Africa – Buhari Heads Anti-Corruption Campaign

Is the Nigerian president the man for the job?

There were mixed reactions as the African Union (AU) placed on Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari the task of championing the war on corruption throughout the continent, at its summit in Addis Ababa.

The Nigerian presidency said it was pleased with the choice of Buhari even as the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stated its deep disappointment, Premium Times noted. A statement by Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, countered criticism by saying that the last two years of the Buhari administration have revealed the “massive and unrivalled level of corruption in which the PDP and its leaders at the highest level thrived.”

“So it mustn’t surprise anyone really that they have chosen their obstructionist role rather than lending a helping hand in the fight against corruption,” he added.

In its two-and-a-half years in office, the Buhari administration claimed to have made significant strides in its efforts to identify and block loopholes through which oil revenues are stolen and payrolls are populated with ghost workers. “Giving this honourable task to President Buhari is recognition of his mettle and reinforcing the evident commitment that he has shown to eradicating this evil in Nigeria,” the spokesman said.

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“Changing the state of play requires retraining and education” – Photo: CC 2015

Buhari noted that the continent has made significant strides in putting in place legal and policy frameworks, notably the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC).  However, the adoption of such frameworks on their own have not had the desired success.

This, he noted, is one of the driving reasons behind the AU’s designation of 2018 as the African Anti-Corruption Year. The statement also said the AU would organise a Youth Congress on Corruption to address the specific challenges and impacts that corruption has on emerging leaders.

President Buhari emphasised the importance of strong institutions and the need for a reorientation of attitudes and perceptions to corrupt practices. Changing the state of play requires retraining and education as a means to instill better and more transparent values, he said.

The statement noted that Buhari would bring about engagements with key actors in the fight against corruption including parliamentarians, the media, the business community and faith-based groups. “As corruption cuts across every sector in society, we should continue to support consultative dialogue among all actors to forge joint solutions to this menace,” the statement read.

Addressing the conference on January 28th in Addis Ababa, President Buhari recognised that in spite of sustained economic growth on the continent for the past two decades, “public confidence has been eroded by a focus on short-term priorities and payoffs, propelled by corruption, which too often leaves projects uncompleted and promises unfulfilled.”

He listed as priorities for 2018 mobilising AU member states to implement the extant legal framework and canvassing for the strengthening of the criminal justice system across Africa through exchange of information and sharing best practices in the enforcement of anti-corruption laws.

Reminding his fellow African leaders that the campaign against corruption will not be an easy task because “corruption does fight back,” he advised them to remain firm and resolute.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo notably exchanged pleasantries with Buhari during the summit, Leadership reported. their first meeting since the controversial statement by Obasanjo criticising the Buhari administration and advising him not to seek a second term in office in 2019.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on January 29th faulted the naming of President Buhari as AU anti-corruption champion, saying it is laughable and derisory. They referred to a series of alleged frauds in the oil sector they say have gone unexplained, and the diversion of billions of Naira donated for IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) for other purposes related to party interests.

“The truth lies bare that the Buhari administration is not engaging in any fight against corruption but political witch-hunt of opposition, while his government reeks with corruption,” the PDP submitted.

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