Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies have recovered around 900 billion naira (about $ 2.2 billion) in stolen assets over the past two decades, according to a new report by the pro-democracy group, the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), said.
In the report titled “20 Years of Anti-Corruption Efforts in Nigeria,” the group recounts the significant achievements of key federal government agencies established to mitigate endemic corruption in Nigeria over the past two decades.
The agencies whose activities are examined in the report are the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Commission on Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Office (CCB).
The report applauded anti-corruption agencies for their efforts in recovering stolen assets of around 900 billion naira.
He attributed “the high payback rate” to innovations adopted by anti-corruption agencies such as the voluntary reimbursement of unexplained wealth sentence negotiation and asset confiscation, as well as the “anti-corruption strategy of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari ”.
“Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies have also recovered around 900 billion naira in stolen assets over the past two decades. Confiscation of assets, whether through criminal conviction or civil action, has become the main mechanism to deprive corruption suspects of material gain from their alleged financial or economic crime.
“While still a priority, asset recovery has arguably been a cornerstone of the Buhari government’s anti-corruption strategy. Reflecting this shift in strategic direction, the EFCC is now carefully seeking to identify assets early in any corruption investigation in order to freeze them and see if they can be linked to an accused’s alleged underlying crimes ” , we read in part in the report.
Concerns about the management of recovered assets
But the report also raised concerns about the management of the recovered assets.
“The increasing rate of asset forfeiture, however, is straining the ability of the EFCC and ICPC to manage and dispose of these assets. Whether they are buildings, active businesses, vehicles or luxury goods, seized items should be accounted for, managed, maintained and / or safely stored until they can be sold to auctioned or reused for the public good.
“Unfortunately, many of these assets deteriorate before they can be sold, losing some or all of their value while
agencies navigate bureaucratic and legal hurdles that prevent their rapid elimination.
He however welcomed the transfer of some buildings recovered to government agencies by the EFCC.
This, he said, demonstrated that anti-corruption agencies recognize their failures in handling the recovered assets.
“In a few cases, the EFCC broke new ground by handing over seized buildings to other government agencies for use as offices; in this way, the government may well profit from the property even if the legal process surrounding its final confiscation has not yet been resolved.
“This tactical shift demonstrates that Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies are aware of their own failures and able to take action to compensate for them,” the report said.
According to the report, the EFCC played the largest and most impactful role among the other two agencies, securing a total of 3,362 convictions between 2010 and 2020.
Of the total convictions, the CDD said the commission obtained 50 cybercrime convictions for every corruption case involving a Politically Exposed Person (PEP).
The number of convictions handed down by the ICPC was not mentioned in the report.
“Number of EFCC convictions: 2010-68 convictions; 2011-67 convictions; 2012-87 convictions; 2013-117 convictions; 2014-126 convictions; 2015-103 convictions; 2016-128 convictions; 2017-189 convictions; 2018-312 convictions; 2019-1246 convictions; 2020-865 convictions.
“Of Nigeria’s three main anti-corruption agencies, the EFCC plays the most important and impactful role. Larger and better funded than the ICPC and the Code of Conduct Office (CCB),
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“He enjoys a wide range of investigative and law enforcement powers. With around 3,000 people, the EFCC is mainly made up of seconded police officers. In addition to investigating prominent politicians and powerful bureaucrats, the commission regularly prosecutes those involved in internet scams, currency counterfeiting, and other economic crimes.
“Indeed, it guarantees around 50 cybercrime convictions for every corruption case involving a politically exposed person.
The report also states that the prevalence of state actors such as the attorney general and the influence of the presidency in subsequent governments interfering in corruption investigations “has shaped the outcome of high-level corruption prosecutions. over the decades ”.
“These recent episodes illustrate how easy it is for vested interests to delay or derail high-level corruption prosecutions. While direct interference is unmistakable, high-level political pressure is often subtly conveyed; anti-corruption agencies often pay close attention to the “body language of the president and attorney general in the high-level politically sensitive cases they pursue.”
“If they feel the president is against a particular investigation or prosecution, they can slow it down or put it on hold. Until the frequency and intensity of political interference decreases, this will continue to cast a shadow over Nigeria’s anti-corruption track record.
Last year, the group, in its five-year assessment report on the achievements and shortcomings of the anti-corruption program titled “Buhari’s C Bulletin for Corruption,” accused President Buhari’s government of consistently protecting “many Notorious Kleptocrats ”within the administration and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party for corruption.
The CDD further accused President Buhari’s leadership and the APC of “adopting the same toxic behaviors and corrupt standards that characterized Nigeria’s electoral politics after 1999 – both in governance and in elections. “.
However, he described his modus operandi as “indistinguishable from his predecessor”.
The CDD called on the Presidency and the National Assembly to exercise tighter control over ministries, departments and agencies.
“They should work together to strengthen the legal and administrative mandates of government entities that help prevent corruption, especially the CCB, ICPC, the Public Procurement Office and the Civil Service Reform Office.
“The National Assembly should revise the Law on the Office of the Code of Conduct to allow public disclosure of the asset declarations of office holders without endangering the privacy or security of office holders.
“The Presidency and the National Assembly must strengthen their control over ministries, departments and agencies and work together to strengthen their legal and administrative mandates.
“Finally, Nigeria’s international partners should support national efforts by taking stronger action to deter the theft of public funds and prevent illicit financial flows. “
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