Partners United Podcast

Inclusiveness in Accountability Efforts

June 16, 2022 Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Foundation Season 1 Episode 2
Partners United Podcast
Inclusiveness in Accountability Efforts
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Mr. Olarenwaju Suraju and Professor Issah Sadiq Radha discussed the role of various government bodies in the fight against corruption and how their efforts can be more inclusive.

MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {0:10} - Welcome, everyone to our podcast of today on inclusiveness in accountability efforts and a fight against corruption of the current government. My name is Olanrewaju Suraju I am the Chairman of HEDA Resource Centre, the NGO focusing on accountability, transparency and good governance with environmental justice. In collaboration with the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, the organizer of this podcast. Joining us today is Professor Issah Sadiq Radha, the Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption Professor Radha was the former Deputy Vice Chancellor in ABU and activist at the ASSU level before his appointment to the membership of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption and eventually the Executive Secretary of PACAC. Welcome Professor Radha, and welcome, also, our listeners.

PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA {1:09} - Thank you so very much.

MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {1:11} - Our topic for today is looking at inclusiveness in accountability efforts. And I can confidently say, between 2015 to date, talking about close to seven years of the advent of the current regime, you have also been part of the process of the whole Anti-corruption agenda, one of the cardinal points of this government as the PACAC. Member and eventually the Executive Secretary, can you please take us through some of your interventions around the accountability, transparency and anti-corruption under this  government particularly looking at how much of efforts at ensuring the collective participation of every stakeholders?

PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA {2:09} - Well, thank you very much for this opportunity. As you are aware the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption was established in 2015, August. We were the very first committee to be established by the President, in fulfilment of his campaign promise that when elected, he will do his best to fight corruption and upon taking the terms of reference of the mandate given to us we realize that minimally, there are two approaches to the fight against corruption in Nigeria. One, you will have to consider what you will do within Nigeria to fight corruption. Then secondly, corruption being a trans-border crime, you have to know what to do outside the country in the fight against corruption. So as a committee, we sat down, looked at the terms of reference. And based on that, we realized that first and foremost, we have to reach out to the Ministry of Justice, because there are quite a number of legal issues that have to be tidied up. Secondly, we felt we must reach out to the anti-corruption agencies because they are the critical actors in the fight against corruption. Then thirdly, we realize that many regulatory bodies in Nigeria actually are the ones promoting corruption because they have been captured by the very agencies of governments they're supposed to control. So we reached out to regulatory bodies, we also realized that law enforcement agencies in the country like custom immigration, Civil Defense Corp, the police, they all have to be brought on board in the fight against corruption. So we did a lot regarding that, but we realize that part of the problem largely is to do with the judiciary. So we spent a lot of time interfacing with lawyers, interfacing with the judges. Based on that we came up with many manuals on how to guide the country in the fight against corruption. And I must tell you that within the country, a lot of activities have been done. And we are happy to say that we have documented quite a number of things that needs to be done to fight corruption. Finally, we realize that the voice of the civil society organizations is very essential in the fight against corruption. So these were the critical mass of stakeholders that we took on board when we began the fight against corruption. But we realized many people in Nigeria who have stolen funds and have taken it abroad we have to pursue them. So we travelled to many countries in the world, especially countries of interest like UK, US, even Rwanda, where people will steal from Nigeria and go to Ghana, Rwanda, UK, US so we have mutual legal assistance with many countries, so that people who have stolen from Nigeria and have taken it abroad, we can see how it can be brought back. And as you can see from 2015, to date, some progress has been made in the fight against corruption; we have a long way to go. But we have made a lot of progress, at least in this country today people are discussing the issue of corruption in the past in the previous government, and it was the vogue, it was it was it was fashionable to be corrupt. But today we are saying no let’s stop it, there is push back. It is fighting back but we have put it on the table is part of the agenda everywhere the President travels within or outside Nigeria, he makes it a point that corruption should continue to be fought in Nigeria, likewise, the Vice President, so I'm happy to say we have done a lot and that's why many convictions have been made. Properties have been confiscated. Even today within Nigeria, we have a lot of confiscations outside the country, many nations are helping Nigeria to bring back a lot of loot. So we are making progress. But still, we have some work to do.


MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {6:53} - And I can see that Nigeria particularly with EFCC is already reciprocating, by assisting the FBI to arrest some cyber criminals. In the ones that are found in Nigeria, how do you want to also respond to the experiences and some of the reciprocal responses from the international community in terms of the returning of the recovered asset or assisting even to recover some of the looted assets.


PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA {7:38} - Well, frankly, speaking is sweet and sour, because on the one hand, when we get agitated, these countries will help us and we'll get some money back, like the UK has helped us Switzerland has helped us. America has helped us. But there are still a lot of resources belonging to Nigeria, in the United States, in UK, Switzerland, and a host of other countries. So I will say sweet and sour they are helping. But you know this international matter. By the time as a victim country, if you keep quiet, then nobody is going to listen to you. That's why we have made it a point. That PAKAK that we must always shout and shout and shout and show the world that we have a lot of money stashed in the UK, in the US in Switzerland, and many parts of the world, therefore want it back. This one will help us get the money back then it will discourage Nigerians from stealing from Nigeria and traveling abroad. So I must tell you that to a certain extent, we are happy with many countries that are safe havens for stolen funds, because they have helped us to get something back. This was not the case during the last government because they know the last government once they bring back the money they will re-loot it. But now, even if there is going to be re-looting,, the money will not re-looted I mean will not be re-looted entirely. Because I believe there is still corruption in the country. But some progress has been made. People are more careful today. People are more watchful today. So these countries are helping but we need more support because Nigeria can go a long way. In for example, we get the cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, the US, the UK, Switzerland, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria will go a long way. In fact, we don't have to borrow money if we can get our money back from all these countries.


MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {9:39} - Fantastic, I mean, this would lead me to the next question, which is about the management of the recovered loot and assets. Good enough. We have seen that the Senate recently just also passed the process of crime bill, which is the frame work for the management of recovered asset. How do you respond to the challenging situation of the lack of comprehensive proceeds of crime, recovered management to at least assure citizens and also the international communities? How do we also ensure that we take maximum advantage of the moments to reassure the international communities and citizens on our utilization of the recovered assets? 


PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA {10:33} - Well frankly, speaking, on the issue of assets management, Nigeria is not doing very well, and I'm not happy about it. Let's be honest, this is because Nigeria has seized a lot of property. Some of this property is just wasting. When we came as a committee we invited some of our stakeholders from South Africa with them we developed a manual on how to manage recovered assets. The essence of that philosophy we had was anything that has been seized, whether temporarily or permanently forfeited to the government can be managed, at least to maintain the value even if we don't add value. But if you go around houses, hotels, vehicles, ships, filling stations, I mean, is not good enough, is good to confiscate it so that people will know there is no benefit in crime. But then what has been confiscated should be maintained. So that there is value addition or value maintenance, so that no how no how the country will not lose. Our idea was that even if we're in court, anything that is in contention should be taken over by an agency of government. So I am happy that the National Assembly is now working hard to ensure that we have an agency that will maintain not recover, you know, the agency we want established  is not meant to arrest anybody, investigate anybody prosecute anybody, or confiscate property. No,  all these duties are the duties of the ICPC, EFC Code of Conduct Bureau, NFIU, Custom immigration, all these agencies have the powers to confiscate. But after confiscation, we need a specialized agency that will ensure that what has been confiscated, whether perishable or not perishable, money, gold, bra, pants and  what have you should be maintained properly. If they are in contention, they should be maintained properly. The reason why we need it to be maintained is to ensure that even if the owner of the property wins in court, such owner can get the property in good condition. And if the government wins, then the government will get it in good condition and use it properly. So I'm happy that the National Assembly is proactive on this Ministry of Justice has also has also set up a committee for the disposal of assets. But we should all be happy if the National Assembly becomes very swift and pass the process of crime bill into an act so that we have an agency dedicated to the preservation of property recovered, because we have a lot of them. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, regarding what has been recovered, please talk to ICPC they have recovered a lot of property EFCC has recovered a lot of property within and outside the country. So we cannot allow this one that has been recovered  to go to waste or some people will go and re-loot it. But if you have an agency of government then they will look after it. And there will handled and there will be value maintenance and value addition


MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {14:10} - I can only hope that the Ministry of Justice will also sit up and then put together its act and  jettison the experience of having conflicting actions and also communication from the Ministry about the committee about the disposal that as another agency that will prosecute that will forfeit and all  the rest of that I hope it will be understood that what is required is a specialized agency that is also meant for management of the asset which will show to the world that we're really serious and not just confused about how we want to deal with the management of recovered assets.


PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA {14:58} - You know, the idea is that by the time we have the agency legally established, then any unit in Nigeria that is established to maintain property will be abolished. We have them in custom, immigration. We have them all over, we have a unit in the Ministry of Justice, all of them will now be abolished. And everything that has been recovered, will go centrally, and people can track civil society organizations can track whatever has been recovered will go to them, then we  will track and monitor and ensure that there is transparency and accountability,


MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {15:37} - We would really look forward to that. And like I said, we will look forward to the central ministry, which is the Ministry of Justice, actually coordinating and ensuring the participation of all the critical stakeholders in dealing with the issue. I also want to then move to the judiciary. I  remember that you the PACAC already convened a meeting and the communicate was issued as to the experiences of the anti-corruption efforts with the judiciary, or I can say, administration of criminal justice in Nigeria, would you want to shed some light on the frustrations, but challenges and also the efforts of the government at PACAC at addressing these issues considering the strategic importance of the judiciary, to particularly even the asset recovery that we're talking about and also the successful fight against corruption?


PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA {16:49} - You see, as a committee, we must say that we are not very happy with the judiciary. And when I say judiciary, I mean, three components of the judiciary, I mean, especially senior lawyers, some judges, and the court registry. These three components of the judiciary have made the fight against corruption extremely difficult in Nigeria, because for them, the fight against corruption has been turned into a business. You have senior lawyers, who are always willing, ready and agitated to go and defend people who are accused of corruption. The wisdom is somebody who has stolen a lot will be defended by a very senior lawyer who can intimidate the judge or intimidate you know, the lawyer of the government. You know and these are the lawyers, the senior lawyers who are alleged to collect money and go round and bribe the judges. The court registries connive with the lawyers to ensure that cases are sent to especially those that are not to be corrupt. So this triangular axis of evil in the judiciary is making it extremely difficult for us to fight corruption in Nigeria. And the earlier we do something to save salvage the country from the shackles of the judiciary we have the better for Nigeria, I mean, many people have written recently to show that the judiciary has effectively been captured by corrupt elements, by family dynasties, and by individuals that have special interests so we must do something. Some people in the judiciary accused me of being so hostile to lawyers. I'm not saying every lawyer, they are lawyers we know that are also very, very concerned regarding what is happening in the judiciary. We have we have a list of I think close to 1000 lawyers. That said they are willing to partner with PACAC  to bring about better delivery of justice in Nigeria. So I'm not saying every single lawyer is bad, or every single judge is bad, or the country but an overwhelming majority of these people in the judiciary are not helping in the fight against corruption and for them. By and large, the fight against corruption is simply a business. A lawyer goes for a very high profile case, so that he or she can get maximum benefit. We feel as a committee under democracy, civilian rule, where things cannot be done by executive tier, the judiciary must help the country by being honourable ,by being predictable by being Swift, by being less technical. The entire thing about judiciary in Nigeria appears to be technicality over facts and the more we continue like this, then the more we destroy our country and the younger generation will not forgive us recent happenings regarding some state governors, like Ebonyi state like Zamfara state like River state, a couple of states, Imo state will show you the unpredictability of our judiciary. 

You have the same issues. But the verdict is different. You have court precedence, but it's neglected you have Supreme Court judgments, but it's ignored. So we keep wondering what sort of judiciary we'll have in Nigeria that you cannot predict, with all confidence that the Supreme Court Justice will go right or left or center, you can't say that with any certainty delivery of justice is based on the facts in Nigeria today. What matters is technicalities. grammar, dramatizing issues, and at the end of it all, the person that has the most amount of money and most connection will have a fill day. And I think this is not good enough. So for us, as a committee, we have worked with the judiciary, where we will continue to work with the Judiciary because there is no alternative to the Judiciary will have no matter how bad or weak they are. That is what we have, we must continue to work with them. Judiciary is not like education sector where you can have private nursery, private secondary, private university, you can't have private lawyer, private courts. Even If you if you have a private lawyer, the lawyer will go to the same court we do not have private courts. So the judiciary must look at their centrality in making Nigeria orderly, stable, and prosperous without judiciary, who are going to be a bigger mess in the future. So we're calling on judges, lawyers, especially the senior lawyers, we have, I'm happy to say that we have some young lawyers within the system that are interested in reform, but you know, the legal profession is like a cult, young lawyers unlike in the academics where a graduate assistant can challenge a professor, based on ideas. In the legal profession, that's not the case in the courts. That's not the case in the registry. That's not the case so we must unbundle you know the judiciary,  I'm not very happy with our civil society organizations. They spend a lot of time on electioneering campaigns, politicians, election reforms, you know, but they do nothing regarding what happens, or what our lawyers, our judges and the court registry, and that's the central issue. If you want to fight corruption, get a judiciary that is predictable, that is swift, that is fair, that is very, very progressive in this delivery of justice, not technical, if it is technicality and everybody can go and take a bit technical. But when you need a judiciary that has a sense of compassion, a sense of patriotism, and a sense of objectivity and fairness so that people who have stolen in this country are put behind bars and whatever they have is taken out from them.


MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {23:11} - And I know that there were designated courts for corruption cases by the NDC, which was meant to deal with corruption and financial crime cases for speedy dispensation and also report back to the NGC and the CJN. Unfortunately, there was the committee set up by the NJC to monitor committee revived or the courts designated cause for corruption and financial crime cases. We have them functional as a basis for the speedy dispensation of financial crimes and corruption cases.


PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA{24:00} - You see, the committee was working with them. Our committee, the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption. I don't think they were courts, but they were divisions in courts. You know, there are courts in Abuja, in Port Harcourt and I think Kaduna that have divisions that will look at corruption cases only. But unfortunately, it is the same lawyers, the same judges and court registries that have made them very dysfunctional. You see, if you don't have the support, cooperation and collaboration of lawyers, judges, court registry, there is simply no innovative idea you can bring in the judiciary that will succeed. So the divisions were there in Port Harcourt, in Abuja and in Kaduna, but they didn't perform. Why? Because it goes antithetical to the financial gains of some of the elements in the judiciary. So is good is good. You know, initially we said we should have courts that will simply trial corruption cases, but that one required a very long process, including constitutional amendment. But as far as an alternative, we got divisions in some courts to do that, but even that one did not succeed. So I wish some of us are even advocating that establishing new agencies, new units, and new organizations in Nigeria is no longer useful. What you need is making maximum use of what you have on the ground today. We have enough courts, we have enough judges, we have enough lawyers. Everybody is educated; we pretend to be fully educated, why? Why is it that we can deliver, if you ask people to give you their CV, they will show you a very flamboyant CV. But when it comes to delivery people fail to deliver you keep wondering what is the why do we have this gap between our education and our delivery of service to our citizens. You know, if people are looking for a job, they will show you they are the best. But when it comes to delivery, with honesty, with integrity w with patriotism, you find that while so you see a gap between education and delivery. So the lawyers, the judges, people who work in the court registry should just re-examine their conscience, let them look at what they are doing. That is harming society if they're if they think they can have material benefits, their families are okay, well, these things will go round, round and round, and it will come back to them and their families. So they must be able to search their conscience and see that they help this country whether using the court divisions, or using our current courts, to ensure that all corrupt individuals are dealt with very severely I'm happy some judges have given law even two days ago, an appeal court in Sokoto gave punishment to some civil servants in the Ministry of Finance. And these guys are going to prison, even though they have appealed. This is what we want. In Jos we had a conviction a few weeks ago. So here and there you have. So we want a critical mass of judges and lawyers that will say this corruption issue should be given priority in Nigeria, because once you are able to tackle the issue of corruption in this country, many other things will fall in place. And for us to fight corruption effectively to deter everybody we need the judiciary, judiciary should take the lead.


MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {27:43} - This will be important, like you have rightly mentioned that it is not about the institution, it is more about orientation. And also the philosophy that we attached to Office, this government is going to be eight years and also exit in a matter of months from now. What will you be looking at as the legacy that this government will be quit on the future generation? How? How do we want to sustain the whole effort? How do we want to make it a national assignment for everybody and not just a mantra of a political party or a government?


PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA{28:32} -  You see? Frankly speaking, I'm very happy to come across President Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osibanjo. These are people whose character I can vouch for. They have helped the country to at least point to us publicly that corruption is the major problem we have. And they have never since assuming office. They have never wavered regarding making it a political, economic, social, security issue. They have always told Nigerians that we can do whatever we want to do but let us continue to do it. Unless we fight corruption, we're not likely to succeed. So I'm happy. We have a government that have made fighting corruption as an agenda. If not because you have a president that says, let's discuss the issue, we wouldn't have been here talking about it. But for eight years, we have been talking about it, we will continue to talk about it. Therefore, Nigerians should thank this government at least who have kept the issue of corruption on the table as a national agenda. And we should continue to do that. That's number one. Number two. A lot of reforms have been brought under this government. Previous government people who are just going abroad and signing agreements on behalf of the government without the knowledge of the government. And if you remember the P and ID or P and 245 Paris Club refund, many other issues. People in the ministries, department will go and sign agreements and ditch the country, some of them will collect money upfront. That will never happen again in Nigeria because today if you want to sign any agreement, then you need to have the foreign affairs ministry, you need to have the Ministry of Justice, you need to have ICPC, EFCC, and this is the barest minimum. In addition, many things have been introduced to block leakages just  two days ago, the chairman of ICPC told the National Assembly's that because of their efforts, over 400 billion naira has been blocked from been embezzled. These are the things that you will not hear during the last government. So many things some people make the mistake that by the time they hear it on the media, they think corruption is increasing no is not increasing necessarily. The fact of the matter is today, actions are being taken and Nigerians are being told the actions being taken. In the past, it was a culture of conspiracy, a culture of silence, because everybody was waiting for the opportunity. And once you get it, you steal you keep quiet. But today, there are some Nigerians who say, we don't want to steal anything belonging to the public. And once it is stolen, we will pursue anybody who does that, and will make sure they are punished. This is a difference. So Nigerians should look at where we are where we were. The previous government, just have just had a I mean election is around the corner, Nigerians will know what was stolen during the last government, then Nigerians should compare the convictions we have during this government, what has been recovered, you know, the efforts being made by all the anti-corruption agencies to ensure that people who steal are arrested and prosecuted. So I'm happy to say that a lot has been achieved. Not because the President is perfect, or the Vice President is perfect, but because they have given enough leadership. They were not involved. They didn't say arrest somebody they didn't say those arrested should not be prosecuted. The President and the Vice President have given ICPC, EFCC, Code of Conduct bureau, NFI, they have given them the independence and they are performing to the best of their ability. I'm not saying they're all perfect, but they are doing the best they can within the situation, we have found ourselves therefore, we have a lot of landmark achievements to show under this government in the fight against corruption. 

