The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN has declared that the fight against corruption should not be limited to the Federal Government and its agencies alone.
Fagbemi posited that the States should be involved in the fight against corruption.
The AGF stated this on Tuesday during a one-day Hybrid Sensitization Workshop on Revised Guidelines on Negotiation and Drafting of Contracts and Agreements by Government Parties to Prevent Corruption and Illicit Financial Flows and Ensure Sustainable Development organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
He said, “I want to mention that the issue of corruption and the tendency to limit the fight to Federal Government alone is wrong. Contracts are not awarded at the Federal level alone; States are also involved. There should be a way of bringing some of these states on board.”
Speaking on the revised guidelines initiated by the Commission, Fagbemi said the document was needed, as some of the corrupt practices being fought in the country were perpetrated at the state level but the international laws rarely recognise them (the states).
“The document that we are presenting to the public today will not only be useful to the Federal Government, it will also be useful to the State Governments. If you look at it, in international law, the states are not known. It is the Federal Government that will stand for the States. Some of these atrocities are also perpetrated at the states level and the Federal Government is called to come and account for it.
“My advice is that there should be another way of bringing the states on board to appreciate the need for your efforts.”
The Justice Minister expressed the support of the Federal Government to the initiatives of ICPC and other government agencies aimed at engendering transparency, efficiency and prevention of corruption.
“The concept of the revised guidelines will hopefully deter corruption in negotiation and execution of government contracts, which is part of the Federal Government’s ministerial deliverables on improved guidelines for effective service delivery.
“The Federal Ministry of Justice is therefore committed to supporting initiatives undertaken by MDAs, which is aimed at engendering transparency, efficiency and preventing corruption. Equally, at the ministerial level, the ministry has developed policy documents and specific mechanisms to ensure transparency and reduce incidents of bad judgment arising from poor drafting of Federal Government contracts with mala fide intention against the country and its citizens, particularly as it relates to contracts within the thresholds of the Federal Executive Council,” he stated.
In his welcome address, the Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, OFR, noted that the lack of provisions for periodic review of long-term contracts, grant of licenses and waivers were among some of the ways contracts are used to fleece the nation through capital flight and other forms of Illicit Financial Flows.
He stated further that the choice of laws and the seat of arbitration have often worked to the disadvantage of the nation hence the need for the guidelines.
On his part, the Chairman, Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, Mr. Taiwo Oyedele in a paper titled: “Avoiding Tax Defaults and Capital Flights in Commercial Agreements” suggested the way forward to addressing some of the issues encouraging capital flights in commercial agreements.
He recommended the standardization of approach using templates and approved checklists constantly reviewed and updated.
He proffered other solutions to include: “The involvement of specialists and subject matter experts, tax impact assessment and simulation, caps and sunset clauses, check local requirements and compliance with counterparty’s jurisdiction, use of clauses in agreements to safeguard national interest, inclusion of local content in projects execution to limit capital flights amongst others”.
The workshop featured a panel of discussion on issues around negotiating agreements in the oil and gas, solid minerals, trade and investment and environment standards contracts.