The fight against corruption is not peculiar to Nigeria; the country is infamously acclaimed as one of the topmost corrupt countries in the world. Nigeria was recently ranked the 12th third-world country with weak anti-money laundering and terrorist finance framework by the European Commission. According to the Corrupt Perception index 2018, by perceived levels of public sector corruption, the country ranked 144 out of 180 countries. Nigeria scored 27 out of 100 using a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is considered very clean. Nigeria was also ranked the 37th most corrupt country in the world by Ranker in 2019. Nigeria has been grappling to improve her image through anti-graft policies, but it has not yielded much desired result. The Country has several laws in place to deal with corruption but the somewhat selective application of the law, poor investigation by anti-graft agencies, hangover on technicalities and poor administration of justice have failed to quell and in most cases halt corrupt practices. This is evident in the incessant upsurge in the number of corrupt individuals that has almost rendered these laws dormant and the courts ineffective in interpreting and administering the law as these persons are seemed to be ‘above the law’. These indicate either two things, that these laws are not sufficient enough to deal with this menace or they are not adequately implemented.
This article gives an analysis of European Commission press release, steps Nigeria has taken to curb corruption and recommendations for effective administration and eradication of graft practices.
European Commission press release
On the 13th of February, 2019 the European Commission released its new list of 23 third-world countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing framework. According to the commission, the aim of the list is to protect the European Union financial system by preventing money laundering and terrorism financing risks. Such that banks and other entities covered by European Union anti-money laundering rules will be required to apply increased checks (due diligence) on financial operations involving customers and financial institutions from these high-risk third- world countries. This is to assist in identifying suspicious money flow. This release is as a result of the European Union assessment of high-risk countries that took place in 2015, where 217 countries were shortlisted. Countries were selected for further analysis if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
(1) Countries identified by Europol/ European External Action Service as having a systemic impact on the integrity of the European Union financial system.
(2) Jurisdictions reviewed by the International Monetary Fund as international offshore financial centers.
(3) Economic relevance considering the magnitude of the financial centers and the strength of economic ties with the European Union.
From this, 132 countries were further shortlisted. By 2018, another assessment was conducted and of the 132 countries, 47 of these countries were highlighted to require high priority. Countries are deemed high priority for assessment if they: -
- are identified by Europol/ European External Action Service (EEAS) as being exposed to money laundering or terrorist financing threats considering money laundering and terrorism financing risk factors; - are listed in the European Union list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes adopted by the Council of the European Union;
- are listed in Regulation (UE) 2016/1675 while they have been de-listed by the Financial Action Task Force(FATF) between 14 July 2016 and 15 November 2018; OR - have been subject to Mutual evaluation processes against the Financial Action Task Force recommendations issued in 2012 carried out by Financial Action Task Force / a Financial Style Regional Body (FSRB)
- where the evaluation report is finalized by June 2018 and the country has been identified by Europol as having a systemic impact on the integrity of the European Union financial system.
For each country, the Commission assessed the level of existing threat, the legal framework and controls put in place to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing risks and their effective implementation. The Commission also took into account the work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international standard-setter in this field. The Commission concluded that 23 countries have strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing legal framework.
Nigeria Economic Crime Legislations: Its successes and challenges
There is a plethora of legislations in Nigeria enacted for the sole purpose of combating economic crimes. The purpose of these legislations is to curb graft practices and financial crimes. In addition, the legislations are expected to severe negative perceptions of the country as money laundering heaven and hub for other forms of economic and financial crimes. These legislation include the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Economics and Financial Crime Commission Act 2000, the Corrupt Practices & Other Related Of the fences Act 2004, Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, Terrorism Financing Act, the Advance Fee Fraud And Other Fraud Offences Related Act 2006, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Act, the Freedom Of Information Act 2011, the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2010 and Nigerian Financial Intelligent Act 2018.
Asides these legislations there are policies and directives issued to ensure transparency and reduce the menace of economic crime such as the Central Bank of Nigerian’s Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism Regulations, 2018, the Whistle Blowing Policy by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Presidential Executive Order No. 6 of 2018 on the Preservation Of Suspicious Assets Connected with Corruption and other Relevant Offences.
These legislations, policies and directives have established or named different commissions, ministries, departments or agencies to ensure compliance and enforcement. They include Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Federal High Court, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
The enactment of these laws and establishment of their coordinating agencies has witnessed several arrests, prosecution and recovery of public fund and properties. According to Premium Times as at November 2018, EFCC has secured 703 convictions within the period of three (3) years. In February 2019, the Guardian Newspaper reports that EFCC secured 40 convictions in January 2019, despite this, economic crime is still prevalent.
The greatest challenge facing the implementation of these laws are political selective prosecution, poor internal control system, poor record keeping, lack of qualified staff, outdated laws, poor investigation, slow judicial system, lack of resources. There is the challenge of lack of trust in the system by members of the public. Procedures like plea bargaining and presidential pardon on known corrupt individuals make it seem as the fight against corruption is usually selective as some people can carry out corruption without being noticed and probably get away with it. A good example which is still a controversial matter till date is the presidential pardon by President Goodluck Jonathan of Chief D.S.P. Alamieyesigha, former Governor of Bayelsa State.
In addition, cases that barely make it to the courts do not get prompt adjudication, the accused persons are granted bail, motions upon motions are brought to stall the case, judges dies, get transferred or promoted and matters start de novo (afresh). Some cases because of long judicial bureaucracy judges get struck out or accused persons are discharged. According to the EFCC, 43 cases are currently ongoing before the Federal High Court some were instituted as far back as 2009.
Conclusion and recommendation
Despite the fact that Nigeria, due to implementation of some of reforms has move up 24 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2018, the preponderance of these criminal activities has and is still discouraging numerous potentials investors to Nigeria. It is clear that Nigeria has enough legislation to combat economic crimes, weak enforcement and poor implementation remains the biggest clog. Proper implementation and enforcement of the laws, issuance of policies to address the identified challenges, stronger political will and strengthening of anti-graft agencies will drive much needed reform.
It is therefore recommended that the concept of plea bargaining and mercy pardon should be carefully administered so as not to give allowance for abuse. Use of these concepts should also not be limited to elites but extend to non-elites so as to prevent inequality. Judicial processes should be expedited to reduce incidences of matters lingering too long or starting de novo. All anti – corruption agencies should be more funded, technically equipped and stronger leadership should be appointed for agencies. True independence of these agencies is crucial to the fight against corruption. Most importantly, all citizens should be encouraged to collaborate with all anti – corruption agencies.