Nigerians have reasons to be happy this week when President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts at fighting corruption attracted continental recognition at the recently concluded African Union (AU) Summit in far away Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Buhari’s appointment as the captain of efforts to rid the continent of corruption only shows the pervasiveness of the menace in Africa and the need for a strong character, in the mould of the Nigerian leader, to stamp it out.
Corruption has been identified as the main bane of African development and the leaders must have realized that they either confront it or remain in the abyss of poverty and underdevelopment.
That Buhari was chosen to champion the fight beyond his local Nigeria ahead of 54 other Head of governments was a testimony to the endorsement of the success of his efforts in extirpating corruption from the nation’s body polity.
Buhari has never hidden his aversion to corruption. He described the menace as a vermin that must be exterminated before it imperiled the country. Already, Nigeria’s growth had been stunted due to the impact of the activities of the corrupt elements in the country.
Before his second coming, especially in the dark days of the military administrations and the sixteen years of the democratic rule of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the nation suffered financial rape from unconscionable officials who could hardly decipher government funds from their private estate.
Funds meant for infrastructural development were converted to private use while the masses suffer. This perhaps represents the experience of most African countries and has become a source of worry to them.
55 African leaders, who constitute the AU, may have been fascinated by Buhari’s systemic approach to the fight against corruption. They must expect that the could learn from Buhari’s experience in strengthening institutions and building international bulwark against corrupt individuals.
As it is, Buhari has succeeded in signing international treaties with foreign countries. He appealed to western and Middle East countries, hitherto serving as looters’ haven, and signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) for easy repatriation of stolen wealth with them.
It should be noted that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which used to be a safe haven for money launderers and looters have become unattractive because of the agreement Nigeria entered into with the leadership of that country.
Buhari’s externalization of the fight against corruption must have attracted his colleagues in the continent who are also facing the dangers posed by the kleptomaniacs in their governments.
At the local level, the President came up with a whistle-blower policy that has made looting dangerous and unattractive to government officials. Already the policy has succeeded in exposing corrupt leaders who warehoused stolen funds with several billions of Naira already recovered.
This policy, made in Nigeria, could be exported to other countries in the continent with its workability assured.
On assumption of office about two years ago, the President resolved to implement the Treasury Single Accounts (TSA) policy which his predecessor could not implement due to lack of political will.
Before the implementation of this policy, government agencies were fond of operating phony accounts with commercial banks thereby shortchanging the government in their remittances. With multiple accounts operation by bureaucrats, government funds were being diverted to private use.
But with the implementation of the TSA, it has become difficult for officials to pocket government revenues as done in the past. This policy must have attracted other African leaders as it has succeeded in blocking all loopholes and leakages for government revenues.
In order to fight systemic corruption in the payment of civil servants salaries, the President ensured the full implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) policy. With the directive that all government agencies must join the IPPIS, thousands of ghost workers were identified and cleared from the government payroll. This singular action saved the nation several billions of Naira which hitherto end up in the pockets of some unscrupulous individuals in government.
The President would do well in his latest assignment if he would make his fellow leaders to understudy the Nigerian IPPIS model so that they could also deal with the menace of ghost workers in their countries.
Some government officials, particularly under former President Goodluck Jonathan, who helped themselves to some illicit state funds have been made to return their loots with their assets confiscated. Many of them are already in courts and there are assurances that those culpable would face their comeuppance.
Already, there are reports that two oil marketers found guilty of malfeasance in the fuel subsidy scandals in the last administration have been convicted. Several others are in courts waiting to be sentenced if found culpable.
Buhari’s administration has achieved the highest amounts in the recovery of stolen assets and recorded the highest number of convictions by any administration in the country so far. Several measures have also been initiated for the strengthening of the nation’s asset recovery legislation, investigating agencies and the Auditor-General’s office, including through non-conviction based confiscation powers and the introduction of unexplained wealth orders.
Obviously, many African leaders would have to take necessary tutorials from Buhari on the methodology adopted in the dangerous but rewarding fight against corruption in their various countries.
Like in Nigeria, they should also expect that corruption will definitely fight back with astounding ferocity. Like Buhari, they must remain undaunted if they intend to confront the menace as those benefitting from sleaze are not likely to give up easily.
All said, Buhari’s appointment as the anti-corruption champion for the continent only goes to show that he had attracted recognition even though there are pockets of criticisms against him at the local level. With this, he had scored another first in international politics by standing out as a leader with the capacity to chart a new course for global probity and accountability.
Whatever critics may say, Buhari has become a torch-bearer and a reference point for good governance in the continent and deserves to be honoured at home. This is beyond politics.