By Bassey Udo
To create the opportunity for greater synergy in the in preparation towards a smooth transition to the next government, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) says it plans to focus its attention on the 2023 elections and the recently approved national anti-corruption strategy 2022 – 2026.
The Chairman, Inter-Agency Task Team, who is also the Chairman of the National Stakeholders Working Group (NSWG) of NEITI, Olusegun Adekunle, disclosed this at the International Anti-Corruption Day celebration in Abuja on Thursday.
The global theme of this year’s celebration was “UNCAC at 20: Uniting the World Against Corruption”, which focuses on strategic approaches to combating corruption to enable sustainable development.
He said the linkage with sustainable development captured the essence of government, which was to ensure and guarantee development and the well-being of citizens.
If the country must make significant progress on developmental issues, he said corruption must be reduced to the minimum, adding that the people must resist anything that could constitute an impediment to the attainment of this goal.
While acknowledging the challenge of country in the country, Adekunle said the people have not been idle in combating the menace, as legislations have been enacted, coupled with institutions established to implement issues covered by the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
Apart from strengthening dedicated institutions to provide data–policy nexus and inter-agency coordination and collaboration through the IATT platform, the NEITI Chairman said Nigeria was one of the first countries to sign on to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption [UNCAC] when the document was opened for signature in Merida Mexico in 2003.
Since then, he said the country has continued to diligently fulfill its treaty obligations, including undergoing reviews in the first and second cycles, apart from significantly domesticating the provisions of international convention.
He called for the full implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2022 – 2026 taking into consideration the successes, challenges and lessons learned from the implementation of the NACS 2017 – 2021.
“We must collectively work together in the development of the action plan and commit to diligently implementing our roles and responsibilities.
“There is a need for emphasis on prevention, tackling corruption from the roots and closing the doors to illicit activities before they happen to preserve the integrity of our systems and save us valuable resources for sustainable development,” he said.
In his goodwill message, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Orji Ognonnaya Orji, commended the IATT members and the anticorruption community in Nigeria for marking the 14th United Nations’ International Anticorruption Day.
He reassured them that NEITI was committed to the fight against corruption, not just as a member of the IATT, but also as a key facilitator in anticorruption process in Nigeria.
Apart from hosting the Technical Unit on Governance and Anticorruption Reforms (TUGAR) as a department in NEITI, Orji said the agency provided routine and ongoing support for the day-to-day operations of TUGAR for the past 10 years, in addition to leading the generation of extensive data and information that has facilitated accountability and progressive reforms in the extractive industry.
He reviewed NEITI’s milestones in the last 20 years to include conducting 13 cycles of oil and gas audit producing 22 years of data; 11 cycles of solid minerals audit generating 14 years of data, and 3 cycles of Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement Audit (FASD) audit covering 13 years of data.
During the period, he said NEITI’s reports led to significant recoveries of unpaid revenues from oil & gas and solid minerals revenues, including over N2.6 trillion unremitted revenues by 77 oil and gas companies uncovered in 2022.
The figure consists of unremitted Petroleum Profit Tax, Company Income Tax, Education Tax, Value Added Tax, Withholding Tax, Royalties, Penalties and Concession on rentals to the Federal Government.
Again, the intervention by the National Assembly, led to the recovery of $6.477 billion, which was paid to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS0 and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, described the theme of this year celebration as apt, as it clearly recognizes that we all have a common goal to fight against corruption in the interest of global peace, security and sustainable development.
He said since Nigeria signed the United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption on December 9, 2003, and ratified same in 2004, several legal, institutional and policy frameworks have been put in place at both national and subnational levels to drive effective implementation of the country’s obligations under UNCAC.
Malami identified the passage of the Proceeds of Crime Act, enhance existing framework for managing proceeds of recoveries from criminal conduct.
From the collective efforts of anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies, he said billions in various currencies have been recovered and deployed into funding critical infrastructure projects such as the Abuja-Kano and Lagos-Ibadan expressways and 2nd Niger Bridge, all under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund.
Also, he said several critical reforms in the public sector have also mainstreamed anti-corruption policies and strategies, including the National Development Plan 2021-2025 and the Federal Civil Service Strategy and Implementation Plan (FCSSIP) 2021-2025, with the ultimate aim of good governance, building stronger institutions and a more responsive and virile public service.
In addition, he said the country took steps to strengthen institutional frameworks on Anti-Corruption and foster collaboration with the IATT, the impact of which have been acknowledged and commended both locally and internationally.
With the approval of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2017-2021 action plan between 2022 and 2026, there would inclusive participation of all relevant stakeholders, particularly at sub-national levels, as well as the constitution and inauguration of the inter-Ministerial Committee mandated to achieve set goals of NACS.
Head, Technical Unit on Governance And Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR) Jane Onwumere, said since the adoption of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, Nigeria, as one of the early signatories, has shown commitment to the fight against corruption by making sure the treaty obligations were fulfilled.
Part of the initiatives, she said, was the joint commemoration of the International Anti-corruption Day annually on the platform of the Inter Agency Task Team of anti-corruption Agencies.
The theme of this year’s celebration, she said, sought to highlight the way corruption affects development and impedes the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Also, she said sought to draw attention to the important role by the UNCAC in uniting the world to fight corruption jointly and systematically, preparatory to the 20th anniversary of the Convention in 2023.
Discussions during the convention, she said, focused on the need for credible and transparent electoral processes in view of the coming 2023 general elections and the newly approved National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2022 – 2026.
These issues, she noted, were critical in the fight against corruption and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“As a country, there is no doubt that the full implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2022-2026 and a free and fair election in 2023 would be a major boost for development and realization of the SDGs,” she said.
UNODC Country Representative, Oliver Stolpe, who highlighted the negative impact on security, organized crime, economy and development, said the cycles of inequality and poverty underscores the need to come together and act to stop corruption.
“Because our communities are losing out on trillions of dollars and countless opportunities. As we face growing financial uncertainty, escalating conflicts, and climate disasters, it is more important than ever to end corruption,” Stolpe.
He said the UNODC has enhanced cross-border cooperation through the Globe Network, with membership of 127 entities from 69 countries, as well as teamed up with the World Bank to bolster asset recovery efforts around the globe.