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President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.

If there is any Nigerian, irrespective of party or status, who wants Nigeria to remain a corrupt nation, let the person speak out. If there is any corrupt Nigerian, irrespective of present location whether in prison or detention, who has realized his mistakes of belonging to brigands – most appropriately treasury looters – let them learn their lessons never to return to it again after their penitence. Let them reflect on their transformational psyche remodeling. Today in Nigeria, looting public funds is becoming obsolete. With Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s leader, a looter does not need a magician to tell him the consequences.

It transcends hasty ploy to free Nigeria of her so many ills led by corruption. A trend that became commonplace over two decades, an invention that ate into the marrows of the people, a menace that was widely accepted and domesticated in every aspect of Nigeria’s lifestyle, an unholy development that was nearly accepted as a creed which required no testimony or baptism to belong and a deadly virus that Nigerians neutralized and made sample food and the cheap water. It was a national product that became the nation’s export. This cannot be killed in a haste, without careful plan and adequate backup. Corruption nearly finished Nigeria! If anyone is in doubt, ask the politicians, though every human being is a political animal.

For those who love Nigeria sincerely, the fight against corruption by President Muhammadu Buhari is a welcome development. It is a natural phenomenon that is expected from an incorruptible patriot. Who does not know Buhari in the history of Nigeria? He who fights corruption must be clean or it will fight back and triumph. Nigerians, the opposition elements inclusive, testify to the non-materialistic nature of the president. When all efforts geared towards weakening him have failed, allegations and counter allegations against members of his team and close associates are being instigated. But all will still fail because Nigerians, say humanity at large, often prove difficult to accept a change, most especially the change for good.
Whether in support or opposition to the war, one can be assured by over 80 percent Nigerian supporters. Prominent citizens, though counting loses, have spoken up in support. Indeed, the war has just begun and in the next few years, businesses will flourish; capital projects will be executed according to prescription and Nigerians can earn living through their sweats and integrity. Besides, all leader-looters would have vomited their maws and maybe end up saluting the leader behind bars. Then the fear to even collect bribe at checkpoints may be over.

With prayers, with the spirit of Nigeria and Buhari, this war shall be won. Whoever is to be involved, let there be no game-play. Except the loot is secretly returned as it was secretly stolen, no stone should be left unturned. No subject, no citizen, no man, no woman, no boy or girl who conspired in diverting the commonwealth should be spared. There should be solid foundation put in place to ensure sustenance of the war. Thanks to the initiator of the war-on-corruption-agency whose handlers, though, must be checked periodically to guard against complacency and overbearing influence.

Heavy talks, sometimes quite frivolous, by the prosecuted should not cause distraction. Many have accused Mr. President of only targeting the opposition. Recall that former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, used the agency to fight down some political opponents. That was at a time the opposition was genuine and vibrant. Obasanjo had real opponents because things went wrong. The time seemed to be a continuum in brigandage, though that was not really the advent of corruption in Nigeria. Today, there is no battle-ready or idea-ridden opposition, nor is there any wicked government to fight. With time, Nigerians will realize the ingenuity of the government directions.

Fringe elements exist in every large society; people who engage in fault finding with incumbent leadership because they have skeletons in their cupboards or they allow themselves to be used by same category of moneybags – those who abused their offices and public trust. They can’t confront the reality of the war on impunity, lack of accountability and fiscal recklessness in the management of national resources.

_Billions of dollars have been recovered as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari who had earlier alerted Nigerians of economical challenges due to the nearly empty treasury he inherited. _Transparency and efficient performance of government departments are to take over the system. Corrupt activities in all its ramifications: in public places – government institutions – must be fought. The crusade should not only end in recovering loots, though that should remain the basic focus.Corrupt practices in our offices – from  the clerical officer to the top, in our schools – kudos to the Minister of Education for his transformational steps, in our banks, in our sports sector, in the police and sundry have to stop. The executive, the judiciary and the legislative arms of government should to be properly cleansed.__

The war should be institutionalized. All must support the fight against corruption – lawyers, judges, institutions, teachers, students, not the president alone. Corruption has proved to be bigger than anybody or institution. It is bigger than the President alone, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) or the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). The president has expressed displeasure over delay in prosecuting corrupt cases despite the enactment of criminal justice law. On the other hand, former President Obasanjo has often cast aspersion on the integrity of the federal legislative arm, apparently pinpointing the sundry saga like budget paddling and forgery of senate standing rules.

