight and foresight view of the war so as to continue to responsively reinvigorate the fight against corruption.”

Governor Fayemi noted that an important aspect of law enforcement was crime prevention and called on the need for government at all levels to tap into the powerful tools of information and communication technology to ensure that exposure to corrupt practices were very minimal.

According to NGF Chairman, “One of the ways to actualize this is to ensure that government businesses are fully digitalized and interaction between clients and government service providers are almost nil. This is because the root of all corrupt practices is the desire to take advantage of the people because of the physical interactions that often bring about compromises.”

On his part, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, AbubakarMalami, explained that no agency can fight corruption alone, stating that the success of any anti-corruption fight is a product of togetherness and collaboration.

Also speaking at the Summit, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Edward Kallon, stated that the summit signified another step in demonstrating Nigeria’s commitment to the global anti-corruption fight.

Mr. Kallon said that the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) “provides tools for countries to prevent, control and combat corruption including the recovery of proceeds of crime. Diminishing corruption in the public sector is one of the main thrust of the convention.

According to him, “If countries take advantage of this global legal framework, they can contribute in building a robust structure for efficient and effective anti-corruption and enforcement.

Earlier in his welcome remark, ICPC Chairman, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, highlighted the gains the Commission had recorded so far in its efforts to rid the nation of corruption.

The Chairman revealed that over 20,000 petitions had been received by the Commission with 5000 investigations concluded and 1000 cases filed in various courts across the Federation.

He also disclosed that the Commission had “conducted 47 full system study and reviews and 582 reviews comprising personnel and capital budget utilization, review of open treasury portal entries and implementation of the recommendations from the report of the Auditor-General of the Federation on MDAs.”

“We have conducted Corruption Risk Assessments on key sectors of the economy notably transport, education, health and the e-government system,” the Chairman added.

As part of its strategy to police the public sector institutions, the ICPC boss said the Commission had established the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Units (ACTUs) in MDAs with 445 units inaugurated so far.

Professor Owasanoye also stated that the Commission established the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), a manpower development arm, which focuses on integrity and anti-corruption strategies.

The institution enjoys international commendation and is currently being processed as regional anti-corruption academy in West Africa. So far, no fewer than 14000 participants have undergone different trainings in the Academy.

On the Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Initiative, the anti-corruption Czar revealed that in 2020, the scope of the initiative has been expanded to include “executive projects with special attention to Agriculture, Water Resources, Power, Education and Health.”

According to him, “The second phase of tracking covered 722 (490 ZIP and 232 Executive) projects spread across 16 states. Due to Covid-19 and acute shortage of manpower, we used a threshold of N100m for project selection.”

The Chairman disclosed that the effort had so far has compelled 59 contractors handling projects worth N2.25bn back to site, while assets worth about N700m and cash of almost N200m had been recovered and returned to beneficiaries.

Speaking on System Study and Review, Professor Owasanoye explained that the application of the Commission’s preventive mandate was divided into four areas namely: “review of transactions on Open Treasury Portal; review of personnel and capital budget utilization of MDAs; collaboration with Auditor-General of the Federation to review the activities of revenue generating MDAs and administration of the Ethics and Integrity Scorecard on MDAs as indication of corruption risk.”

On the Open Treasury Portal, he stated that between January to August 15th 2020, a total of 268 MDAs were reviewed. A cumulative of 72 observed suspected infractions of N90m and above were selected as Phase 1. He added that the Commission focused on payments of N5m and above to individual accounts from the above date.

According to the ICPC boss “33 MDAs tendered explanations, out of which N4.1bn transferred to sub-TSA and N4.2bn paid to individuals was not satisfactorily explained. Investigations are still ongoing on these. We observed that transfers to sub-TSA was to prevent disbursement from being monitored. Nevertheless we discovered payments to some federal (Government) colleges for school feeding in the sum of N2.6bn during lockdown when the children are not in school, and some of the money ended up in personal accounts. We have commenced investigations into these findings.”

Furthermore, the Chairman pointed out that progress in collaboration with Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation with respect to Revenue Generating Agencies had been slowed down due to COVID-19 induced lockdown.

On Review of Personnel and Capital Budget Utilization of MDAs, the Commission’sChairman said that just like in 2019, the focus was still on health and education sectors.

On the health sector, he revealed that 52 institutions were reviewed and a surplus of N4.6bn on personnel cost was found and that recommendation had already been made to restrain the money from abuse, adding that personnel cost of the Usman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital, amounting to N227m was diverted by an individual.

On the education sector, the ICPC boss stated that 78 education sector MDAs were reviewed and common cases of misuse of fund found out included: payment of bulk sums to individuals/staff accounts, including project funds, non-deduction/remittance of taxes and IGR, payment of unapproved allowances and bulk payments to microfinance banks amongst others.

Speaking further on the Ethics and Integrity Compliance Scorecard of MDAs, Professor Owasanoye explained that the integrity scorecard was a tool designed to discover institutional weaknesses that promote corruption in public institutions.

“In summary, none of the MDAs attained full compliance while 27 MDAs attained substantial compliance. 126 MDAs are classified as non-responsive and high corruption risks for not responding to the Ethics and Integrity Compliance Scorecard or submitting outside deadline. It is also instructive to note that 88 MDAs have in the past three years violated the PPA and 53 featured in FIRS tax defaulters list in the same period’” he summed up.

The Chairman who also harped on Asset Recovery, and how the Commission has in the process of its various enforcement and investigative measures recovered various forms of assets. According to him, “earlier this year the Commission based on intelligence seized over N16bn from the federal Ministry of Agriculture because the money was moved under suspicious circumstances.

“Other assets recovered include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land. We have restrained or recovered by administrative or court interim and final orders assets above N3bn, facilitated recovery of $173,000 by the Whistleblower unit of FMFB&P from an erring oil company, restrained £160,000 in a UK bank in an on-going interim forfeiture. These figures exclude quantum of recoveries on return of contractors to site as a result of project tracking initiatives,” he disclosed.

With the government’s migration from manual to e-payment system, ICPC has made input to the introduction and design of BVN, GIFMIS and IPPIS.

The ICPC Chairman also highlighted some of the public education platforms and advocacy initiatives that the Commission had deployed to enlist and foster support for the fight against corruption.

One of such initiatives according to the Chairman is the “My Constituency, My Project,”campaign to sensitize and enlist community ownership of constituency and executive projectslocated in their communities.

He also added that the launch of N20m from ICPC at 20” project which included music and essay competitions was to boost youth involvement and provoke their creativity and support for the fight against corruption.

The Summit thereafter dovetailed into a panel discussion using online platform, Cisco WEBEX focusing on the role of the private sector; citizens and non-state actors; and the media in the fight against corruption.