The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha has applauded the unrelenting efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under the leadership of its Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu in the country’s anti-corruption fight and in the repatriation of the country’s stolen assets, stashed away in overseas safe havens. Also commending the efforts of the Commission were the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mele Kyari and Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, President, Women Arise for Change Initiative.
Mustapha and others gave the Commission the praise at the third African Anti-corruption Day event, organized nationwide and in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja by the EFCC on Thursday July 11, 2019, which centered on asset recovery with the theme: “Towards a Common African Position on Asset Recovery.”
The SGF who spoke at the Abuja event specifically thanked the country’s anti-corruption agencies, led by the EFCC for their efforts at asset recovery. “Let me use this opportunity to thank our anti-corruption agencies, led by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for their unrelenting efforts to trace, and recover our stolen assets where they are located abroad, and repatriate them to their rightful owners,” the SGF said. He urged Nigerians to report all acts of corruption around them to the appropriate authorities.
On his part, Kyari disclosed that the NNPC under him has resolved more than ever before to support and partner the EFCC in its anti-corruption fight, noting that it is the best interest of the corporation to be transparent.
Speaking at the Lagos event, Okei-Odumakin, who is also Chairman, Steering Committee, Movement Against Corruption, MAC charged Nigerians to support the EFCC to win the fight against corruption, noting that “Africa, our great continent, is bleeding under the heavy weight of corruption.”
According to her, “If Africa does not kill corruption, corruption will kill us. More than $50bn of our resources is being stashed away through illicit flows. The poorest people we can find in this world are from Africa. Instead of us putting the feet of our youth on the pedestal of prosperity, they are being put on the pedestal of corruption.
“Hunger, war and terrorism are as a result of corruption. But we must all ensure that we keep our children alive. We can no longer continue to agonize, but we must organise. We can’t fold our arms, while our country is bled dry.”
Okei-Odumakin further urged Nigerians to embrace the anti-corruption war, saying, “The EFCC alone cannot fight the war against corruption; the government alone cannot do that either.”
In his welcome address at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Conference Centre, venue of the Abuja event, Magu called on all Nigerians to spare no efforts in helping the EFCC recover and repatriate the country’s stolen assets, noting that the theme of this year’s African Anti-corruption Day was “particularly necessary to take the anti-corruption war to a higher dimension.”
According to Magu, “One of the outcomes of corruption, which is the flourishing illicit financial flows from the continent, is a major developmental albatross negatively impacting the achievement of the continent's Sustainable Development Goals.” Corruption, he said, “affects the security of a nation as we have experienced in Nigeria in recent times,” and distorts the stability and national economic planning process.
Speaking on the challenges posed by asset recovery and repatriation, Magu stated that “organized criminal groups have developed intricate channels of illicit financial flows that deprive African economies of crucial resources for development. Such resources end up in safe havens across the globe. We often have challenges in the recovery of the assets stashed away in some of these countries. Africa needs all her assets back.”
He noted that collaboration and unity of purpose among nations, individuals and agencies were crucial in asset recovery and repatriation.
“While unity among nations in the African Continent is critical in demanding the recovery and return of stolen assets, we also need accountability and transparency in the utilization of returned Assets. However, we have long come to the realisation that one person, continent, agency or country alone cannot fight corruption and win. Today more than ever before, we need more collaboration.
“When government agencies, different bodies, continents and countries partner and synergise on collaborative ventures like this, the benefits are enormous,” Magu stated.
Like in the previous years, this year’s Africa Anti-corruption Day began in all the 14 offices of the EFCC across the nation with a public education and sensitization road walk, which took off as early as 7am, featuring sister agencies such as, Nigeria Air Force, Nigeria Police Force, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, (NDIC), Nigeria Custom Service, (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service, (NIS), Nigeria Copyright Commission, (NCC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, (NSCDC), Department of State Service, (DSS), National Human Right Commission, (NHRC) and federal and state Fire Service and members of National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC), members of organized labour, journalists, National Emergency Management Agency, (NEMA) and ended with roundtables on assets recovery and repatriation.
