Empowering NACS in corruption fight for improved international rating

Malami

As the disturbing news of the low corruption rating of Nigeria by Transparency International (TI) released in its 2019 report on the corruption and related issues in Nigeria, continues to reverberate, many interventions from persons and groups suggest that the Federal Government should do more work henceforth to mitigate such report. However some Nigerians are of the view that corruption has increased more than what it was about 10 years ago.

Most disturbing is that despite all the works of anti-graft institutions and mechanisms put in place to curb it, TI still assessed and placed Nigeria 146th out of 180, with abysmal low score of 26 out of 100 per cent, making the country the second most corrupt country in the West African sub-region. The assessment has put the Federal Government on a back foot to redeem its image.

Before he ascended to power, President Muhammadu Buhari not only vowed to deal with the hydra-headed monster when he gets elected in 2015, he began to make vigorous commitment to ensure the fight against corruption came to the fore. 

In line with international conventions, under his administration, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) was created via the resolution of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in July 5, 2017, as one of the international commitments to ensuring transparency, accountability, and entrenchment of service delivery in public institutions. In the first instance, the strategy was structured to run from 2017 – 2021.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice was subsequently directed to put necessary structures of NACS in place, including an Action Plan, which led to the production of five pillars and three levels of implementation. In order to carry on its affairs smoothly, training and capacity building activities were incorporated to drive home the project. This led to agreement with development partners, with funding activities being coordinated by the office of the AGF.

The journey to put NACS into place started in 2003, when all member states came together to sign the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which came to force in 2005, to tackle hitherto growing corruption. There had been the ECOWAS Protocol on the same mission put in place in 2001 and later, African Union Convention on Prevention and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC). In spite of the above frantic efforts, strategies put in place to combat the undesirable phenomenon always hit the brickwall. 

In 2009, the Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) at a retreat signed a statement of commitment to develop a national strategy to combat corruption. It led to a draft of a national corruption policy and reviewed by the Presidential Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Justice. The outcome is what Nigeria has today – NACS, with the technical unit headed by a highly placed Federal Government official in the office of the AGF, Hajia Ladidi Bara ‘atu Mohammed.

No doubt, there exists anti-graft agencies, but they focus on when corruption has already taken place. But NACS, by its structure, should play preventive corruption roles. It means that international agencies like TI would have seen corruption reduced in the country to its barest minimum if the tenets of NACS are effective and its organs empowered to operate maximally.

NACS, which is domiciled in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, with its Technical Unit head and secretariat on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR), headed by Lilian Ekeabyanwu, has its technical objectives/pillar/mandate essentially preventive, public enlightenment, ethical re-orientation, enforcement and sanctions, and recovery and management of proceeds of crime as its embedded Action Plan.

Implementation of all these are in three levels – strengthening the legal and institutional framework designed to prevent and combat corruption, mainstreaming anti-corruption principles into governance and service delivery, and mainstreaming anti-corruption principles into sub-national public administration.

There exists its Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, chaired by Mr. Andrew Gandu and co-chaired by Leo Atapku. It’s charged with the responsibility of monitoring and evaluating the service delivery activities of all Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), numbering over 800 through visits and obtaining the data and facts on their performance and service delivery efforts on a quarterly basis, which would culminate in the reports submitted to the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), made up of six ministers and chaired by the AGF. The IMC is required to submit same to the Federal Executive Council for perusal and necessary action.

Surprisingly, since the NACS’ Measurement and Evaluation Committee drawn from various sectors was inaugurated by the AGF, Abubakar Malami in 2018, it has only been involved in capacity building activities. No visitation to the MDAs has commenced largely due to non-release of funds to undertake such task. The European Union (EU) has also committed in the area of funding with the administrative/management support from the British Council through the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC), with the following officials: Programme Director, Danladi Plang, Anti-Corruption Component Manager Mr. Emma Uche, RoLAC’s Consultant, Dr. Ada Chidi-Igbokwe, and Programme Officer, Pwanakei Dala, among others involved in the capacity building activities.

A window of opportunity is on the way, as the NACS’s committee will begin visits to pilot MDAs in February to assess their service delivery activities. Before then, a meeting between the heads of the MDAs, the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Monitoring Units (ACTUs) and the committee members held in Abuja from 30th through 31st January to fine-tune and sensitize them and gain understanding of the monitoring and evaluation mission being held.

A recent meeting summoned by Malami had some heads of MDAs, including a representative of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Mary Odili, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, represented by the Senate Committee Chairman on Anti-Corruption, RoLAC’s officials among others. Malami used the opportunity to inform the heads of MDAs on the seriousness the Federal Government attaches to the NACS, and urged them to co-operate with the Measurement and Evaluation members as they undertake their visits to their ministries and agencies.

He reminded them that government was determined to use the NACS to fight corruption, adding that it would take reports from the committee serious.

With the progress made by the NACS’ Measurement and Evaluation, and with the visible commitment of the development partners and the officials of FMoJ, there is the likelihood that there would be light at the end of the tunnel, as the committee is committed to producing a report before the first quarter of this year.

President Buhari, in commenting on the NACS, said: “It is my hope that our development partners will support Nigeria in the implementation of this strategy and in enhancing the capacity of our law enforcement officers, and security officials.”

While speaking on the NACS, Malami said: “The National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) seeks to identify and close existing gaps in the anti-corruption initiatives currently in place. The approval of NACS is therefore a significant milestone for the Nigerian government in its effort to tackle the multi-faceted problem of corruption at different levels of governance.”

Though government faulted TI’s report, some persons have advised government to do better by leveraging on the NACS to reduce corruption in the country. According to such persons, it would also reduce corruption in the country.

In the opinion of RoLAC’s consultant, Dr. Chidi-Igbokwe, NACS would redeem the image of the country from disrepute, also describing the membership of the Monitoring and Evaluation on the implementation of the NACS as seasoned, dedicated and competent, having undergone the required capacity building since 2018 when Malami appointed them. According to her, their kick-off on pilot monitoring and evaluation of the about 20 pilot MDAs in Abuja and Kaduna would signpost the required deliverables from the template designed for the record/performances of the MDAs.

In her words: “From all the indications, it is not doubtful that the M and E members would not disappoint this nation. It is most likely that the maiden reports from them would ensure service delivery and take care of the corruption fight in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The committee members have been divided to various pilot MDAs to be visited from February 17 through 21st, and they are to use their tools, such as the Action Plan, NACS booklet and template and send their reports to the AGF, who doubles as the chairman of the Inter-ministerial Committee (IMC) of the NACS. The IMC is expected to forward the report to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for necessary action.”

In her opinion, NACS’s head, Mohammed, said government has taken steps to regulate the activities of various groups who are using the names of their organisations in the fight against corruption. She, however, regretted that some were allegedly covering up to finance terrorism and warned such people, urging the ACTUs officials to cooperate with the M and E officials. She used the opportunity to appeal to all the anti-graft agencies to work in synergy to achieve common goals.

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