Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, on Thursday disclosed that so far about N1 trillion has been recovered locally from proceeds of corruption perpetuated by Nigerians.
He further disclosed that the panel has also stopped N400 billion yearly loss to fuel subsidy.
Sagay made the disclosure while fielding questions from State House Correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, the N1 trillion does not include recovered monies from outside the country.
The recovered funds, Prof Sagay said, are being ploughed back into the Nigerian economy as part of the annual federal budget.
He said the funds were part of what is being used to fund the activities of the Buhari’s administration Social Investment Programmes.
Sagay insisted that corruption has been curtailed by the Buhari administration
The PACAC chairman, however, regretted that the 8th National Assembly spearheaded a reaction against the campaign, but commended the 9th National Assembly for supporting the fight against corruption.
Speaking on the asset recovery, Sagay remarked: “I don’t need to tell anybody, it is unprecedented in the annals of this country that we could be recovering so much assets illegally acquired mainly by public servants, but not only by public servants. And the more remarkable aspect of it is that these recovered loot are being ploughed back into the national budget every year. It is ploughed back into the national budget and used for the Social Investment Programme. So, when you hear about feeding of over 12 million school children, as when I checked last having nutritious meal every day, you hear of poor families being supported to survive and stand on their feet, or over 500,000 young people who are being trained in all sorts of skills and paid N30,000 a month by the government, and the interest free loans given to small scale businesses all over the country; it’s all part of this money, not a kobo of it is left, everything is ploughed back and I think the country should know that it is very unprecedented. This never happened before in the history of this country, everything is ploughed back.
“Then we have succeeded in improving the quality of prosecution by giving the prosecution agencies a lot in terms of capacity building, training them in the manner cases should be prosecuted, and how charges should be drawn. Judges up to the Supreme Court have also benefitted from this programme.
“In the era of corruption you will be surprised if you think back that nobody talks about fuel subsidy corruption anymore. Previously, we were losing almost N400 billion every year on fake fuel subsidy payments, but now it is zero. So, generally the tone of the country has improved. The country has gained tremendously, corruption has gone down. There is still corruption but it has gone down and anybody who indulges, particularly an officer of a state who engages in it, knows the risk he is taking.
“We have the TSA, we have the bank verification number, all those things have made an incredible change in our level of anti corruption.
“Now you cannot hide money in the banks anymore and agencies cannot hide money in various banks accounts which they spend without the knowledge of the government. Everything is in one place, everything is transparent, thanks to this government.”
On the challenges the Committee has faced in carrying out its duties, the PACAC chairman said: “We are doing pretty well. Previously, we were afraid that when the initial donor agency funds will be exhausted which we exhausted last year, we will be in trouble; but I must say the government and various other bodies in this country which I will not want to mention have come to support PACAC with funds and so we are able to carry on our activities at the same speed as before, regardless of the fact that the foreign donors are no longer funding us apart from MacArthur foundation that still funds programmes from time to time.
“So, there are always challenges but we don’t have any serious ones at all. We are doing our work, there is a large variety of work that we do in various areas, both remote and immediate, to support the anti corruption struggle.”
On debts recovery by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCOM), Sagey said: “AMCOM itself has taken up the challenge, they have assessed the amount of debt being owed some as a result of corruption, others as a result of purely business failures and they are very determined now to recover these debts; and I am aware there is a lot of vigour in an attempt to recover the debts right now. We don’t have any direct role in this area, although whatever they do will benefit the country because it is about N5 trillion involved. So, they are vigorously fighting it under the new management and committee that was set up, and I think they will recover a lot if not all.
On corruption fighting back, the PACAC chairman said: “That is to be expected but I am happy to say that the capacity of corruption to fight back has been reduced with the expiration of the life of 8th Assembly because that is where the main opposition to this government was constituted, main opposition to the fight against corruption, that was the centre; and at that time, it did not depend on which party they belonged to, they all ganged up together against the fight against corruption and did everything they could to frustrate the government and ourselves in the this fight.
“Luckily, the 9th Assembly is a totally different assembly. It is an assembly that is determined to work hand in hand with the government and therefore with us in achieving the highest level of non corruption in society.
“How much? I think the Minister of Information is best placed to say how much but I can say roughly internally is almost about N1 trillion. Because, you see that in 2017, N500 billion was spent on this Social Investment Programme and in 2018 the same amount for the programme. So, it must be roughly about N1 trillion although we also have monies that were recovered from abroad being ploughed back into the same system.
“When you have a disease that has been alive maybe 50 years, you cannot get rid of it overnight. My own personal experience about corruption is that it exists at every level, that is the frightening aspect through all sectors of society. As a lawyer going to court to file a paper, every official of the court imposes a personal tax which has nothing to do with the official filing fees to do his job. These are clerical officers and much lower people and this pervades all aspects of Nigerian society.
“So, corruption has become a culture, some people are corrupt without even thinking that they are corrupt, it is part of them. They think it is an entitlement. So it is going to take a long time to get rid of it.
“So that is why the National Oriention Agency and the major document that has been produced, Anti-corruption Strategy lays some emphasis on acculturizing Nigerian with regard to fight against corruption, going to schools, NGOs, civil society organisations and so on to preach the message of anti corruption, to give incentives to those who are not corrupt so that people will be encouraged to imbibe that culture. It is a long term thing, all we can do as it’s being done is that concentration is at the top where powerful people are using state funds for themselves, eventually it will go down as this culture is being progressively imbibed.”