In the same vein, Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto Mathew Hassan-Kukah described the government as fighting the symptoms of corruption rather than the disease, saying the fight must be from institutions, as almost all bad things in Nigeria have validation with a lot of Nigerians having gone through several harsh treatments without charges. “Many of those ethnic leaders are ethnic entrepreneur, who use their people to get what they want.”

Already, there are indications that the new Inspector general of Police [IGP], Ibrahim Idris has received a presidential assignment to probe the allegations of budget padding leveled against members of the leadership of the House of Representatives by a former House Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin. Also the President has declared that he will not shield members of the All Progressive Congers (APC) and those who supported his Presidency bid during the 2015 presidential election if any of them was involved in corrupt practices. “If any of my backers or party (APC) members has anything established against them, let’s see whether I will shield anyone from prosecution. There seems to be a preponderance of the People Democratic Party members standing trial because they had been in power for 16 years, they had access to the public treasury and abused the trust reposed in them. You can be assured that anybody caught in corruption will answer for it irrespective of party, tribe or religion”, he told newsmen.

The 7-man Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption headed by Prof. Itse Sagay has a very enormous task to do for Nigeria. With other members of high caliber like Prof. Femi Odekunle, Associate Professor Dr. Benedicta Daudu, Prof. E. Alemika, Prof. Sadiq Radda, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye and a civil society activist, Hadiza Bala Usman, it is a very unique committee bound to succeed. A committee of professors, most of criminology, legal studies and related fields! Goodluck, nay Buhari to them!

The strong assertions made by Prof. Itse Sagay in a recent interview with the Vanguard Newspapers are inspiring. He foresees tremendous change in Nigeria except for the blind and dumb. “Nigeria is a totally new world”, he boasted. There is now a government with integrity trying to provide selfless service rather than serving itself as it used to be. The government is putting a public conduct for service with integrity and honour; thus being in government is a privilege to serve, and not to destroy the nation’s resources for personal gain.

The Prof. acknowledged existence of criminally-minded people who ran down Nigeria’s economy, being brought to book and money being recovered. “I have heard people say they enjoyed life more when there was corruption”. He said corruption was a self-destructive thing and enlisted Nigerians to be patient and appreciate that service is being provided in an honest way, with an organized effort to bring the country up to bliss and productivity.

Nigerians should support this movement without deceit. Diverted foreign loans are traced and recovered. Trillions of naira has been generated through Treasury Single Account, sums that would have been wasted on trivial non-public interests or diverted out-rightly into private pockets.

Just recently in Abuja at a three-day National Stakeholders’ Workshop on the Recovery and Management of Recovered Assets, organized by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, , it was recommended that a law be enacted to guide asset recovery processes across all agencies of the federal government. Panelists proposed assets seizure and management by experts, pending declaration of a final forfeiture order. Seized funds could be put into an investment or interest-yielding account. Forfeited vehicles being allowed to waste in court premises could be put to better use by asset managers, by being valued and then sold.

A database or record of all seized assets, including video records and photographs should be taken. In addition, every monetary seizure should be kept with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while pre-qualified persons should act as receivers to ensure a credible and transparent policy. Resolutions were reached that an inter-agency committee be created to liaise with all agencies empowered to seize assets, such as the police, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and anti-graft agencies, while all security agencies involved in assets seizure must have a common reporting format, and must publish annual reports of all assets either seized temporarily pending conclusion of trial or permanently.

Furthermore, debates were intensive on whether all recovered monies should to go into the federation account in cases where those monies are looted from states, on a legislative action as to where recovered assets should go, whether to the federation account or to a dedicated account, and on the status of recipients of stolen funds who should be accessories to the crimes. Recommendations from such conference moderated by the PACAC chairman, Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, Prof. Etannibi Alemika, Director, Stolen Assets Recovery Initiatives at the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC)/World Bank Dr. Oliver Stolpe, President of Chattered Institute of Bankers Prof. Segun Ajibola, and international legal experts Nicolas Van Zyl and Fitzroy Drayton should be implemented for the corruption crusade to be impressive, effective and sustainable.

***Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance.