ABUJA— Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, yesterday, accused the executive arm of government of paying lip service to the fight against corruption even as the African Development Bank (AfDB), says an estimated US2.6 trillion dollars gets stolen annually through high level corrupt practices in Africa.
Tambuwal, who was the guest speaker at the 2013 International Anti-Corruption Day, organized by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Abuja yesterday, also alleged that the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was very corrupt, saying the anti-graft body never accounted for huge sums of money it received from donor agencies.
He said: “Let us start with the anti-corruption agencies themselves. I am happy that EFCC is here because they are also corrupt. Let us start by asking them what happens to grants they receive from donor agencies which are neither budgeted nor accounted for; that is corruption.
“This is why we have asked the House Committee on EFCC to look into some of these issues and report back to the House.
“EFCC said it has started implementing the report on probe of the fuel subsidy regime. Let me say it here today that what EFCC said it is implementing is not the House report which exposed the enormous fraud in the system, but the one by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. We have done our job, go and do yours.
Pension scam, Aviation, SEC
“What has happened to all the exposed corruption cases? The pension scam, recent and obvious fraud in the Aviation sector, that of the Security & Exchange Commission, SEC, where trillions of Naira from private investors were suspected to have been mismanaged. When we commenced investigations into the matter, what became of paramount importance to the EFCC was allegation that one of our members collected money as estacode to travel but failed to do so.
“Our members were immediately rushed to court for prosecution; meanwhile, the top government officer that was found culpable in the main fraud for which the National Assembly called for public hearing, nothing has happened to her till date.
“I have not heard or read anywhere that she was invited by the EFCC or that any member of SEC was even invited. We at the National Assembly, for the sake of probity and accountability, agreed that budgetary allocations to the Commission should be suspended, only for us to hear that the Executive found a leeway of funding the agency. We are currently investigating that.
“Coming to what happened in the Aviation industry recently, do we need an angel to report to EFCC that something happened there? No, we don’t! We all belong to this country so people should stop taking us for granted,” he added.
FEC vs BPP
Aside calling on the Presidency to eschew the habit of constituting committees to probe manifest acts of corruption involving highly placed public officers, the Speaker noted that the Federal Executive Council, FEC, “which is not even known to the law, should not be used as a forum for approving and clearing contracts.”
He said: “When I raised this issue earlier, some people started attacking my personality, accusing me of confronting the office of the President. However, I still maintain that the provision of the law which requires the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, to set up a council should be respected. The process of award or review of contracts should not be a one-man affair.
“On our part, we have the desire to support the anti-corruption agencies in terms of funding, but then, our friends from the other side of government always feel that immediately they bring their budget we should quickly rubber-stamp it for them to go. Yet they do not implement the budget even when it is passed. They have not even met up to 40/59% implementation till this December.
“Fight against corruption should be personalized by every Nigerian. All of us, individually and collectively have a role to play. It is my opinion that it is indeed needless for the executive to constitute probe committees to look into allegations of corruption, especially in the public sector.
“Those accused of corruption should be handed over to the EFCC for investigation and prosecution, instead of setting up probe committees. Though the EFCC, also has its own lapses, I trust very few of them there in the EFCC.
“Let the executive find a way of referring these corruption matters from the presidency to the EFCC, I believe they will do a better job. But if the body language is not right from the beginning, your guess is as good as mine.”
Reacting to questions on why some members of the House of Representatives accused of complicity in sundry acts of corruption are still attending plenary sessions and making laws for Nigerians, the Speaker said he has no constitutional power to bar any of them but could only prohibit them from heading sensitive positions.
“Farouk Lawan was suspended as chairman of the Committee on Subsidy Fraud and also as Chairman of our Education Committee. We removed him because of the allegations of corruption against him. In fact, we convened the meeting that led to his suspension on a Friday.
“He can only cease to be a member of the House if convicted by a competent court or recalled by his constituency. But if there is anything else that can be done, of course we will be willing to learn from this gathering,” he added.
In the speech, Tambuwal maintained that, “for us in Nigeria, the reality that no greater challenge than corruption confronts us as a people is not in controversy. Indeed, if the roots of the overwhelming majority of our woes were traced, they are sure to terminate at the doorsteps of corruption. This is a commonplace fact known to all Nigerians and requiring no corroboration.
“Yet for the avoidance of doubt, it is important to state that in its 2012 Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by the global corruption watchdog, Transparency International ranks Nigeria as the 36th most corrupt country globally! Nigeria placed 139th of the 176 countries assessed, scoring 27% in contrast with the least corrupt countries; Denmark, Finland and New Zealand which scored 90%.
Legions of corrupt cases
“A list of manifestation of corruption especially in the public sector of Nigeria is legion ranging from direct diversion of public funds to private pockets, contract over-pricing, bribery, impunity, nepotism, general financial recklessness, fraudulent borrowing and debt management, public assets stripping, electoral fraud, shielding of corrupt public officers among others.
