Speech by Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at the Summit On Corruption organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) on Tuesday May 14, 2019 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) certainly deserves our commendation, not just for their sterling, innovative contributions to the fight against corruption but for regularly setting the agenda for important conversations on the subject. This meeting, called to discuss “A collaborative approach to eradicating the evils of Corruption” is notably one of such.
For years, corruption has been by far, Nigeria’s most devastating problem. A recent PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS (PwC) study titled the Impact of Corruption on the Nigerian Economy made the following general findings and conclusions on the effects of corruption.
1. Corruption has a dynamic impact, which is felt more by poorer households and smaller companies.
2. Countries with higher corruption are associated with lower tax revenues and lower expenditures as a percentage of GDP in the most important indicators of human development namely; health and education.
3. Corruption is associated with erosion of talent in public institutions and therefore, government’s effectiveness is eroded.4. Corruption usually needs the creation of unnecessary bureaucracy, to enable further opportunities for bribes. This means that enforcement of contracts and property rights are hindered and weakened by corruption.
5. Corruption is associated with lower investment; and higher prices and barriers to entry for businesses.
6. Corruption is associated with lower average standard of living, education levels and greater inequality in society.
7. Nigeria’s 2030 GDP can be up by at least USD 534bn if we reduce corruption. And they said that if we reduce corruption by about 20%, we can actually have higher GDP. So, it really doesn’t matter how much revenue a country makes or how transformative its plans are. If it allows corruption to thrive; if it ensures that the majority of the people do not benefit from all of the revenues or all that the country is able to produce; or simply truncates the plans of the nation. Which is why despite the highest oil revenues in our history (the period between 2010 and 2014) debt doubled and poverty figures rose.
It is for these reasons that President Muhammadu Buhari famously warned that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us. Which is why a major pillar of our government’s socio-economic agenda is the fight against corruption. And which is why perhaps one of first bodies to be set up in 2015 by the President was PACAC.
And since 2015 much has been done in this battle against corruption. But we are not even slightly deluded into thinking that we have won the battle, certainly not. We are still very far away but we must admit that we are much closer to finding solutions than when we began.
Our policy was to tackle grand corruption first. By this i mean the stealing of huge public resources directly from the treasury, usually at the behest of the highest levels of executive authority. And the stealing of budgeted funds through various schemes.
How did we go about this – the enforcement of TSA, the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, and even ensuring that most civil servants are on the IPPIS electronic platform (which simply is our way of ensuring that there are no ghost workers by putting all public officials including those in the Armed Forces and the police on the electronic payment platform) and this has greatly reduced ghost workers and ensured that all of our human resources are accounted for electronically.
The judiciary also moved a little in recent times. The Supreme Court in a lead judgment of Akaahs JSC, recently held that forfeiture under Section 17 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act is a civil matter. So, it neither requires the criminal conviction of the property owner nor his innocence. This opens the door for forfeiture of assets that the purported owner cannot explain, whether or not there is an allegation of corruption.
We are now poised to deal with the wider problem of systemic corruption, especially where the average person interacts with government. It is that level of corruption that affects our people the most – where the average person is doing some business or is seeking some favour or some discretion from government. Corruption for example in the issuance of contracts, licenses and other government approvals. There is no reason why any Nigerian should have to pay bribes to law enforcement agents for obtaining drivers licenses or passports, or to clear goods at our ports.
All of the relevant government agencies have shown a serious commitment to eradicating these forms of corruption, our next level is to create the environment for collaboration between our agencies, civil society and other stakeholders.
But the most enduring solutions to ending corruption are those that take into account the fact the most potent weapon that corruption has, is its acceptance as the norm in any society. A situation where even the natural custodians of societal morality and values acquiesce in it, a situation where, in particular, religious pulpits, are silent about it.
An enemy configured in such complexity cannot be defeated by solely a law and order approach. It requires whole new national and individual re- orientation, a focus on attitudinal change. It must involve the collaboration of government, civil society especially the leadership of faith communities, school teachers and professional and other interest groups. This is why this meeting’s objectives are of great importance.
Finally, let me again congratulate PACAC on their landmark achievements in the past four years. Establishing PACAC was the first major action President Buhari took in the anti-corruption fight.
Since then, under the courageous and uncompromising leadership of one of the enduring sages in the legal profession and civil society, Professor Itse Sagay, PACAC has moved from strength to strength. Professor Sagay’s interventions on various critical issues of governance, the rule of law and corruption have definitively pointed opinion in the morally and legally just direction.
We must also congratulate PACAC on the recent Senate confirmation of your former Executive Secretary Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye as Chairman of the ICPC.
Our struggle against corruption is one for the soul and substance of our Nation. The battle must be a collective one, corruption fights back with venom, guile and force, it is relentless and unashamed we who fight it must meet it with greater resolve and force. We can only win by working together with a common vision.
While thanking you for listening it is now my pleasure and privilege to formally declare this meeting open.