By Muhammad Suleiman-Tola
On Monday, Dec. 12, Kano State marked the 2016 International Anti-Corruption Day, even though the United Nations (UN) has earmarked Dec. 9 of each year as the global observance day.
The day is designed to raise public awareness on the ills of corruption and mobilise the people’s support for the elimination of the vice.
The Kano State Government organised the maiden event in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Justice and it was attended by many government officials and agencies, including National Orientation Agency (NOA).
Donor agencies, activists, student leaders, women groups as well as civil society organisations were also in attendance and they all spoke on the challenges of corruption in Nigeria.
In his address, Gov. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State described the theme of this year’s anti-corruption day — “United Against Corruption for Development, Peace and Security” — as apt and said that it was very relevant to the current realities in the state.
He highlighted the efforts of the state government to fight corruption and reiterated that the crusade was central to his administration’ philosophy.
The governor recalled that when he assumed office in 2015, he restructured Kano State Anti-Corruption Commission into Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission, while making the agency functional via the appointment of vibrant and independent leaders, who were free from undue interference, for it.
According to him, the state anti-corruption commission has established functional offices in all the 44 local government areas of the state, with a view to expanding the scope of its operation and bringing it closer to people at the grassroots.
Ganduje, who rated the performance of the commission in the last one year as satisfactory, said that its mandate had conferred on it a leading role in the crusade against corruption as well as in the protection and promotion of human rights.
While acknowledging the achievements of the commission, the governor called on other states to set up similar anti-corruption bodies so as to complement the renewed efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to tackle corruption head-on.
The Executive Chairman of the commission, Malam Muhuyi Magaji-Rimingado, who commended the commitment and zeal of all stakeholders in the fight against corruption, described corruption as a cancer and major cause of under-development.
“Nigeria is endowed with abundant human and natural resources that could make the country one of the most prosperous and economically buoyant nations in the world.
“Sadly, however, corruption hampers the growth and development of our economy. Corruption also fuels militancy which threatens the corporate existence of our nation,’’ he said.
Magaji-Rimingado said that the commission had received about 7,000 complaints and petitions, adding that it had recovered more than N1.15 billion in cash, movable and immovable properties within the 11 years of its existence.
In addition, he said that the commission recorded 1,465 cases between 2015 and the second quarter of 2016, adding that the cases were at various stages of investigation and prosecution.
He also said that the commission was prosecuting the state Commissioner for Lands, a permanent secretary, a district head and other persons over shady land deals.
“In addition, officials of the state Micro Finance Bank are being prosecuted over an alleged N207 million scam,’’ he added.
Meanwhile, he said that the commission was investigating some staff of KAROTA (the state’s road traffic control agency) over alleged N50 million scam and some judiciary workers for not remitting N100 million to the government coffers.
On the commission’s human capacity development efforts, Magaji-Rimingado said that 200 employees of the agency would be trained at ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices Commission) Anti-Corruption Academy to further sharpen their skills on how to handle the war against corruption.
He commended Ganduje for supporting the commission and guaranteeing its independence to fulfil its mandate without undue hindrance or interference.
Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, who led a team of officials from Federal Ministry of Justice, commended the initiative of the Kano State Government.
He also extolled Ganduje and his team for remaining focused in efforts to promote the culture of transparency and accountability in governance via the establishment of the State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission.
Malami described the event as the first of its kind by a state government and an indication that the fight against corruption was gaining momentum across the country.
He stressed that the governor was a pace-setter who had set an example that was worthy of emulation by other state governments.
The minister lauded the nascent efforts to stamp out corruption in Nigeria, saying: “Corruption undermines economic development, political stability, rule of law and social development; it disrupts social order and destroys public trust in the governance system.’’
He cited a recent UN report which indicated that every year, over one trillion dollars was paid in bribes globally, while an estimated 2.6 trillion dollars was stolen annually through corruption.
“The disturbing trend is that in Nigeria, we have established that the link between corruption, organised crime, terrorism and insecurity is one of the reasons why Nigeria has remained largely underdeveloped despite our huge natural resources endowment,’’ he said.
Malami said that strategies put in place to combat corruption in the country included the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, framework for the reform of the justice sector and actions taken to improve the prosecution of criminal cases.
He thereafter presented the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS), the Justice Sector Reform Action Plan and the Open Government Partnership Action Plan (OGP-NAP) that was recently unveiled in Paris.
He called on everyone to partake in the crusade to stamp out corruption in the country.
Also speaking, Madam Juliet Ibekaku, the Special Adviser to the President on Justice Reform, said that the programmes listed by the justice minister were aimed at improving the citizen’s access to justice and promoting the rule of law with regard to human rights.
She emphasised that the programmes would also strengthen legal drafting and law review process as well as prosecution, adjudication, enforcement and asset recovery mandates, among others.
On his part, an elder statesman, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, Dan-Masanin Kano, expressed confidence that President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption would succeed in spite of any seeming challenges.
“Buhari is a morally sound, financially incorruptible, committed and patriotic leader that assumes power to rescue Nigeria. Nigerians should exercise patience because in this kind of fight, we must encounter some challenges,’’ he said.
Observers insist that the feats achieved by Kano State’s anti-graft commission are worthy of emulation by other states and arms of government, including the National Assembly.
They say that the replication of the anti-corruption initiative across the country will facilitate and reinforce on-going efforts to stamp out corruption in the country.