Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday admitted that fighting corruption would continue to be difficult and hydra-headed.
This is even as he has advocated the necessity to make corrupt practices expensive ventures to send clear signals to the perpetrators.
He was speaking at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) 20th anniversary Africa Regional Webinar with the theme: “Combating Corruption and Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs): New Measures and Strategies.”
The Vice President appealed to leaders of ICPC to work hard and be determined to succeed in the fight against corruption, noting that the commission had a responsibility to make the scourge unattractive and simultaneously come up with a new approach to tackling IFFs.
Osinbajo further charged the commission to come up with what he described as concrete proposals to be presented at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) special session on corruption in 2021.
The Vice President said by so doing, policy would be shaped in a way that the interest of Nigeria and the entire the West Africa sub-region would be promoted.
“Let me conclude by saying there is no magic bullet to ending corruption, stemming IFFs or promoting asset recovery and return. 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.
“We must also make all members of the international community see the benefit of shared prosperity and inclusive growth and development. It is the unenviable but noble task of ICPC and other anti-corruption agencies to make corruption unattractive to its disciples and facilitate new approaches to stemming IFFS and promoting asset recovery and return.
“As you ruminate on the key issues to dominate the UN General Assembly Special Session on Corruption in 2021, I urge you to come up with concrete proposals for Nigeria to take to the UN and also for all of our colleagues in the region, to take to the United Nations in order to begin to positively shape policy in a way and manner that best promotes the interest of our country and region,” he said.
Osinbajo also canvassed the need to make the fight against corruption democratic, noting that Nigerians are keenly interested in anti-graft war because corruption hampers economic growth.
He also said Nigerians would like to see the effectiveness of the anti-corruption fight in their dealings with government officials as he canvased the necessity to protect whistle blowers, telling his audience to bear in mind that corruption also fights back by using the social media to blackmail its advocates.
“We must democratize the fight against corruption. Many of our citizens are interested in the fight against grand corruption. Grand corruption as you know 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.
“The thing that we must take note of is that corruption fights back. And it is fighting back and it has the resources to do so. In recent times, one of the chief ways that we are 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 fail but are penalized,” he said.
The Vice President who described the fight against corruption as hydra-headed, said the battle would continue to be tasking and many would lose interest along the way, but assured that notwithstanding, the war must be prioritised and new approaches deployed to combat the monster.
He commended ICPC for its commitment to the fight against corruption in the last two decades, saying the commission had been blessed with notable leaders since inception.
“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.
“I am happy to note that the ICPC has creditably discharged itself of its mandate in the past twenty years. This is no doubt due to the solid leadership it has enjoyed from inception through the first Board led by the late Hon Justice Mustapha Akanbi, then Hon. Justice Olayinka Ayoola, and then Mr. Expo Nta and the current 4th Board led by Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, and the tireless effort of its management and staff,” he said.
Osinbajo lamented what he described as massive looting of public resources and assets over the years and their subsequent diversions to foreign countries, a development he said “continues to undermine the social and economic development aspirations of poor countries especially from Africa.”