In addition to institutions such as an International Anti- Corruption Court as a further step towards increasing transparency, strengthening enforcement and securing restitution, the tools of visa revocations, personalised financial sanctions and more harmonised extradition mechanisms could actually be cheaper and more effective in tackling corruption than prosecutions – which are always tortuous. However, for these measures to enjoy legitimacy around the world, they must be applied, and be seen to apply, with equal force across the different regions of both the developed and developing world.
The Nigeria Police, like the police everywhere, are primarily tasked with maintaining law and order. Its involvement with corruption cases and financial crimes is peripheral except in cases like theft. But the potential for compromised anti- corruption operatives remains a problem across our public sector. And the police are no exception. Indeed, Transparency International, citing the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, stated that 92% of respondents in Nigeria felt that the police were corrupt. We are aware of this general perception of the Nigeria Police and we shall take steps for its reform.
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Two anti-corruption institutions are key to Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts. These are the EFCC and the ICPC. We are aware that both are presently not working at maximum potential owing to a myriad of challenges, which include overlaps in mandate, gaps in operational legislation and funding, a human capital deficiency, leadership inadequacy and internal corruption.
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Second, a strong culture of ethnicity and nepotism encourages corruption because it influences the irrational allocation of resources and the protection of culprits.
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I will conclude by reiterating that the immediate and long- term benefits of curbing corruption in Nigeria are pretty obvious to us. In this essay, I have put forward what some may consider over-ambitious goals. I believe in the adage that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. I have the will to take this first step. And with sustained effort, we shall reach our target of freeing-up sufficient funds to accelerate the development of critical infrastructure such as railways, roads and power; invest in health and education consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; pursue our social programmes such as skills acquisition and poverty alleviation; and create an enabling environment for the diversification of our economy, with investments in agriculture, solid minerals, petrochemicals and allied industries.
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Despite anti-corruption agencies and laws introduced in recent years, there was a complete lack of political will to strengthen these agencies and to faithfully enforce the laws. As one commentator observed, across the entire spectrum of government, rules and regulations were ignored with impunity. Procurements were made with a total disregard for due process, inflated by billions of dollars and poorly executed, and payments were made for jobs not even done. No wonder then that Nigeria consistently scored below the African average in virtually all the categories considered by various transparency and good governance agencies: safety and the rule of law, ease of doing business, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunities and human development (Transparency International 2016).
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But if the problem to solve in a country like Afghanistan is a lack of accountability, the actions needed to change it must overcome the fact that the government institutions, which are expected to carry out the reforms, are themselves highly fragmented. Reforms from outside the system can make some progress, but fragmentation means that these reforms will always be partial and temporary. In fragmented systems, only strong, national political leadership can tackle corruption at its roots. This is because only the top political leadership can look across the different arenas and ministries where corruption happens, in order to provide an effective agenda for reform. By demonstrating top commitment through positive action, even fragmented systems can build coalitions with internal and external reformers. But somebody must open the door.