Merger Of EFCC And ICPC: The Panacea For Fighting Corruption In Nigeria, By Abbas Inuwa Jnr
Corruption is a serious problem that stifles Nigeria’s development, good governance, democracy and internal security. It is the source of widespread poverty, unemployment, infrastructural decay, inequality and injustice, diminished public institutional capacity, moral decadence and underdevelopment across all sectors. The menace of corruption thrives because of operational indiscretion in public institutions, monopoly of power, weak oversight, lack of transparency and positive values, low risk of getting caught and being punished, societal dynamics of celebrating corrupt persons, putting pressure on office holders (due to poverty, low pay, poor welfare, sectional or religious interests) and ostentatious lifestyle among politicians and public office holders.
Efforts have been put in place by various administrations to address corruption and its numerous challenges, but falls short of the evolutionary corrupt activities. The present administration has rekindled the hope of Nigerians in combating the cankerworm through lawful prosecution of corrupt persons and institutionalization of transparency and accountability in the public sector. How the government intends to do that remains a mirage and topic of discussion in the public domain.
Recently, the political space has been dominated with commentaries on the merger of anti-corruption agencies, particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for a strong, proactive and autonomous agency. The two agencies were established mainly to engage in the detection, prevention and prosecution of criminal acts of corruption.
The establishment of ICPC was necessitated by Article 6 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) which requires each signatory to establish a body dedicated to fighting corruption, as well as the commitment of Former President Olusegun Obasanjo to rid Nigeria of corruption; at the time the civil administration of Obasanjo came into power, corruption has pervade all sectors, the 1999 Transparency International Perception Index rated Nigeria as second most corrupt country in the world. The prevalence of corruption, emerging cyber-crimes, and the pressure from Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) which listed Nigeria as non-cooperative or non-compliance country in the international community’s effort to fight money laundering also let to the establishment of EFCC.
However, the process of addressing corruption in Nigeria has long been resigned to a fragmented and uncoordinated approach of several institutions and procedures dealing with specific angle of corruption, such as the Police, Code of Conduct Bureau, Public Complaint Commission, etc.
The exigencies of these agencies considering the rate and speed of corruption in the country are without doubt justifiable, corruption has since assumed a systemic character involving public and private institutions, and it is perpetrated consciously or subconsciously. However, the multiplicity of these agencies requires effective cooperation and coordination to avoid overlaps specifically as it relates to investigations, a situation which is not entirely unexpected. In an environment where there are blurred mandates, a fertile ground is prepared for confusion, challenges and rivalry.
Significantly, these challenges of corruption can be sufficiently addressed through the services of a single, independent anti-corruption agency with prosecutorial and coercive powers and mandates of receiving and responding to petitions, ethics policy guidance, research, analysis and compliance review, scrutiny of assets, public education and outreach.
The establishment of a single, independent anti-corruption agency will resolve coordination challenges, centralize all necessary information and intelligence on corruption, reduce discrepancies between the budgets and resource wastages, assert leadership in the anti-corruption crusade, enhance decision-making process, eliminate existing overlaps between the functions of anti-corruption agencies, determine clear roles and lines of responsibility and efficient utilization of resources. Inadvertently, the lack of coordination, discrepancies in resource allocation and the absence of cooperation may lead to wastage of resources and investigative ineffectiveness.
Criminal acts of corruption are complex and secretive in nature; therefore, there is no single solution to the problem, the effort should be all-inclusive and dynamic. Global strategy has adopted reactive, preventative and proactive methods. In Nigeria, the ICPC has this pronged strategy enshrined in its establishment Act. However, the success of this strategy depends on political will, ethical training, controls/accountability, and lack of political intrusion and the anti-corruption agency itself must not be tainted by corruption.
Political-will increases budget of the anti-corruption agency, legal support, zero tolerance policy, supervision and reduces political dictates of a dominant executive, party or clan which will compromise the agency’s independence and weaken it operations.
The success of any anti-corruption agency is determined by the internal and external factors of its enabling environment, as practically seen in Hong Kong and Botswana. The external factors include adequate laws and procedures, functioning courts, free and active media, active civic engagement, supreme audit institutions, open government data, cross-border collaboration, whistle-blower protection system, socio-political and economic stability. The basic internal factors are driven from the agency’s capacity in staff, training, system development, structural settings, resource base and management, record keeping and analysis. Any anti-corruption agency with these sufficient factors would better succeed in its effort than multiple interrelated agencies.
It is obvious fighting and controlling corruption requires a dedicated, comprehensive and long-term approach which is solidly vested in a strong political commitment serving public interest. However, there is no universal blueprint for fighting corruption, corruption manifests itself in different ways and intensities; it requires differentiated and coordinated responses, and until anti-corruption agencies are strengthened to a formidable cross-sectoral independent bureau the pattern, impacts and trends of corruption would continue to manifest.
Abbas Inuwa Jnr writes from Kaduna, read more of his write-ups at www.abinjnr.wordpress.com, or follow him on twitter – @abinjnr