Personally, I abhor corruption and I will render my best in or out of office to get rid of corruption in Nigeria and Africa in general,” President Muhammadu Buhari claimed as he delivered a speech to other African leaders who had gathered to mark the African Day of Anti-Corruption.
Mr Buhari further told the gathering that his anti-graft campaign had been successful, arresting and jailing corrupt officials and private citizens, according to a statement by his media aide Garba Shehu.
“In Nigeria, the fight against corruption has been vigorous since 2015. A lot has been achieved in the areas of arrest, prosecution, conviction, asset recovery and anti-corruption laws,” the president stated.
However, last April, Mr Buhari pardoned two members of his political party, the APC, jailed for looting state resources. Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame were freed from federal prisons after Mr Buhari informed the Council of State of his regime’s readiness to grant mercy to the politicians.
The duo served as governors of Plateau and Taraba. They were convicted in 2018. While Mr Dariye, ex-Plateau governor between 1999 and 2007, bagged 14 years for stealing N1.16 billion, Mr Nyame, ex-governor of Taraba from 1999 to 2007, received 12 years for stealing N1.6 billion, a verdict that was later affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2020. They were serving their respective sentences at Kuje prison in Abuja.
Mr Buhari urged the African leaders to intensify the fight against corruption, creating more disincentives for pilfering of public funds.
Distinguished participants and fellow African leaders, corruption is evil and all efforts at tackling it are desirable. I have monitored the fight against corruption in Africa and I can see both successes and drawbacks,” he explained on Thursday. “The battle must continue for the sake of the continent and its people no matter the difficulties.”
But the president admitted, “I must admit that the fight has not been a bed of roses. Truly, a lot of more work in many fronts is required. For example, civil and public servants must be ethical and professional at all times. The private sector must contribute in curbing corruption. The international community needs to close safe havens.”
According to him, the judiciary requires “more impetus.” He suggested that “an International Anti-corruption Criminal Court” should be created.
“May I use this opportunity to appreciate fellow African leaders for their individual and collective efforts in fighting corruption on our continent. I appreciate all of you for the confidence reposed in me being the ‘Africa Champion on Anti-Corruption’,” added Mr Buhari.
According to him, African leaders must get rid of corruption on the continent if the continent is to realise its full potential.
I have come to realise that nations in Africa have to ensure that national resources are not taken to safe havens around the world and we must curtail illicit financial flows in all its ramifications,” he stressed. “Also, we must work collectively to recover all resources taken abroad. We must show looters that crime does not pay by depriving them of the proceeds of their crime.”
Mr Buhari added, “Also, elite greed and irresponsibility must be eradicated in Africa. Again, ethics, decency, decorum and respect for rule of law must be promoted in Africa. It is important to develop strategies for behavioral change in Africa if corruption is to be tamed. This will ensure that national resources are allowed to serve the population and not a tiny few.”
He also mentioned that anti-corruption agencies must be empowered and allowed to deliver on their mandates.
“In Nigeria, I am very proud of our anti-corruption agencies, our law enforcement agencies and our regulatory bodies for their efforts at checking criminality including corruption. I very deeply appreciate them for their sacrifices ,” he told the gathering.
Mr Buhari further claimed he was leaving a “legacy of fighting corruption.”
“Our youths have no place to go and live with dignity but in Africa. As I am leaving office next year, I am proud to leave behind a legacy of fighting corruption among others. Personally, I abhor corruption and I will render my best in or out of office to get rid of corruption in Nigeria and Africa in general,” he stressed. “I urge our youths to join me in this noble cause.”