President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday called for the establishment of an international anti-corruption infrastructure that would monitor, trace and facilitate the return of stolen assets to their countries of origin.
He made the call in a keynote speech he presented at a Commonwealth event: “Tackling Corruption Together: A Conference for Civil Society, Business and Government Leaders,’’ held at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
Buhari said “corruption is a hydra-headed monster and a cankerworm that undermines the fabric of all societies.
“It does not differentiate between developed and developing countries.
“It constitutes a serious threat to good governance, rule of law, peace and security, as well as development programmes aimed at tackling poverty and economic backwardness.’’
Buhari noted that a lot of stolen funds were stashed away in foreign countries adding that it was important to stress that the repatriation of identified stolen funds should be done without delay or preconditions.
The President observed that in spite of the signing in 2003 of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) that entered into force in 2005, to tackle the growing threat that corruption had become to many nations, the problem had continued unabated.
“Little did we know that 11 years since then, the problem would still continue unabated, but even become more intractable and cancerous,’’ he said.
Buhari mentioned steps taken by his administration to combat the menace in both public and private sectors but said the country needed more international collaboration to stem the ugly trend.
According to him, in addition to the looting of public funds, Nigeria is also confronted with illegal activities in the oil sector, the mainstay of its export economy.
“That this industry has been enmeshed in corruption with the participation of the staff of some of the oil companies is well established. Their participation enabled oil theft to take place on a massive scale.’’
The president noted that the menace of oil theft in the country, put at over 150,000 barrels per day, “is a criminal enterprise involving internal and external perpetrators.
“Illicit oil cargoes and their proceeds move across international borders.
“Opaque and murky as these illegal transactions may be, they are certainly traceable and can be acted upon, if all governments show the required political will.
“This will has been the missing link in the international efforts hitherto.
“Now in London, we can turn a new page by creating a multi-state and multi-stakeholder partnership to address this menace,’’ the president added.
Buhari also called on the international community to designate oil theft as an international crime similar to the trade in “blood diamonds”.
He said oil theft was an imminent and credible threat to the economy and stability of oil-producing countries such as Nigeria.
Buhari also expressed optimism that participants should be able to agree on a rules-based architecture to combat corruption in all its forms and manifestations.
He said that a main component of the anti-corruption partnership is that governments must demonstrate unquestionable political will and commitment to the fight.
“The private sector must come clean and be transparent, and civil society, while keeping a watch on all stakeholders, must act and report with a sense of responsibility and objectivity.’’
Buhari restated Nigeria’s commitment to signing the Open Government Partnership initiatives alongside Prime Minister Cameron on Thursday and commended the Commonwealth Secretary-General and her team for hosting the event. (NAN)