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OPINION: Extraditing High Profile Looters, By Jide Ayobolu

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(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – No fewer than 18 high-profile looters in different parts of the world will be extradited soon, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has said. He told reporters in Ilorin, yesterday that: “The request of President Muhammadu Buhari in London for the extradition of alleged looters is just the beginning of the fight against corruption in Nigeria. We are going to extradite more Nigerians to come and face trial in Nigeria. “We will bring back all the looters who are hiding outside this country. The fight against corruption has just started I am telling you. It will be renewed this year. It is going to be vigorous.”

As far as the anti-corruption crusade is concerned, the PMB government has taken giant steps, with all seriousness to stamp out the menace from the body polity; in the same way, corruption is frantically fighting back, under the guise of rule of law and democratic ethos. But there must be a concerted effort to decisively deal with corruption on all fronts. Corruption is a persistent phenomenon in Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari defined corruption as the greatest form of human right violation. Since the creation of modern public administration in the country, there have been cases of official misuse of funds and resources. The rise of public administration and the discovery of oil and natural gas are two major events seen to have led to an increase in corrupt practices in the country. The government has aimed at containing corruption through the enactment of laws and the enforcement of integrity systems, but success has been slow. As at 2012, Nigeria is estimated to have lost over $400 billion to corruption since independence.

Corruption in Nigeria today is a hydra-headed monster that must be properly killed and buried. In a country like China, before anybody thinks of stealing or misappropriating public funds, they would think twice, because the penalty for graft in China is a death sentence. China has reduced corruption to the barest minimum, and her economic fortunes and dynamics are looking up, this is exactly what Nigeria should emulate at this stage in her history and development. Nigeria can ill-afford to treat the issue of graft with kid gloves; every rent-seeking mentality in the system must be blotted out. All forms of corruption, from economic to political, social, and electoral in both public and private sectors must be fought vigorously to a standstill. Nigeria cannot be an exception to the rule, we cannot continue to celebrate corruption, and neither can corruption continue to be an acceptable way of life to us as a people, the best thing to do is to adhere strictly to international best practice on corruption by having zero tolerance for graft under any guise. And, it should not be accommodated for any reason. Corruption has distorted a lot of things in the polity which must be corrected, at a time; Nigeria was a pariah nation that was ostracized amongst the comity of nations just because of the issue of graft. Therefore, the administration of PMB should be applauded and not vilified for trying to rid the polity of all rancid rot that stinks offensively.

Corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefits. Corruption may include many activities such as bribery and embezzlement, use of powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain, trading in influence; prebendalism etc. even, PMB insists that corruption is the greatest form of human right violation. Corruption is efforts to secure wealth or power through illegal means private gain at public expense; or a misuse of public power for private benefit, corruption also involves all forms of nepotism, favouritism, conferring improper benefits on undeserving people, extortion etc, hence, PMB has a lot to do to really sanitize the polity of all manners of corruption, including but not limited to the public and private sectors.

Corruption wastes skills as precious time is often wasted to set up unending committees to fight corruption. It also leads to aid forgone; some foreign donors do not give aid to corrupt nations. It leads to social revolution, riots and violent take-over of governments. Corruption causes a reduction in the quality of goods and services available to the public, as some companies cut corners to increase profit margins. Corruption affects investment, economic growth and government expenditure choices. Corruption discourages honest effort and valuable economic activities, and it breeds inefficiency and nepotism. Corruption leads to information distortion, as it cooks the books and it also makes public policies ineffective. Corruption upsets ethnic balance and exacerbates problems of national integration in developing countries, corruption is destructive of governmental structures and capacity, corruption can destroy the legitimacy of a government, corruption is inimical to growth and development, as it fosters poverty and suffering on the generality of the people.

There is no doubt whatsoever that PMB has an uphill task in cleansing the Augean stables in the country, and no meaningful development can effectively take place without ridding the polity of graft. Therefore, he should be given all the assistance and support to clean up the mess in the system. And, those that have erred by way of corruption should be ready to face the music squarely. It is so doing that the country can reinvent its lost value systems and moral ethos. It is paramount that PMB should be more determined and unwavering in the anti-corruption war, the war should not be one-sided, it must be all-encompassing, to include members of his own political party, even his own inner circle of friends and associates. This is because fighting corruption in Nigeria is like fighting to regain the very soul of the country that has been stolen by “professional looters and rogues”. Therefore, nothing must be spared to accomplish this Herculean task.

The way the anti-corruption war is going, there would be more startling revelations, that will blow our minds, but the outcome will make the economy better and the people will benefit more and more from recovered the loots. What PMB should now do, is to expand the scope of the anti-corruption war, away from his personal conviction to a national priority. It is for this reason, for instance, that he should carefully examine and reassess the conduct of the ministers as well as all other categories of public officials and deal with anyone found wanting.

The President lamented that, while public sector corruption was the usual focus, the private sector’s complicity was equally significant, such as when large multinational corporations engage in tax evasion or transfer pricing. He added that it was the complex web of public-private collusion and connivance that resulted in proceeds of corruption ending up in foreign countries and especially in their financial institutions and systems. He said: “Dismantling the conspiracies that facilitate export of stolen assets is probably as important as the theme of this conference, “Partnering towards Assets Recovery and Return.” “It underscores the fact that fighting corruption is futile if we do not ensure that the proceeds of corruption find no safe haven. “Recovering stolen assets not only accomplishes the goal of restitution, it also serves as a potential deterrent to future corruption. “We must insist that recovered stolen assets be returned to the country of origin, without any preconditions, in line with Article 51 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, UNCAC. “We must provide adequate resources to investigate, adequately equip operatives, protect their families, and protect whistleblowers and witnesses. “Let me say to you Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa that you have found yourselves in roles that could change the destinies of your nation if you deliver on your mandates. “You simply cannot afford to fail; on our part as the Government of Nigeria, we are irrevocably committed to the fight against corruption.”

Corruption is too well-entrenched and organized in Nigeria to be easily dislodged. To this end, PMB needs both local and international support to stop corruption and consolidate on the gains, the present administration is already making; no doubt, PMB is on the right track and he must be encouraged to do even more by all and sundry.

If the challenge of corruption can be effectively curtailed by PMB, then Nigeria can take a giant step forward, towards genuine development and having a country that we can all be proud of, the NOA has to up its ante and be on top of its game, a situation where an elder has to financially induce a younger person before he/she can carry out an assignment must stop; the war against corruption should not be about PMB and his government alone; the public should own the crusade and speak out against corruption, and our religious leaders should also help out in this regard, but a case whereby religious leaders openly carouse and clandestinely flirt with those in power and seek for all kinds of patronage; as well as benefit from the rent-seeking system, these leaders would not have the moral authority to speak against corruption because they have been beneficiaries of corruption. To this end, we must all support the present administration in its efforts to truly move Nigeria forward and we must identify enemies of progress in our midst that must be dealt with by the law courts. Corruption will not kill Nigeria, at least, not under the watch of PMB.


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