“It is a well established fact that corruption thrives well in any environment or society where there is community indifference or lack of enforcement policies. Societies with a culture of ritualized gift giving where the line between acceptable and non-acceptable gifts is often hard to draw; societies in which values have been overthrown by materialism, societies in which laws are observed more in the breach.
“It would appear that these environmental preconditions are all prevalent in the Nigerian society and no wonder therefore that corruption has found fertile soil to blossom.
“As noted earlier, corruption is Nigeria’s greatest problem and a cancerous impediment to any development effort planned or envisaged. It follows then that if Nigeria is to witness true development, then corruption must be dealt with decisively and comprehensively. It is a duty requiring will, zeal and passion on the part of the three arms of government and indeed the entire citizenry.
“One other area which has been of great concern is the culture of undue secrecy that surrounded the operation of government. Whereas our Constitution enjoins in its Section 14 (2) (c) that “the participation of the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution” government business tended to be run like secret societies to the exclusion of the citizenry. It was clear that this tended and was indeed intended to aid the concealment of corruption such that even in times of suspicion, members of the public including gentlemen of the fourth realm could not access public information.
“The National Assembly has passed the Freedom of Information Act 2011 to enhance the right of access to public records and information about public institutions. This is one legislation, that attracted massive public interest and it is my expectation that Nigerians will make maximum use of the rights created under this legislation in order to defeat the culture of undue secrecy in the running of government business.
“The House of Representatives and indeed the National Assembly has been carrying out oversight of government agencies and series of investigations or probes over allegations of corruption and corrupt practices. As you are all aware, the legislature has over the years exposed several cases of corruption.
“It is important for me to stress once again at this stage that the mandate of the legislature is to expose corruption. It does not have further mandate to prosecute. That mandate of prosecution lies with the Executive and Judiciary. I have heard public comments to the effect that the public is tired of investigation by the legislature since the people indicted in their findings are never prosecuted and sanctioned.
“Let me reiterate that the legislature will not abdicate its responsibilities on the account of inaction or negligence of another arm of government. If nothing else we will at least continue to name and shame. As noted earlier, the war against corruption is the responsibility of all and I call on the citizens of this great nation to rise in the exercise of their constitutional power to insist on the prosecution and sanctioning of persons indicted by the legislature or by any agency whether public or private concerned in the fight against corruption.
“In the exercise of the mandate of oversight the legislature is able to audit both pre and post expenditure of agencies of government and to give appropriate direction on the administration and disbursement of funds and execution of programs and projects under the Appropriation Act. Indeed the Public Accounts Committee of the House has the specific mandate to review the disbursement and administration of public funds by ministries, departments and agencies.
“As representatives of the people, legislators will continue to be for all Nigerians their eyes to see, ears to hear and mouth to speak out against corruption anywhere and at anytime it rears its ugly head.
“The task may appear daunting but I wish to assure that with will, zeal, passion and determination we shall eventually overcome this hydra-headed dragon. Only let us be single minded that it’s a task that must be done in order to preserve the country for posterity”.
$ 2.6 trillion stolen annually, says AfDB
Meanwhile, the African Development Bank (AfDB), says an estimated 2.6 trillion dollars is stolen annually through high level corrupt practices in Africa.
This is contained in a statement released by the AfDB’s President, Dr Donald Kaberuka, yesterday, as part of activities to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day.
He said that the figure amounted to more than five per cent equivalence of the global GDP.
The statement, made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Addis Ababa, added that another one trillion dollars were being paid in bribes across the world every year.
Kaberuka said that corruption had become a global threat, causing a serious roadblock to economic development and prosperity.
“In our globalised and highly interconnected world, corruption represents one of our greatest challenges; every year $1 trillion are paid in bribes in the world, while an estimated 2.6 trillion dollars are stolen annually through corruption, a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global GDP.
“Corruption erodes democratic institutions and undermines the rule of law and there is no country or territory untouched by this threat.“
According to him, the pervasive corruption is leading to weak governance, which in turn fuels organised criminal networks.
The statement said the theme of the 2013 International corruption day: “Zero Corruption, 100 per cent Development”, had resonated with the Bank’s zero tolerance policy.
“ The AfDB has made governance one of the pillars of its Long Term Strategy 2013- 2022 with a Governance Action Plan set out with series of ambitious objectives at the sector, country and regional levels.
“The bank views good governance and anti-corruption strategies as important to mission of poverty alleviation.“
“The bank is already playing a leading role in implementing an integrity and anti-corruption regime that safeguards development resources and ensures value-for-money in all its operations.“
It called on all stakeholders to reject corruption to assist the millions of African people whose lives are affected by it.