In Abuja, the road walk took off from the Wuse 2 Zonal Office of Commission and terminated in Musa Yar’Adua Conference Centre, Abuja Central Area, where a roundtable was held that featured Dr. Tayo Oke of Afe Babalola University as guest speaker, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Chairman and Boss Mustapha, special guest of honour.
In Enugu, Magu charged Nigerians to expose their corrupt leaders and hold them accountable for their stewardship.
Magu, who was represented by the Zonal Head, South-east Zonal office of the EFCC, Usman Imam said, “Unless and until Nigerians are determined to expose and hold public officials accountable for their stewardship and also not appreciate the fight against corruption from ethnic, political and religious perspectives, the war might never be won even if battles are won.”
He reminded South-east stakeholders that a High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows (IFF), that the African Continent was losing in excess of $50 billion annually through illicit financial outflows, noting that “The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has particularly made the fight against corruption in Nigeria and the recovery of stolen assets a key agenda for the administration.” This, he said has translated to significant recoveries of looted assets that were acquired through mismanagement of public funds. “Over the past four years, the Nigerian government has advocated for the return of its stolen assets from foreign jurisdictions”, he added.
In Gombe, Magu was represented by the Zonal Head, Michael Wetkas, who led officers of the Commission in a media briefing on the day’s event.
Wetkas revealed at the briefing that the Gombe Zonal Office of the Commission within the first half of this year, secured 55 convictions in economic and financial crimes, while N90million was recovered within the period and two properties finally forfeited to the federal government and nine interim forfeiture orders on properties granted by the different courts.
“Africans in general and Nigerians in particular must take ownership of the anti-corruption fight. When you see something report it to the Commission, we are always ready to do our job whenever you gave us any information,” he stated.
Those who attended the Gombe event included Malam Umaru Gurama, an activist, Dr. Abubakar Abdullahi Kumo and Dr. Anas Kubalu both from Federal University Kashere, leaders of civil society organizations and Alhaji Ibrahim Yusuf.
Like in several of the states, Magu in Lagos urged Nigerians to join hands with the Commission in the recovery of stolen funds.
The EFCC boss, who spoke through the Zonal Head, EFCC, Lagos Zone, Muhammed Rabo, said, “The need to strengthen international cooperation amongst the anti-corruption agencies in Africa for purposes of developing an African common position framework on asset recovery and return cannot be over-emphasized,” observing that the resources that should have been deployed to deliver good life to the majority of the people have been cornered by a privileged few.
He said: “The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has particularly made the fight against corruption in Nigeria and the recovery of stolen assets a key agenda for the administration.
Magu, who stated that the EFCC alone cannot win the war against corruption, reiterated that the Commission would continue to use the instrumentality of the law to wrest the nation’s commonwealth from the grasp of looters.
“It is against this background that today’s convergence of all relevant anti-corruption stakeholders to reflect on the challenges of asset recovery in Africa and solicit contributions and support towards developing a framework for an African common position on asset recovery is very important,” Magu said.
Represented by Garba Dugum, Head, Uyo Zonal Office, Magu disclosed that the high level of corruption in Africa, informed the choice of July 11 every year as the African Anti-Corruption Day, by the African Union.
“More than $50billion is being stolen from African continent annually. Most of these monies go on acquiring assets all over the world and we should know that tracing these assets and eventual repatriation of these assets is very difficult for a country. That is why the African nations decided to come together to fight for a cause”, Magu said.
In Uyo, he called on Nigerians to always do the right thing, stressing that for the country to progress, the citizens must do things right.
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, the Zonal Head of the EFCC, Mr. Isyaku Sharu, who spoke on behalf of Magu urged Nigerians to partner with the anti-graft body in its efforts to recover the country’s stolen assets.
"As we all gather here today, I am appealing to all the stakeholders to join hands with the Commission to ensure that we recover our common patrimony, carted away by the looters. You can do this with through the whistle-blowing policy of the federal government," Magu said.
In Kaduna State, Magu who was represented by the Zonal Head, Mailafia Yakubu disclosed that heads of African anti-corruption agencies had persistently sought the support and collaboration of the global community in repatriating the over $50billion stolen assets back to African countries.
