President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday promised to re-invigorate the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) for greater accountability in public governance.
Buhari added that persons found wanting in corrupt practices would not be spared under his administration.
Speaking in Abuja while declaring the 45th Annual Accountants’ Conference and 50th anniversary celebration open, he stressed that the present administration would continue to lead by example by making efforts to live above board.
The president said: “As we strive to walk our talk, we will carry to its logical conclusions our initiative to overhaul the bureaucracy of the public sector in an effort to further engender transparency and improve productivity in public governance.”
He also commended ICAN for floating a N50 million fund to support anyone who may be victimised by their employers for adhering to the ethics of the accounting profession to expose corruption in their respective place of work.
Represented at the occasion by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Anastacia Nwaobia, Buhari said Nigerians had no business to be classified as poor, pointing out that through the greed of some unscrupulous few, “Our commonwealth has been badly pillaged in the name of public service.
“Our ability as a nation to create wealth has increasingly been hampered by the lack of prudence, transparency and honesty in the management of public resources by some of those entrusted with the duty of governance at all levels in the past so much that in the midst of plenty, Nigerians are now suffering great deprivation.”
Continuing, he said: “This should not be allowed. The project must be given our all. The nation ought and must leave the throes of poverty and underdevelopment. I do believe that as a people, we are naturally destined for greatness.”
Nevertheless, the president said government and ICAN are partner in progress with a common mandate to act in public interest.
He said: “We must collectively resolve to build today for a blissful tomorrow. I am certain and optimistic that the glorious dawn we all hope for will not be long in coming. However, let us not thrive on the illusion that the battle for the enthronement of the right values will be easy. Corruption will certainly fight back. But we are resolute in our desire to effect a change in our value system. We will give the battle our all to guarantee victory.”
Meanwhile, Buhari’s reassurance to tame corruption came on a day former Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Remi Babalola ,publicly disclosed for the first time that he had resigned from former President Goodluck Jonathan administration because he could not bear the mismanagement of public resources during his days in office.
Speaking during a plenary session at the ongoing ICAN conference on the topic: ‘Achieving Nigeria of Our Dream: The Responsibility, of Professional Accountants,” the former minister also recommended public asset declaration for every principal officer in the executive arm of government from the president to the ministers, permanent secretaries, director-generals, and heads of parastatals and agencies.
He noted that the public asset declaration had become necessary to curb the alarming rate of corruption in the country.
The former minister urged the federal government to ensure that the state-owned oil corporation, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), publishes its audited accounts and quarterly accounts like all listed companies on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Babalola who is the current Chairman/Chief Strategist of Alternative Capital Partners Limited (ACAP) further attributed the alarming rate of corruption in the system to the culture of impunity that had existed in the country.
He said: “Our culture of impunity is the bane of the entrenched corruption in our society. The value destruction and corruption undermine any economic development or social change we may aspire for our nation.
“Mismanagement and misallocation of resources, coupled with an unprecedented level of corruption have been at their highest in the history of our nation in the last 6 years. Performance or success in public space was measured by the conversion rate of public funds into private accounts. It looks as if democracy has been substituted with kleptocracy.”
The former minister who chaired the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) between 2007 and 2010 also urged the new administration to confront the endemic corruption whole-heartedly in order to resolve the country’s mal-functionality.
He recommended the expansion of the whistle blowing and fraud protocol by the EFCC to include the payment of 10 per cent of the forfeited undeclared assets to whistle blowers/informants if successfully prosecuted.
He also called on the National Assembly, Judiciary, Media, Labour Unions, Civil Societies Organisations, student Unions and Professional Groups to join in the new Administration’s anti corruption war.
Babalola further decried the absence of transparency in the oil sector and the NNPC, regretting that the corporation’s core competence had been reduced to importing refined products and paying subsidies to bogus companies.
He wondered why it was difficult for the NNPC to compete with the likes of PETROBRAS of Brazil and PETRONAS of Malaysia.
According to him: “It is counter intuitive that we deliberately ensure that receipts and proceeds into the nation’s treasury are not accounted for. Such has been our contempt for process transparency that an incumbent governor of an operationally and legally independent central bank, who publicly alerted the nation, was forced out of a fixed tenure.
“Of course, given its systemic importance to the economy, there is no justification for the state-owned oil sector monopoly (the NNPC) not to publicly publish its audited accounts and even quarterly accounts like all listed companies on the stock exchange,” Babalola, who is a Fellow of the ICAN, said.
He recalled drawing the attention of the nation to the parlous state of the NNPC’s accounts five years ago, adding that many sympathisers feared for his life as it amounted to “stepping on a snake.”
He said: “I was unperturbed and unruffled but ready and willing to take a walk as a statement of intent that if they wanted to continue in that decadence of resource mismanagement, I was not going to be a part of it.”