Nigeria: We Must Change Tactics On Anti-Graft War - Osinbajo

(file photo).

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has stressed the need for Nigeria to change its tactics in the fight against corruption.

Osinbajo spoke on Tuesday at the 20th Anniversary Africa Regional Webinar of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, themed "Combating Corruption and Illicit Financial Flows: New Measures and Strategies".

This is coming amidst the ongoing investigation of the suspended acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, over allegations of corruption.

According to Osinbajo, there was no magic bullet to ending corruption, stemming IFFs or promoting asset recovery and return.

He said: "We simply must work hard at it and be determined to succeed.

"We must make corruption expensive for those who engage in it and send the unequivocal message that corruption simply does not pay.

"Domestically, we must also be prepared to change, to some extent, our tactics in the fight against corruption.

"Listening to Edward Kallon (The UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria who spoke earlier), I'm convinced that there are many practical steps that can be taken."

The vice president called for the democratization of the fight against corruption.

While noting that Nigerians were interested in the fight against grand corruption, he said grand corruption cripples the economy.

"But they also want to see action in what would be regarded as petty corruption - in their interfaces with government officials either in the search for certifications, approvals of any kind, licenses, and all of that.

"Many want to see that corruption at that level is tackled effectively.

"And I think that we must begin to look at innovative ways of doing so.

"Secondly, we must protect, even more, whistle-blowers - persons who come forward with information against corruption.

"We must protect those who are ready to fight against corruption and who are prepared to do so without necessarily disclosing their identities and even those who are ready to disclose their identities.

'Corruption fights back'

Osinbajo pointed out that corruption always fight back because corrupt people have the resources to do so.

He said: "In recent times, one of the chief ways that we're seeing more frequently is the use of unscrupulous individuals, who are paid to use social media platforms to make outrageous allegations against persons perceived to be fighting corruption.

"The technique is not new, the idea is to tie everybody with the same tar so that you cannot recognize the truly corrupt or the truly corrupt activity, and the genuine whistle-blowing is discredited as a result.

"And because our court system is slow, they count on the possibility that these victims may not pursue litigation or prosecution: you must devise a new legal strategy to ensure that this dirty trick not only fails but is penalized.

"The fight against corruption is nuanced and hydra-headed, it is not going to get easier by the day.

"As a matter of fact, it will get more difficult by the day and many will become discouraged in standing up against corruption.

"But it is our duty both as individuals and institutions, especially in developing countries where corruption has such a devastating effect, to ensure that we prioritize the fight against corruption and continually device new ways and new approaches even as the hydra-headed problem itself continue to manifest in different ways."

Secret corporate ownership and underdevelopment

He underscored the need to break the wall of secret corporate ownership which has been linked to underdevelopment in the developing world, especially in Africa.

The vice president stated that Africa and the international community must join forces to break the walls of secret corporate ownership in the corruption fight, saying that "the devastating effects of secret and beneficial ownership on economies across Africa require that stakeholders on the continent including governments must collaborate to stem the tide of the phenomenon."

He said, though anonymous companies were not always illegal, secrecy, however, provided a convenient cover for criminality and corruption as some countries still resist stemming the tide of illicit financial flows.

He said Nigeria was in the process of amending its corporate law to mandate the disclosure of beneficial interest in a company's shares and prescribe punitive measures for failure to disclose.

Osinbajo said President Muhammadu Buhari had demonstrated the political will and support for anti-corruption measures by backing the ICPC to fulfill its statutory mandate.

He said without "effectively" combating corruption and IFFs and promoting international cooperation for asset recovery and asset return, Africa cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

"Over the years, massive public resources and assets have been directly stolen, diverted, deliberately misapplied to gratify corrupt tendencies, stashed in foreign jurisdictions or mired in and susceptible to pilferage by the inequitable and unjust international economic system that continues to undermine the social and economic development aspirations of poor."

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