But I've never said it is perfect. We never said, we're 100% where we want to be, but at least we're making the giant steps to be where we want to be, as a committee, we have realized that a lot of work is being done by the federal government to fight corruption. But unfortunately, not much is taking place at the state or local governments. And these are agencies of government. I mean levels of government. State and local government control close to 50% of the month allocation of the government of the country. So we should, we should also beam our searchlights, to the states and government , the way we are advocating inclusivity of the judiciary, we're also calling for the cooperation, collaboration and participation of state governors and local government chairmen, without them, the fight against corruption will be half done is because we'll going to the federal and federal alone is not it's not the federal government alone, that controls the resources of the country, the resources of the country are controlled by the federal government, state government or local governments, and they must all be seen to be fighting corruption, because a holistic approach will give better results. But if you have federal government doing it, but others are not doing it, then there will be a lot of work to be done. We have also realized that there must be some personal responsibility to make Nigeria better. You see, Nigeria should not should not just keep feeling that they must be monitored, they must be deterred, they must be scared before they do the right things. And every one of us has a conscience. We all have education we are enlightened. So you don't need you don't need a policeman ICPC EFCC custom immigration to harass you to intimidate you to scare you to do what is right. I mean, as a human being, you should be able to know what is reasonable, what is fair, what is objective, what is in the best interest of your country in the best interest of our society. And that is why you go to to school. Going to school is to give you an education that will serve you and serve society. So after education and assuming responsibility and still you want somebody to come and control you before you do the right thing, I think is not good enough. If we want to have a better Nigeria, then the citizens must be law abiding. The citizens must respect rules or regulations due process. Because if you're a law breaker, then you can't accuse the minister or the National Assembly of law breaking. So all of us individually, collectively, government agencies, local governments, state governments, federal government must work together towards a better society because nobody can do it alone. The approach has to be collaborative, cooperative. And we have to coordinate properly and make sure we have a better country.


MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {36:16} - On a final note, I mean, since we're talking about collective action, we have experienced and seen the efforts by state gun laws to actually arrest intimidate and even attack whistle-blowers and advocates supporting government for in the anti-corruption and also seen some agencies and officials of the federal government persecuting whistle-blowers. On a final note, how do you want to assess the government's protection of whistle-blowers, and anti-corruption activist and how do you also want to make a final suggestion on how to make it better?


PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA {37:01} - Well regarding whistleblowing in Nigeria is a mixed bag of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Unfortunately, some of the bills to blowers are not as neutral as they should be a whistle blower should be neutral. In the case of Kano we had we had a Jabra Jabra who was pretending to be a whistle blower but was politically attached. So I am saying that whistle blowing is one of the fundamental ways of tidying our country but the whistle blower himself or herself. Should be able to be fair, objective investigative. It shouldn't be hear say, it shouldn't be based on conjecture. It shouldn't be based on speculation. In a situation where somebody says he is a whistle-blower, but it's based on guesswork, there is likely to have a reprisal. So we're calling on government agencies, departments, and ministries, you know, to respect whistle-blowers because it's an important ingredient in the fight against corruption, but the flip side of it is, whistle blowers must be whistle blowers. In other words, they must be honest, they must be sincere, let them do their politics separate from their whistleblowing and let them not be engaged in slander. So I am saying that the next bill that you are likely to see will include the issue of the protection of whistle-blowers, even currently, under the law of the EFCC and the ICPC. There are protections for the whistle-blowers. Again, whistle-blowers have protection under some provisions in the Ministry of Finance, so people should read the guidelines in whistle blowing. You don't blow the whistle and go around and say that you are blowing the whistle and no action has been taken. That’s not whistle blowing because you are exposing yourself as well. So there are guidelines for whistle blowing and anybody who wants to whistle blow the whistle is encouraged but it should be done with decorum, with sincerity, with integrity, with honour, and it should be based on facts.


MR. OLARENWAJU SURAJU {39:25} - Thank you very much Prof. It's been a wonderful experience and time having you as our guest and we look forward to calling you for further engagement in the nearest future. Thank you to our listeners and also the Yar'Adua Foundation and Heather, the organizers behind this podcast. We wish you a wonderful day. Thank you very much.


PROF SADIQ ISAH RADDA{39:56} - Thank you. Thank you so very much.


Outro {39:58} - To join the conversation about accountability in Nigeria visit partners You can also visit to blow the whistle on any perceived corrupt act or make a report on accountability or governance issues in Nigeria