A relative of mine returned from Mozambique recently. At the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, some officials stopped him to ask some questions about COVID-19 test and vaccination. His vaccination status showed partially vaccinated. They threatened to quarantine him for about two weeks. But as soon as he paid over N100,000, they immediately set him free. The man has since gone to the village to interact with his friends and family. All he gets now are frequent reminders from Arrive Alive Lab in Ikoyi to come and do his COVID-19 test. Assuming he had COVID-19, would the money he paid have given him and his friends and family members immunity over the pandemic?
There may not be a clear-cut answer. But all I know is that the tendency to cut corners permeates all through the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government. In the latest audit report by the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF), it was discovered that federal ministries, departments and agencies failed to account for N323.5 billion in 2019. Many offices reportedly violated rules on payments, remittances and tax.
According to the AuGF, Aghughu Adolphus, some of the infractions include N132.5 billion spent in paying unapproved allowances to staff in 20 MDAs, payment for services not executed, irregular award of contracts, payments without voucher and unretired advances. There were also internally generated revenue and other funds amounting to N127.1 billion, which were not remitted to the government by 15 MDAs. Of this amount, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) reportedly had the highest unremitted amount of N125 billion.
This same NCS allegedly granted import duty waivers worth N78.5 billion in 2019 to local and foreign companies in violation of financial regulations. The audit report noted that the NCS also granted N17.2 million waivers to 14 members of staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The NCS was said to have granted these waivers without providing evidence of application or authorization for them. Even when the auditor-general requested evidence of authorization of such waivers, the NCS reportedly ignored him.
In July 2017, the Federal Government inaugurated what has come to be known as the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS). The NACS was to be implemented between July 2017 and July 2021. It was to develop and implement mechanisms aimed at improving the governance of public institutions at all levels of government. The strategy was also aimed at removing corruption-related factors inhibiting these institutions’ accessibility and capacity to deliver quality service to Nigerians.
The strategy focused on five pillars, namely: Prevention, public engagement, ethical re-orientation in the public and private sectors, enforcement and sanctions, and recovery and management of proceeds of corruption. Effectively, the NACS has ended. But key stakeholders met in Abuja recently and unanimously agreed to push for an extension of the programme for another four years.
But, how far has the just ended NACS fared in combating corruption? In February 2020, the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Committee of the NACS carried out a baseline survey of 22 Federal Government agencies to assess the level of compliance to the NACS. The preliminary report of the survey was not salutary.
Among others, the M&E Committee observed that the President failed to form and inaugurate the NACS Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) as provided for in the NACS document. The IMC was to facilitate the Anti-Corruption Funding Framework (AFF) and the development of sector-specific strategies. The committee also noted that there was no budget for it to enable it to carry out its activities. In fact, there has not been any financial support from the Federal Government. Such support has only come from the European Union, the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RuLAC), MacArthur Foundation and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).
Besides, there was little or no publicity of the NACS document and its implementation by the relevant government agencies such as the Ministry of Information and the National Orientation Agency.
The committee recommended immediate setting up and inauguration of the IMC; inclusion of more agencies in the National Action Plan, especially the key anti-corruption agencies; incorporation of NACS publicity into all the activities of relevant agencies of law enforcement and adequate sponsorship of the M&E activities. Some other recommendations include awareness creation and sensitization of staff on the NACS document by the MDAs; documentation of anti-corruption activities and initiatives for ease of reference by the MDAs and encouragement of all MDAs to mainstream components of the NACS Action Plan into their work plan.
On December 9, 2021, some of these issues cropped up at the 2021 annual International Anti-corruption Day in Abuja. The Inter-Agency Task Team, which is the coordinating forum of agencies with anti-corruption and accountability mandates, organized a high-level seminar to mark the day.
At the event, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, reeled out the successes of the current government’s anti-corruption fight. Among them were over 1,400 convictions as at 2021. Malami, whose ministry supervises the NACS, said the success of the anti-corruption strategy framework was given a high priority in the agenda of the present administration and that he would re-present the NACS document to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval. The expectation is that a new action plan will be developed to guide the implementation of the anti-corruption strategy.
In his own remarks, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNOC), Ghada Waly, represented by the UNOC representative in Nigeria, Dr. Oliver Stolpe, estimated that corruption cost the world trillions of dollars annually. For Nigeria, the estimated amount lost to corruption annually is $18 billion.
Head of the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-corruption Reforms (TUGAR), Ms Lilian Ekeanyanwu, said the theme for 2021 was aimed at having a just society with minimal corruption, good governance and a rancor-free electioneering process. She mentioned implementation of the whistleblower action plan, asset recovery and beneficial ownership disclosure as some of the strategic approaches for fighting corruption in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Transparency International are still not convinced that Nigeria is serious with the fight against corruption. These civil society organizations called on the government to address dirty money in Nigerian politics and public sector. They also want the government to commit to the independence of the anti-corruption agencies. According to them, this lack of independence affects the ability of the agencies to take bold actions against dirty money and illicit financial outflows.
No doubt, fighting corruption is not an easy task. The more the fight, the more the cankerworm fights back. The Federal Government boasts of recovering over N800 billion in looted funds. But how has this money been utilized? Why do we still borrow money to fund our budget? There must be sincerity of purpose in the fight against corruption. The monster may not be completely eradicated, but if all key stakeholders are sincere and committed, the problem will be drastically reduced. As Ghada Waly put it, “You fight corruption when you refuse to pay or take a bribe, even when it is ‘business as usual’; when you report a corrupt act, even when it doesn’t affect you; and when you play fair in sport, in business and in life.”
Re: Arik’s last flight to Abuja
Not easy, man. A troubling experience for you, I guess. I went through a similar thing, October 27, 2006, with now defunct ADC Airline, from Lagos to Abuja. But, do you know what happened later? Same ADC aircraft crashed two days later. I missed the flight on my way back. That was the flight that claimed the life of former Sultan of Sokoto on October 29, 2006. My return ticket is still in my archives. “All things work together for good to them that love God…” (Romans 8:28)
-Dan Onwukwe, 08111813033
Dear Casmir, the ugly story of your flying experiences with Arik Air, others, could not be as horrible as the allegation, on social media, by an Aba-based businessman, and others, that our own Air Peace charge something like N100,000 as flight fare for travellers to destinations in the South East. As against cheaper fares like N58,000 for trips to Kano, Kaduna, etc, in the North. Please, investigate this allegation of disparity, disservice, and inhumanity to Ndigbo, who patronize Air Peace as belonging to their own “brother.” This development, if true, weighs much more than the common malaise of flights being delayed, rescheduled or cancelled outright, without as much as a word of information, even apology, from a gum-chewing female desk officer.
-Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, 08085914645
Dear Casy, your Arik flight encounter is what I refer to as Executive maltreatment by the Executive to the Executives. It is a microcosm of a perennially malfunctional or ‘jagajaga’ system packaged and handed as menu to the high-ups for consumption at their level. My prayer, my dear brother is for God to continue to grant you and other air travellers safety at all times in a country where much is said about renaissance but implementation is manacled; a country where much is yearly budgeted for but too little is done, the rest of what is budgeted detours into private kitties in obedience to the 11th commandment which says, ‘thou shall not chop alone.’
-Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731
Casmir, your experience while relating with Arik depicts the ‘we don’t care attitude’ of most Nigerian enterprises. This culture of impunity, complacency or laxity knows no bounds in the typical poor Nigerian ways of relating with clients. Most lack ‘good customer relationship’ as they tend to ignore the fact that customers are ‘kings in any business venture’ and should be accorded the courtesy/due respect that they deserve without which business owners would be out of business. Management of such corporations would do well by organising trainings for their staff to up their standards. Customer satisfaction is the key to remain permanently in business especially where options are available in a service based market.
-Mike, Mushin, Lagos, +2348161114572
DearCasmir, real service is that which is rendered under constraints and the soul of business is the satisfaction of customers. Next time the president would visit a city, flights should be suspended to avoid inconveniencing travellers and then Minister for Aviation should legislate refund of money to any person that chooses not to travel if flight schedule is postponed even by an hour.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +234 909 538 5215