President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Addis Ababa described corruption as one of the greatest evils of the present era.
Speaking when he formally launched the African Anti-corruption year 2018 during the opening ceremony of the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in the Ethiopian capital, Buhari said despite efforts being made in the continent to cub corruption, the desired impact had been lacking.
The Nigerian leader who said he was inspired to champion the campaign against corruption by the commitment, encouragement and support of his colleagues noted that Nigeria has gone far into the implementation of its 'CHANGE Agenda', which he said is primarily aimed at fighting corruption.
Reiterating Nigeria's abiding commitment to the fight against corruption at any given time, Buhari said, "Corruption is indeed one of the greatest evils of our time. Corruption rewards those who do not play by the rules and also creates a system of distortion and diversion thereby destroying all efforts at constructive, just and fair governance."
Being the Champion of the theme of the 30th AU Summit, namely, 'Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa's Transformation', President Buhari thanked his African colleagues for entrusting him with such a noble responsibility.
A statement by his senior special assistant on media publicity, Garba Shehu, further quoted the president as pledging to do his best "to ensure that the anti-corruption agenda will receive the attention it deserves and make the impact we all hope for, during 2018 and beyond."
The President, who noted that Africa has made some significant strides in enacting legal and policy frameworks such as the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) to address the vice, said the desired impact had been lacking.
"Fifteen (15) years after the adoption of the African Union Convention, 2018 provides a good starting point to take stock of progress made so far, assess what still needs to be done and devise new strategies to address new corruption challenges," he said.
According to President Buhari, in spite of sustained economic growth on the continent for the past two decades, "public confidence has been eroded by a focus on short-term priorities and payoffs, propelled by corruption, which too often leaves projects uncompleted and promises unfulfilled."
He identified other negative effects of corruption to include posing a real threat to national security, eroding the development of a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality, human rights, justice and the rule of law.
In tackling bribery and corruption, the Nigerian leader said the crucial place of strong institutions cannot be over-emphasised.
His words: "A Judiciary which stands firm against arbitrariness and injustice by the executive is a vital pillar in the anti-corruption fight. As leaders, we must build synergy between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial arms of government in order to entrench good governance, transparency and accountability.
"Strong institutions are a necessary condition in any society which aims to fight corruption. In building strong national and regional institutions, we must adequately empower our national anti-corruption agencies and insulate them from political influence. We have to encourage increased institutional collaboration between Law Enforcement Agencies and anti-corruption Agencies in order to win this fight".
Justifying further the imperative to defeat the evil which corruption represented, President Buhari said, "It is evident that Corruption has a devastating impact on marginalized communities especially the youth, women and children.
"Corruption breeds unequal societies, renders vulnerable groups prone to human trafficking, as well as recruitment into armed groups and militia. In effect, corruption deprives our young citizens of opportunities to develop meaningful livelihoods."
He listed his priorities in the campaign against corruption in 2018 to include organising African Youth Congresses against Corruption "in order to sensitise and engage our youth in the fight against corruption", mobilising AU member states to implement the extant legal framework on corruption and canvassing "for the strengthening of the criminal justice system across Africa through exchange of information and sharing best practices in the enforcement of anti-corruption laws."
The President, who called for the strengthening of the AU Advisory Board on Corruption to make it more proactive, also proposed to enlist the support of parliamentarians, women associations, the media, business community, faith-based groups, the youth, educational institutions and traditional rulers among others in the campaign.
Revealing that Africa loses about 50 billion US dollars annually to corruption, he advocated greater efforts in addressing "the causal relationship between corruption and illicit financial flows."
Drawing the attention of his colleagues to the "corrosive role that tax havens and secret jurisdictions play in concealing ill-gotten assets," President Buhari said the continental body "must do more to stop the continuous assault on our economic and financial resources by multinationals in collusion with some of our citizens."
Observing that tackling corrupt acts and greed required a reorientation of attitudes and perceptions, he declared:
"To win the fight against corruption, we must have a CHANGE of mind set."
Reminding his fellow African leaders that the honourable campaign against corruption will not be an easy task because "corruption does fight back," he, however, advised them to remain firm and resolute.
Meanwhile, in his characteristic manner of always getting close to those he attack, former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday met and exchanged banters with President Muhammadu Buhari.
The ex-president met face to face with Buhari at the ongoing African Union Summit taking place in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Their contact marked the first time both men would be meeting since the controversial statement by Obasanjo criticizing the Buhari administration and advising him not to seek a second term in office in 2019.They met briefly just before the opening ceremony of the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU).
Obasanjo first went round to exchange pleasantries with other African leaders attending the summit before looking out for Buhari among the crowd to also have a word with him.
Their brief pleasantries became a sensation inside the Nelson Mandela Hall, as photojournalists made frantic efforts to capture the moment.
Obasanjo had stirred up controversies in Nigeria when he released a 13-page statement, in which he said Buhari has performed below expectation and therefore should not seek re-election in 2019.