The Federal Government has maintained that corruption is one of the biggest impediments to national development in the country, describing the act as illegal and illegitimate.
Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN stated this at the ongoing retreat on Open Government Partnership which opened in Kaduna Monday.
In a press statement emanating from the Office of the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and issued by Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, the Minister condemned the clandestine motives by those who perpetrate corruption.
Isah revealed that Malami in his keynote address at the retreat with the theme: ‘Promoting Transparency and Accountability through the Open Government Partnership’, disclosed the retreat is to fashion out a two-year National Action Plan (NAP) to mainstream transparency mechanisms in the management of public funds across all sectors and citizen engagement.
“Corruption remains one of the biggest impediments to national development. It is illegal and illegitimate. It concerns actions that are often clandestine and practices that those who perpetrate it always try to conceal. Numerous scholars insist that many of the political, social and especially economic problems we face in Nigeria is still traceable to the problem of corruption”, Malami insists.
The AGF commended the Kaduna state government for hosting the retreat, expressing the desire that it can become a pilot state for the purpose of implementing OGP principles at the sub-national level.
He said, “When we were considering the venue to host this retreat, we eventually settled for Kaduna for many reasons including the fact that the Governor has made significant efforts in engaging with the citizens and in the publication of budget information as well as his desire to fast track the development of Open Government partnership principles in Kaduna state.”
He also expressed gratitude to the Edo state government for participating at the retreat and contemplating adopting some of the core principles of the Open Government Partnership
Malami went memory lane to state that “The retreat is coming up following Nigeria’s formal acceptance as OGP member country in July 2016, two months after President Muhammadu Buhari, attended the Anti-Corruption Summit organized by the government of the United Kingdom in May, 2016 where he reaffirmed the Nigerian government’s commitment to strengthen anti-corruption reforms and bring integrity to governance through leadership by example.
For the OGP to work in Nigeria, it must satisfy certain conditions viz:
i. Endorse a high level Open Government Declaration
ii. Co-create and deliver a country action plan developed with public consultation (government and civil society)
iii. Implement commitments made by government
iv. Commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward, and
v. Contribute to peer learning.
The obligations of the Federal Government include promoting efforts to prevent the facilitation of corruption through partnership and information sharing, implementing transparent public procurement and fostering programmes that will drive out the culture of corruption and institutionalize integrity in the institutions, while building on technology as a core pillar for engagement. To secure the requisite high level buy-in from stakeholders required for effective implementation; government has launched a robust consultative process aimed at identifying national priorities towards the preparation of the National Action Plan (NAP).
“So far, the Federal Government has set up an OGP National Steering Committee, with the Federal Ministry of Justice as the coordinating ministry. This Committee is made up of representatives of government, civil society organizations, organized private sector and professional associations who will work together to co-create a two-year National Action Plan (NAP) to deepen and mainstream transparency in the management of public funds across all sectors.
“The Steering Committee will function as a platform for deepening government’s anti-corruption reforms. Using a multi-stakeholder approach, it will work towards encouraging improved openness and transparency in government as well as citizens’ participation and engagement. From the government side, the fight against corruption cuts across every sector and as such, all agencies are expected to work towards ensuring openness in their processes as well as developing a sense of accountability and responsibility towards the citizens.
“Through a consultative process between government and civil society, the National Steering Committee has agreed on consolidating existing reforms within four thematic areas identified for the proposed National Action Plan. The thematic areas are:
i. Promoting fiscal transparency and improved public procurement and open contracting;
ii. Access to information;
iii. Anti-corruption and asset disclosure; and,
iv. Citizen engagement and empowerment.
It further added that, “Nigeria is already implementing a number of anti-corruption reforms across several sectors of governance, and the OGP initiative presents a platform for increased global participation, peer learning and continuous self-assessment. We have also fully embraced the technology train like other countries around the world as can be seen in components of the various reforms:
i. The Enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) 2011 has made public records and information more freely available and accessible to Nigerians. Several government agencies have set up compliance structures and are now able to respond to requests for information, within the ambits of the law.
ii. Enactment of the Public Procurement Act (2007) and subsequent establishment of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) has improved transparency and openness in the public procurement process. Open contracting is now taking place in the public sector, with the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) blazing the trail in Nigeria ahead of government’s plans to implement e-procurement in all its agencies.
iii. Full enforcement of Treasury Single Account (TSA) which has allowed the government to monitor the financial activities of over 900 MDAs from a single platform, reduced the amount the FGN loses in interest rates on borrowing from commercial banks, eliminated the process of cash backing MDA’s accounts with commercial banks, improved the reconciliation process for MDA accounts and saved the government several billions of Naira which would otherwise have been lost through corrupt practices.
iv. Implementation of the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) has brought greater transparency to public financial management processes. The Budget Office and the Office of the Accountant General regularly publish allocations of federation revenues to all tiers of government, and widely disseminate information on budget allocation and execution. On the other hand, IPPIS has created a centralized database system for the Public Service with a single, accurate source of employee information.
v. The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has made some progress towards improving transparency in the extractive industry and is now working on populating a public register with the beneficial owners of all companies operating in the Nigerian extractive industry.
vi. Implementation of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) initiative has created a centralized biometric identification system for the banking industry. The initiative has made it easier to follow the trail of money in the economy, reduced fraud in the financial sector and exposed tax evaders within the system.
vii. The Code of Conduct Bureau is now better able to carry out its mandate of ensuring that public officers declare their assets and also that such assets are verified and recorded in accordance with the law.
viii. The Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2007 is currently being reviewed to better define who a beneficial owner of a company is.
ix. The Corporate Affairs Commission is also reviewing its laws to make it possible to disclose beneficial owners as well as provide information on ownership of assets held in blind trusts. It is also working to create a public register of beneficial owners of public companies.
To recount, Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multi-stakeholder initiative that focuses on improving government transparency, accountability and responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation. It was formally launched in 2011 when the eight founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States) endorsed the Open Government Declaration, and announced their country action plans. Since then, OGP has welcomed the commitment of 62 additional governments, bringing to 70 the number of countries that are currently members of the initiative.
Nigeria formally joined the OGP in July 2016, two months after President Buhari attended the Anti-Corruption Summit organized by the government of the United Kingdom in May, 2016 where he reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to strengthen anti-corruption reforms and bring integrity to governance through leadership by example.
Also represented at the retreat are the Office of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, Clerk, National Assembly, Alhaji Sani Omolori, Honourable Ministers of Information and Culture, Health, Budget and National Planning, Communications, Petroleum Resources, Foreign Affairs as well as Power, Works and Housing.
The international representation is through delegates from the Global OGP, Washington DC, USA and its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sanjay Pradhan, development partners, other international officials including the Embassy of Switzerland and delegates from Nigeria have also confirmed their participation at this historic event.
Other participants are from Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAGF), Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP), Presidential Anti-Corruption Advisory Committee (PACAC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute among others.
Some of the civil society organisations at the retreat are the National Economic Summit Group, (NESG), CLEEN, SERAP, ANEEJ, NIREC, Digital Forensics, Council for the Regulation of Engineers in Nigeria (COREN), Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, Budgit, Media Rights Agenda, Global Network for Cyber Solution, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Publish What You Say and Centre for Environmental Education, based in Jalingo, Taraba state.