By Garba Shehu,
President Muhammadu Buhari arrives in London on today to join 50 other world leaders at a landmark international anti-corruption summit, called by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The “Anti-Corruption Summit London 2016” will bring together world leaders, business and civil society to agree a package of practical steps to:
• expose corruption so there is nowhere to hide
• punish the perpetrators and support those affected by corruption
• drive out the culture of corruption wherever it exists
• put in place infrastructure and tools that can be used by international organisations, countries and national institutions to fight corruption.
In a remarkable recognition of his ongoing war against corruption in his own country, President Buhari will speak twice at this event,first as a keynote speaker at a pre-conference meeting, called by the new Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, and the second for eight minutes allocated to each president or head of government at the main summit, giving the clearest indication that the president’s focus has become a template for the rest of the world.
Recognition apart, the president is not making pretensions about his success and achievements. Knowing the humility with which he goes about his things, he is not marching to London with a macho image of a fighter, who, in a true sense of the word, pushed back the Boko Haram terrorism and its threat to the nation and confronting equally, embedded corruption like no other regime. Of course, these are milestones visible to the naked eye of the international community, which have earned the goodwill of the people at home and abroad.
When he goes to London, President Buhari intends to share experiences with other leaders. He is of the strong conviction that increasing globalisation has has made it difficult, if not impossible for stand-alone nations to combat corruption; that without global synergies against corruption, nations will fail in their efforts towards economic growth, maintaining security, reducing poverty and protecting the environment for their children. He will, in the light of this seek support for anti-corruption capacity for our national institutions and the citizenship.
As his own contribution, the president has substantially aligned himself with major initiatives enunciated by the convener, Prime Minister David Cameron, that seek to increase transparency and governance in several key areas.
He has formulated a Nigerian position on how to end impunity for corruption and ensuring that those involved in grand corruption are brought to justice through the active enforcement of laws and restrictions. Equally in agreement with Cameron, he is making suggestions on ways of empowering those affected by corruption by ensuring that its proceeds are returned to those from whom they had been stolen.
President Buhari will also join the world leaders in designing a global architecture and tools that can be used by international organisations, countries and national institutions to fight corruption.
In an outline by this county’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, specific areas of interest to Nigeria, which the president will put on the table include the development of beneficial ownership information related to corporate ownership, procurement and public contract.
By this, Nigeria will seek the lifting of the veil on corporate ownerships in order to disclose the true owners of a corporate vehicle in contact bids and procurement processes. Beyond this, the corporate ownership profile may be shared with other countries or interested stakeholders.
Already, there is a broad view among the participants that public contracting is a source of public corruption and must be tackled as such. Our officials recommend that contracts within a certain threshold should be published and those behind the companies bidding for the contract should be listed for public scrutiny both at national and state levels.
To achieve this, Nigeria plans the enactment of a regulation that will authorise the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, to obtain information on beneficial ownership of foreign companies that can be held in a different database to be managed by the CAC in Nigeria.
Nigeria will be demanding the strengthening of the supervisory responsibilities of financial and non-financial services regulators and provision of specific training on compliance requirements for these sectors and will seek the establishment of an inter-agency collaboration, as a key element in improving the implementation of Financial Action Task Force, FATF, standards (such as the money laundering laws, anti-corruption laws, and Financial Intelligence Center Bill).
As part of measures to enhance fiscal transparency, which is required in enhancing economic growth, improved GDP and poverty reduction, officers working in budget offices as well as those responsible for approving public spending may henceforth be properly scrutinised, monitored and required to declare assets on a regular basis.
The Nigerian government has, in fact, set for itself the objective of signing the ‘OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP AND OPEN CONTRACTING PARTNERSHIP.
A major issue of interest to this government and a few others is on greater transparency in the extractive industry (oil, gas and solid mineral sectors). The U.K. Government and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, have identified 20 per cent of international corruption and bribery as coming for this sector. Nigeria will argue for greater fiscal transparency and and the enforcement of anti-corruption laws to deal with the problem.
The president is expected to give assurances that a lot of work will be done on a set of laws that will improve enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Nigeria has already begun reviewing its anti-corruption laws enacted since 2000 to bring it in compliance with international developments. In addition, the country which has ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, UNCAC, is currently reviewing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention for possible ratification. The OECD convention is considered among the stringiest of measures against corruption in corporate governance.
The government of President Buhari has also forwarded the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2016 to the National Assembly in Nigeria for enactment into law.
When it is passed, it will enhance mutual assistance and international cooperation between Nigeria and other countries.
The president will also announce that a new Nigeria Financial Intelligence Center Bill has been drafted for this purpose and would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly.
The Nigerian government will also indicate support for the UK proposal on the development of the INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION COORDINATION CENTER. This is to be based in London and will serve as a global forum.
As part of this country’s contributions to the evolution of the global anti-corruption infrastructure, Nigeria will seek support for the hosting of an “International Summit on Assets Recovery “in 2017 in Abuja and for the establishment and hosting of a “Forum on Assets Recovery in Africa” to be based in Abuja. The country will also seek the support of the UK government for the establishment of an anti-corruption coordination framework at the national level.
Nigeria will be fully embracing UK proposals for the summit on the restriction of the ability of those who have looted public funds from traveling and investing the proceeds of their corruption in developed countries. To this end, the Nigerian government will develop its list of those who have been convicted as well as those already prosecuted in Nigerian courts for grand corruption for the purpose of sharing them with countries that are interested in offering bilateral or multilateral cooperation to Nigeria in the recovery of looted funds.
The Nigerian government is also signaling an early support for the UK proposals on assets recovery, which prescribes measures substantially in tandem with a new Proceeds of Crime Bill being drafted and would soon been forwarded by President Buhari to the National Assembly for passage into law.
In addition to the political spotlighting of corruption, the coming together of world leaders is a sign of hope that countries like Nigeria with systems that are lax and compromised can gain from the experience of others in improving their regulatory mechanisms as quickly as possible.
This trip is important for both Nigeria and the international community, which reposes a lot of hope on Muhammadu Buhari who is faced with the daunting task of reversing the the socio-economic and political mess in which the previous administration left the country.
In addition to the anti-corruption summit, the visit will also focus on trade and investment between Nigeria and the U.K. President Buhari will welcome British investment in Nigeria.
It is hoped that the bilateral discussions between the Prime Minister and our President will focus on issues of common interest and do everything possible to take the relationship between the two countries to newer heights.
• Shehu is SSA to the President (Media and Publicity).