Abuja — Perhaps, it is in a bid to diversify his administration's policy thrust and further advance the fight against corruption as well as entrench good governance at every level that President Muhammadu Buhari administration decided on a strategic action plan known as National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2017- 2021.
This action plan has its focal and thematic areas that ensures compliance to good governance in more than the 800 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the country.
It is also expected that among other policy issues, NACS would play key roles to activate the existing Anti-Corruption and Transparency Monitoring Units (ACTUs) in some MDAs.
According to the policy document, after every four years of the existence of NACS, a review would be undertaken, just as the implementation of the strategy is domiciled in the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF).
The AGF, Abubakar Malami, oversees the entire programme, while an Assistant Director in the ministry, who doubles as Head, Asset Recovery /Management Unit and Implementation of the NACS, Ladidi Bara'atu Mohammed, is in charge of the strategy and its smooth implementation in the country.
To produce this strategy, two vital international development partners - European Union (EU) and British Council-provided huge financial and technical support in the processes of developing, drafting, validating and implementing NACS.
While the EU is in charge of funding, British Council manages the process using the Rule of Law Anti-Corruption (RoLAC), a non governmental organization based in the country.
The journey to authenticating NACS commenced with the invitation and congregation of experts in the field of anti-corruption and drafting of the strategy plan.
Thereafter, representatives of accredited and world class civil society organisations (CSOs), representatives of the media, including The Guardian, senior officials of some MDAs, particularly those from Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), ICPC, other law enforcement agencies, Central Bank among others, participated at various fora in Abuja to validate the strategy document, which was compressed from its original 35 pages to 29.
The Reporting Templates, which have provision for the Permanent Secretaries to indicate what has been reported in his or her ministry or agency, was also scrutinised and validated in a rigorous process where every word counted.
The thematic areas that the strategy focus on include strengthening the legal and institutional framework designed to prevent and combat corruption, mainstreaming anti-corruption principles into governance and service delivery, mainstreaming anti-corruption principles into sub-national public administration, and strengthening the legal and institutional framework for public engagement.
Others include strengthening the legal and institutional framework for ethical re-orientation, strengthening the legal and institutional framework designed to prevent and combat corruption through enforcement and sanctions, and strengthening the legal and institutional framework for recovery and management of proceeds of crime.
Key speakers, who addressed participants during the validation fora include Ladidi, who represented Malami, EU-RoLAC's Consultant, Dr. MaryIsabella Ada Chidi-Igbokwe, Component Manager of EU -RoLAC, Mr. Emma Uche, representing National Programme Manager of EU-RoLAC, Danladi Plang and Programme Officer of RoLAC, Pwaneika Dala. Others are members of the Technical Committee on Implementation of NACS-Fatima Pam, Bunmi Naiyeju- Adelaiye and Chisom Aghadinuno.
However, a few weeks ago, a 20-man Monitoring and Evaluation (M and E) Committee on the Implementation of NACS was inaugurated by Malami, who charged them to strictly monitor and evaluate the over 800 MDAs, comply with laid down rules of good governance in accountability, transparency and integrity.
The committee has two co-chairmen, Gandu Andrew and Leo Atapku. Instructively, the committee membership was drawn from the CSOs, Executive Director of Youth Against Corruption, Johnson John Okutue, the media sector, including Charles Ogugbuaja, a senior journalist, Casmir Igbokwe, representatives from EFCC, CBN, FMoJ, MDAs among others.
There is also an Inter-ministerial Committee comprising five ministers with the AGF coordinating it. Being higher in rank to the M and E committee, it plays moderating roles and ensures smooth running of M and E committee.
Annual reports based on the reports received from the MDAs would be collated, prepared and forwarded to the AGF for onward transmission to Federal Executive Council.
Earlier in his address, President Muhammadu Buhari stated that his administration had no room for sacred cows in the fight against corruption, emphasizing due diligence and citizens' participation in delivering good governance.
He said: "In 2003, all member states came together to sign the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which came into force in 2005. The aim was to tackle the growing threat that corruption has become to all nations.
"In spite of the existence and active implementation of the UNCAC, ECOWAS protocol on the Fight Against Corruption (2001), and eleven years after the entry into force of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), the problem of corruption continues to be pervasive and destructive to member states. I thank those who worked assiduously to produce this document at this critical time."
Buhari commended the partnership with EU, British Council, CSOs, the media, the AGF and the FMoJ among others in the production of the NACS.
Also speaking, Malami, who was represented by Mohammed, explained the usefulness of the NACS, noting the focal objective of institutionalizing results, saying: "The NACS seeks to identify and close the existing gaps in the anti-corruption initiatives currently in place.
It emphasizes the institutionalization of results-based systems and structures, as well as appropriate incentives for increasing and sustaining citizen's participation in the fight against corruption. The ethical reform value of the anti-corruption crusade can only be realised through its adoption and ownership by all stakeholders, leading to the effective implementation."
Malami explained the critical areas revolving around the action plan anchored on 14 reform initiatives, including fiscal transparency, anti-corruption, access to information and citizens participation.
In his contribution, National Programme Manager of EU-RoLAC, Plang, represented by Anti-Corruption Component Manager, Emma Uche, spoke on the need for people being made part of the history of stamping out corruption in the country. She stressed that it took almost a decade to put NACS in place in Nigeria.
"Let all of us join hands to make it work for our children to be grateful," he pleaded, disclosing that the four pilot states currently receiving the attention of the body on the intervention are Lagos, Anambra, Adamawa and Kano States.
In his remarks, RoLAC's Consultant, Chidi-Igbokwe, recalled the processes of the scripting and validation of the NACS, even as she urged members of M and E to drive the process to desired desatination by thoroughly working within the confines of their duties.
She stated that the domestication to the states and the local government councils were expected to take a queue from the national government's pattern in prosecuting the NACS.