Investigation ongoing, says Lai Mohammed
From Magnus Eze, Abuja
The Federal Government yesterday said it was compiling an asset tracing team that will work with reputable international bodies to trace and recover public assets in private hands.
This is even as government disclosed that a retired permanent secretary went home with the government’s 40 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and other vehicles.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this in a statement issued in Lagos, yesterday, said the fight against corruption was actually being guided by a well-articulated strategy contrary to the misconception in some quarters.
The minister told Daily Sun the identity of the retired permanent secretary will remain hidden for now so as not to jeopadise the level of investigations.
Mohammed said the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) will, from next year, commence electronic asset declaration to facilitate compliance, including the search and retrieval of data on the assets of public officers, as part of its comprehensive anti-corruption strategy.
He noted that government was not just obsessed about prosecution alone, but was also taking preventive measures to make corruption unattractive.
Mohammed itemised some milestones of the administration’s anti-corruption strategy to include the recovery of 40 brand new SUVs and other vehicles from an unnamed former permanent secretary, who single-handedly appropriated the vehicles to himself, strict enforcement of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the constant fishing out of ghost workers in the public service, among others.
“In this regard, government will also escalate the use of non-conviction-based asset recovery methods to boost revenue and diminish corruption and the perception that crime pays or criminals can keep their loot. The Federal Government is getting Nigerians in diaspora and international civil society organisations involved in the campaign for the return of looted assets,’’ the minister stated.
Other measures already perfected to strengthen the anti-corruption fight, Mohammed said, were the establishment of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Presidential Committee on Asset Recovery and the Asset Tracing Committee; the setting up of an Asset Register as well as the Whistleblower policy.
Besides, he said PACAC was working with relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MADs), especially the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), to improve data collection on corruption indicators generally.
The minister stated that it was on the recommendation of PACAC that a centralised management of recovered looted assets was put in place, through the Central Asset Management Committee under the leadership of Minister of Finance as legal custodian of government assets.
He emphasised that the move has reduced the opportunity for re-looting of recovered assets as was prevalent under the previous regime, explaining that the “EFCC, ICPC and all asset recovery law enforcement agencies are mandatorily required to furnish the Minister of Finance with full details of recovered asset whether cash or otherwise.”
He assured that data reconciliation will soon be completed and the information made available to the public.