The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) joined other anti-corruption agencies to mark the 2023 African Union (AU) Anti-Corruption Day on Tuesday.
The African Union Anti-Corruption Day is commemorated annually on the 11th of July as designated by African Union via the adoption of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) in recognition of the vast progress in the war against corruption on the African continent and the need to reflect on the approaches to end the vice.
The theme for this year’s commemoration “African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) 20 Years After: Achievements and Prospects” focuses on strategies, mechanisms and initiatives put in place to curb corruption to the barest minimum.
Delivering a goodwill message, the ICPC Chairman Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, OFR, represented by Mr. Kayode Adedayo, Director, Proceeds of Crime Department, ICPC, observed that the AUCPCC has, to a very good extent, improved the awareness of member states on the need to put corruption on the front burner of development agenda, but the question of the extent to which AUCPCC has impacted anti-corruption in Africa generally, and in Nigeria in particular needs to be addressed.
He stated that Nigeria is globally recognized as a leader in robust anti-corruption legislation and institutions and the ICPC despite, being the first dedicated anti-corruption institution in Nigeria created before the Convention, has aligned with the provisions of UNCAC and the AUCPCC in both its functions and the three-pronged mandate of enforcement; prevention; and public education and enlightenment.
“However, challenges remain. There is a need to initiate and sustain international cooperation that aligns with the concept of the Convention. Also, member states are yet to establish and capacitate anti-corruption institutions to bring them at par with the commitments that member states made upon accession to the Convention”, he added.
Earlier in her opening remarks, Mrs. Jane Onwumere, Head of the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-corruption Reforms (TUGAR), and the head of the Secretariat of the Inter-Agency Task Team of Anti-Corruption Agencies, explained that this year 2023 marked two decades of the implementation of the AUCPCC and that Nigeria has since shown progressive commitment to the fight against corruption by making sure that the treaty obligations were fulfilled.
“You may recall that in recognition of the progress made by Nigeria and her position in blazing the trail in preventing and combating corruption on the continent, former President Mohammadu Buhari was named the African Union Anti-Corruption Champion”, she added.
According to her, this year’s event comes at an auspicious time as the nation was undergoing the review of implementation of the AUCPCC after having gone through two cycles of review of the nation’s implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
Onwumere also stressed the importance of recommitment to collective action in preventing and addressing corruption from its roots as initiatives put in place and challenges are reflected on.
In his address, the Country Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Dr. Oliver Stolpe described this year’s event as a very important one as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the AUCPCC same year as we are commemorating the 20 years anniversary of the UNCAC.
Given the fact that both instruments were born the same time, African led the way because many of the provisions in the UNCAC were inspired by the AUCPCC, which was negotiated slightly before the UN Convention, so the African continent and Nigeria in particular led many reforms we benefit from today as a global community in terms of the anti-corruption strategies that was established, he noted.
In his keynote address, the National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu represented by Brigadier General Adamu Laka, expressed his gratitude to the anti-corruption agencies, Civil Society Organisations and their partners in the fight against corruption for demonstrating their support to Nigeria and Africa in the efforts to rid the continent of corruption.
In his words, “the war against graft is a work in progress as corruption is not only a serious challenge, but also remains poised to fight back relentlessly. All hands must remain on deck to sustain the campaign with vigour until the menace is subdued for the betterment of our society and continent”.
He therefore urged all participants at the event to enrich the dialogue with their insights and perspectives that will inform new strategies in the efforts to tackle corruption and its impact on the continent.
The Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Beatrice Jedy-Agba in her message remarked that the AU Anti-Corruption Day was set aside to raise awareness on the negative impact of corruption on African Continent, stating that corruption has continued to hinder the achievements of the sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to her, this year’s Anti-Corruption Day is coming at a time Nigeria is about to embark on the adoption and implementation of the second phase of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS).
The event also featured two paper presentations on “Nigeria’s Implementation of the AUCPCC: Achievements and Prospects” by Lilian Ekeanyanwu and “Recovery and Return of Proceeds of Crime for Sustainable Development: the CAPAR and its mechanism” by Dr. Esa Onoja.