In Benue State, Magu was represented by the Makurdi Zonal Head of Operations, EFCC, Johnson Ayo Babalola, he urged all Nigerians to join hands with the EFCC to fight against corruption, economic crimes and to recover Nigerian’s stolen wealth.
He pointed out that the anti-corruption road walk was to sensitize Nigerians on the fact that everyone has a role to play in the anti-corruption crusade. "What we are doing is to sensitize the people of Nigeria and people of Benue State in particular that everybody has to key into the anti-corruption crusade. That the EFCC cannot do it alone, and that it depends on people of Nigeria to support the EFCC to make sure that our efforts are complemented,” noting that Nigerians need to pass the message across to all that corruption does not pay and that the citizens have a right to expose the corrupt.
In Edo State, the Benin Zonal Head of the EFCC, Muhtar Bello, represented the Acting Chairman of the Commission, Magu, who commended anti-corruption stakeholders in the state for identifying with the EFCC in its noble and patriotic duties, assuring that the Commission will “continue to work assiduously to ensure that monies stolen from Nigeria are returned to the country."
According to Bello, the Benin Zonal Office within the first half of this year has secured 51 convictions, recovered N45,619,706.71 (Forty five million, Six Hundred And Nineteen Thousand, Seven Hundred And Six Naira, Seventy One Kobo) with properties worth millions of Naira forfeited to the federal government of Nigeria.
In Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, Magu described corruption as the biggest threat to businesses and the Nigerian economy. The EFCC Acting Chairman who was represented by Port Harcourt Zonal Head of the Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa at this year’s African Anti-corruption Day, noted that fraudulent practices compromise global best practices in business and that when such conducts persist, well- meaning and honest businesses are affected.
“When the business environment is compromised by fraudulent elements in our midst, even people plying their trades in honest ways would be affected. Genuine investors would be wary of putting their money in the economy because corruption increases the risk of doing business. This is why we are saying that we should shun corruption in all its manifestations," Magu said.
Magu applauded the increasing successes of the EFCC in recoveries and convictions, saying that more than N800 billion have been recovered by the Commission in the last four years, while about 590 convictions have been secured already in 2019.
In Kano State, Magu identified asset recovery as one of the most complex aspects of the anti-corruption fight. The EFCC boss who spoke through EFCC’s Head of Operations, Kano Akananiyene Ezima, however noted that Nigeria’s stolen assets must be recovered, irrespective of how tedious the recovery process is.
While commending the existing collaboration between EFCC and other agencies, Magu said “The time is now for Nigerians of all ramifications to stand up and fight this cankerworm to a standstill,” observing that sending perpetrators of corruption to jail was not enough punishment; as the EFCC will make sure that assets stolen by the corrupt are recovered and forfeited to government so as to deny them subsequent enjoyment of the fruit of their heinous activities.
While addressing anti-corruption stakeholders in Sokoto, the Sokoto State capital, during the anti-corruption road walk, Magu, who was represented by the Sokoto Zonal Head of the Commission, Abdullah Lawal explained that the road walk was organized by the Commission to mark this year’s African Anti-Corruption Day 2019, to create public awareness on corruption.
“Corruption is the reason our roads are bad, why our hospitals are not functioning, why our educational system is disjointed, why electricity is epileptic and why our social and basic amenities are comatose, It’s also the root cause of unemployment among the youth, why there are increasing cases of kidnapping, armed banditry and other social vices. We congratulate you for standing up to be counted among patriotic Nigerians who wish this nation well and want the nation to move forward,” Magu said.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, the Zonal Head, Friday Ebelo led the staff through the ancient city in the company of anti-corruption stakeholders in the state to mark this year’s event, driving home the message of assets recovery and repatriation.
The African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption was adopted in Maputo, Mozambique on 11 July 2003 and came into force in 2006. In recognition of the significant progress that has been made and cognizant of the need to continually reflect on approaches to end corruption, the African Union designated 11 July as the African Anti-Corruption Day.