The president in his opening remarks at the national Democracy Day Anti-Corruption Summit at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, expressed regret thatrecent political experiences have been characterized by the corrupting influence of money on party politics and electioneering processes. He lamented that this unwholesome practice has dire consequences on the country in subverting the exercise of free choice by voters, adding that it elevated corrupt and unprincipled individuals to positions of leadership and entrenching the structures of democracy devoid of accountability.
President Buhari noted that the theme of the Summit:“Curbing Electoral Spending: A Panacea for Public Corruption,” is most appropriate in the light of the past and recent political experiences in the country and in Africa as a whole.
The president stated that electoral spending manifests in different forms and so should be the approaches to curb it. He was of the view that that is the way to de-commercialize the political process so that true democracy can survive and thrive.
“Of course, we have sufficient legal framework in place in Nigeria to combat reckless electoral spending. The provision of Section 90 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (As Amended) explicitly puts a cap on the amount candidates for different political offices must expend on elections, failing which they are violating the law.
“Of greater significance is the provision of section 88 of the Act which prohibits a political party in Nigeria from ‘possessing any fund outside or retaining funds or other assets remitted to it from outside Nigeria’.
“The philosophical underpinning of the above provisions and other related provisions of the Act is to prevent desperate politicians from buying their ways into political offices at the expense of low – spending law-abiding individuals.
“In this connection, I urge all law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary in Nigeria, and across Africa, to tackle financial corruption in our political systems,” Buhari declared.
The president maintained that uncontrolled electoral spending and voter inducement by politicians must be combated if people want to consolidate true democracy and good governance.
“This Summit, therefore, has the potential of spurring us to action starting with the discussions and exchange of ideas among participants. It is also my hope that the participation of Heads of African anti-corruption agencies in this Summit would enrich the discussion with valuable regional and continental perspectives.
“Let us remind ourselves of the Thabo Mbeki Panel on illicit financial flaws published a few years ago. Through corruption Africa has lost over $1 trillion over the last 50 years, a figure surpassing all the combined development aid received by the continent during the same period,” President Buhari stated.
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He reminded participants at the summit that political corruption is merely an extension of larger corruption in the wider society. “Consequently, if we desire to curtail political corruption in public governance, then, corruption must also be fought in the wider society.
“This underscores the guiding principle and commitment of our Administration. This commitment derives, as I once stated, from the fact that: Corruption runs completely counter to our shared values as Africans – the values of justice, the sense of fairness, law and order, equity and equality. Corruption rewards those who do not play by the rules and also creates a system of patronage where the resources are shared out by a small elite, while the majority are trapped in poverty,” the president further declared.
President Buhari maintained: “during the recently concluded election campaigns, I stated clearly that the major areas of priority during my second term in office as it was in my first term will be: Security, economic improvement and fight against corruption. I remain committed to the fulfillment of these promises.
“Now, as this administration commences, we are taking stock of progress made so far in the war against corruption, assessing what needs to be done and devising new strategies to address existing challenges.”
He added: “I am pleased to inform you that this process has already started with the recent interaction between the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption and all anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria.
“The outcome of the interaction, among others, shall serve as the basis for a more concerted effort by this administration to:
a. Strengthen the capacity of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other anti-corruption agencies by providing additional material, organisational and logistical support;
b. Close existing legislative loopholes, facilitate collaboration with the judiciary, and strengthen the criminal justice system;
c. Enforce effective asset declaration by public office holders and ensure sanctions by professional bodies against lawyers, bankers, brokers, public officials, and other individuals facilitating corrupt practices;
d. Ensure comprehensive support and protection to whistleblowers, witnesses and victims of corruption;
e. Adopt and formulate the policy of ‘naming and shaming’ all those who engage in corrupt practices while encouraging and honouring those who do not;
f. Educate, mobilise and encourage Nigerians at the grassroots level to take ownership of the fight against corruption;
g. Press for a crackdown on safe havens for corrupt assets, abolishing of bank secrecy jurisdictions and tax havens on the continent and beyond;
h. Insist on the unconditional return of looted assets kept abroad and further strengthening of international cooperation through information and mutual legal assistance.”
He said that henceforth, the anti-corruption fight would be seen not to end in itself but as an instrument not only to fight poverty but a means to restore the right order of things.
He appealed for active support and cooperation of all. “We also look forward to a continental strategic partnership and a global alliance to successfully defeat corruption. I urge all of you seated here to be part of such alliance and partnership,” the president added.