Dr. Alain Nkoyock is a Senior Information Technology Coordinator at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and author, most recently, of The Computerization of Electoral Systems in Africa.
Mrs. Farida Waziri is the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria and author of Advance Fee Fraud, National Security & the Law.
Disclaimer: “The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.”
Corruption is a global phenomenon that causes poverty, obstructs development, and drives away investment. The issue of corruption has gained a prominent place on the global agenda since the mid-1990s with the creation of organizations that can promote models of stemming corruption; especially in developing countries where governmental corruption is widespread. International organizations have adopted conventions with the requirements that their members enact laws prohibiting bribery and extortion.
In Africa, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development calls for the setting up of coordinated mechanisms to combat corruption. Emerging structures and processes such as the African Peer Review Mechanism are designed to improve governance systems in Africa. At the sub-regional level, the international Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa elaborated various initiatives to strengthen cooperation among its member states. In March 2009, countries in West Africa established a network of national anticorruption institutions in the Economic Community of West African States.
Nigeria is the key driver of these subregional initiatives because of the country’s vast experience in the fight against corruption and money laundering. Since the 1960s, the country has being undertaking broad approaches to tackle corruption through the adoption of measures in areas of enforcement, prevention, institutional reforms, and cultural changes.
The three main anticorruption agencies in Nigeria are the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission, and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
EFCC which was created by an enabling Act in 2004 is perceived as the most effective anticorruption agency in the country, and the results so far are not to be underestimated in the context of Africa, based on indicators such as public perception, investigation and prosecution, assets recovery, strengthening of Nigerian financial institutions, and international recognition. Nigeria was removed in May 2007 from the Financial Action Task Force list of Non Cooperative Countries and Territories. The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) became a member of the 106-Egmont Group in 2007. Nigeria’s ranking in the Transparency International global corruption perception index moved from 142 in 2006 to 121 in 2008 and retrogressed to 130 in 2009.
The Commission has mobilized external assistance to provide expertise, funding, and political assistance; and it is currently being assisted by bilateral and multilateral international agencies in various areas including the provision of advanced information technology (IT) systems.
In December 2009, the IT solution deployed in NFIU holds over 9 million records. NFIU receives data from the twenty-four Nigerian banks and other reporting entities in the form of cash transaction reports (CTRs), suspicious transaction reports, financial funds transfer reports, and list-based such as reports generated from lists of known terrorist identities.
The deployment of the IT solution in NFIU has reduced the overall time the analysts spend on each suspicious transaction record, enabling increased performance and productivity. These technologies also improve the ability of the NFIU to provide investigators with new cases generated from huge volumes of CTRs.
EFCC’s involvement with the cleansing exercise of the financial system by the Central Bank of Nigeria has led to significant results. To date, classified bad loans of about USD$1.4 billion have been recovered. The Commission has filed 188 count charges against four Chief Executives and eleven Directors of banks as well as one Chief Executive Officer of a stockbroking firm. The Commission has also obtained mareva injunctions restraining assets of over $1 billion belonging to two bank Chief Executives.
In seven years of existence, over 20,000 cases were investigated and around 500 people convicted for various crimes including politically exposed persons. The Commission has recovered over six billion US$ from criminals and has returned huge assets to victims of fraud abroad.
Recent initiatives of the Commission include the anticorruption revolution campaign, a transactions clearing platform, tax investigations, and the fight against cybercrime.
Despite these achievements, the Commission is being faced with various challenges which have impeded the successful implementation of its mandate. These challenges can be categorized into political, legislative, judicial, organizational, and technical. The existing and outdated Evidence Act, for instance, does not permit the admission of electronic and evidence generated by computers in court. Further, the court process is slow and most cases, especially for Politically Exposed Persons have stalled in the courts.
The fact that corruption is endemic and has permeated every facet of national life for a long time requires not only previous efforts to be improved upon but also sustained over time. A multipronged approach involving both proactive and reactive measures offers the best chance of bringing corruption under control. This strategy should include regulatory reforms, greater transparency, provision of higher wages and good working conditions, and effective cooperation of anticorruption agencies.
Anticorruption strategies are ineffective when applied separately. The combination of the assets and intelligence of many agencies provides a force multiplier and various benefits. Recent initiatives toward the improvement of the cooperation between law enforcement and regulatory agencies by creating an information sharing system will hopefully help the country to restore and sustain its national integrity.
The achievements of the EFCC in the fight against corruption and money laundering are testimonies that with a good leadership, corruption can be rooted out of Africa. Even though it is far from being perfect, the Nigerian experience is relevant to other developing countries which must win the war against corruption if they are to have a good chance of success in the more important war of economic development and poverty alleviation.