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The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on War Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), on Thursday declared that Nigeria would have completely become a failed state like Zimbabwe and disintegrated had former President Goodluck Jonathan won the 2015 presidential election.
Sagay, who expressed his dismay at the level of corruption that took place during the administration of Jonathan, said by now the country would have been under the yoke of ferocious economic disaster if the President Muhammadu Buhari administration had not emerged.
He made the declaration as the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), disclosed that the Federal Government is on the verge of signing into law a bill seeking to empower the anti-corruption agencies to recover stolen public assets.
The duo spoke separately in Abuja at the anti-corruption summit organized by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa in conjunction with ONE Africa to brainstorm on issues ahead of the May 12 global anti-corruption summit in London.
Sagay, who lamented that corruption is fighting back in Nigeria very vigorously to frustrate the current anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration, disclosed that those fighting back are corrupt Nigerians with huge war chest at their disposal.
He said the painful aspect of it is that those fighting back are using Nigeria’s money to fight by using the looted funds to engage large number of senior lawyers to frustrate their cases in court.
But he lauded the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which he said had taken care of unnecessary delays in the prosecution of criminal matters.
The professor of law disclosed that huge sums of money belonging to the country and earmarked for the procurement of arms to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East was looted under the administration of Jonathan.
He appealed to Nigerians to be patient with the Buhari administration so that it can deliver on its promises.
Sagay said: “Given the unrestrained stealing and the enormous economic pillage under the Jonathan administration, it is not a surprise that the Nigerian economy is lying prostrate. The present administration needs time to fill in the big holes that were left by the previous administration.
“It is therefore irrational for anybody with perverse mentality to say that they should bring back corruption. The truth is if Jonathan had won the 2015 election, by now Nigeria would have completely become a failed state like Zimbabwe with huge inflation rate of N10 billion, or probably all of us would have to carry our little belongings to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.
“Nigeria would have witnessed a ferocious economic disaster if the Buhari administration had not emerged. All that is going on now is the rebuilding process of the economy that was so destroyed by the previous administration. Those praying for the return of Jonathan should thank God for not answering their prayers because it would have been a terrible nightmare.
“We must be patient and rational in our thinking for the inevitable change of the Buhari administration to come. It will surely come, but it is not a magic wand.”
Meanwhile, Prof. Sagay has disclosed that his committee has completed a draft for the establishment of Special Crime Court that would have jurisdiction on money laundering offences, corruption and other economic crimes.
Earlier in his speech at the summit, Malami disclosed that the Federal Government is on the verge of signing into law a bill seeking to empower the anti-corruption agencies to recover stolen public assets.
The AGF, who spoke through his representative and Special Assistant to the President on Research, Sylvester Imhonebe, explained that one of the key priorities of the administration’s fight against corruption is the need to recover stolen funds and to pay back to the Nigerian society what they have lost to corruption.
The Chief Law Officer of the Federation disclosed that the impact of corruption on Nigeria has been described as life threatening.
Malawi said: “Reports show that Nigeria is considered one of the poorest countries in the world with income per capita less than US$500 and over 54 per cent of the population living in absolute poverty. One out of every five Nigerian children dies before his or her fifth birthday, while one out of every three is malnourished. Only 64 per cent of school age boys attend primary school and only 57 per cent of girls attend primary school. Thus corruption remains a major driver of poverty in Nigeria.
“Other impacts of corruption on Nigeria can be identified through a review of different sectors where it is now obvious that corruption has led to the unproductive use of resources that in turn undermines the capacity of the state to fulfill its obligations to citizens. The resultant capture of public resources by vested interests undermines economic growth, governance, security and development. Thus weak accountability and corruption are core governance issues in Nigeria.
“There is no doubt that progress in anti-corruption performance is closely linked with justice sector reforms and that we must do more to prevent the way in which corruption could undermine our justice system. Corruption may impinge on proceedings at all stages and undue influence may affect the process of investigation and prosecution; the handling and hearing of cases in the courts, including the treatment of witnesses; the implementation of sanctions and sentencing practices; and in the recovery of illegally gained assets in a way that limits international cooperation.”
Malami said the President is also in receipt of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Centre Bill, 2016 and the Proceeds of Crime Bill.
He explained that the NFIC bill seeks to empower the FIU, currently located within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, with additional powers of receipt, analysis and dissemination of intelligence to all law enforcement and security agencies.
He said: “This will enable prompt tracking of illicit funds moving in or out of Nigeria and would ensure that they are restrained before they leave the financial system or cross the borders while the POC Bill seeks to respond to an important and critical element of the policy thrust of this administration and also a London Summit commitment to wit – to increase transparency in the management of returned stolen assets, to ensure ease of access in the recovery of stolen assets, to ensure that “illicit enrichment” or non-explainable wealth can be used as the basis for recovery of stolen public assets.
“Against this background, the President is also committing to the hosting of a Global Forum on Asset Recovery in May 2017. This commitment would be announced at the Summit in London and we hope that all of you would support the hosting of this event by Nigeria.
Amongst other commitments, we may likely see Nigeria joining the Open Government Partnership in the coming days. Joining the OGP will help Nigeria improve transparency in the management of natural resources, and public funds as well as citizen participation in governance.”