Please, permit me to express my profound gratitude to the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) for its timely organisation of this auspicious program. In my modest estimation, HEDA’s invitation is an invaluable national clarion call to reawaken our consciousness to the stiff challenges posed by corruption in our everyday existence. In short, it can safely be classified as an issue of Urgent National Importance. It is also on this note that I sincerely appreciate every one of us including the the Offices of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Deputy-President of the Senate who have sacrificed this day to answer to this clarion call of Urgent National Importance.
It is a fact that the Anti-Corruption crusade is a global campaign initiative that is not just peculiar to Nigeria. Hence, Article 5 (1)-(3) of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) provides inter alia that:
1. Each state party shall, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system, develop and implement or maintain effective, coordinated anti-corruption policies that promote the participation of society and reflect the principles of the rule of law, proper management of public affairs and public property, integrity, transparency and accountability.
2. Each state party shall endeavour to establish and promote effective practices aimed at the prevention of corruption.
3. Each state party shall endeavour to periodically evaluate relevant legal instruments and administrative measures with a view to determining their adequacy to prevent and fight corruption.
Our core mandate as ordained by the theme of this gathering, is beyond dispute in line with global best practices as affirmed by the relevant provisions of UNCAC. Seamlessly aligned with this global agenda, is the remark of Rigoberta Manchu Tum, a political and human rights activist from Guatemala that:
“Without strong watchdog institutions, impunity becomes the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built”.
I will confine this presentation to the customary core role of the legislature – law-making, representation and oversight, from whence I will also highlight crucial legislations, regulations, policies and administrative measures that have been invested on this subject matter since 1999. Equally worthy of note, is the fact that both Chambers of the National Assembly immediately after their inauguration on June 11, 2019, immediately constituted ad-hoc committees to fashion out their legislative agenda for the 9th Session. Typically, on top of this Agenda is the fight against corruption.
Whereas, the Dictionary definition of corruption is dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery, anti-Corruption on the other hand, is an adjective designed to eradicate or prevent dishonest or fraudulent conduct, especially in a political context. In this same vein, the primary positive purpose of an agenda is that it enables and equips the participants to prepare in advance so that they can make valuable contributions to the issues contained therein.
From the foregoing, our utmost goal in this forum is to diligently evaluate the existing legal framework, extant legal instruments, the legislative, political and social environment with respect to the fight against corruption in Nigeria and at the same time, set realisable periodic targets that will proactively and tangibly reduce the worrisome rate of corruption. This also includes a deliberate and realistic plan of action that will entail the enactment of new legislative instruments, review of extant ones as well as meaningful and impactful advocacy that will resurrect dormant and inactive legal instruments. This will also lead to the harmonization of the Ninth Assembly’s Anti-corruption Agenda with the Anti-corruption Agenda of the Civil Society Organisations to produce handsome results through the reduction of corruption and its adverse effects in Nigeria.
I. National Assembly’s constitutional powers to make laws.
It is imperative to note that the first governmental assigned role in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, belong to the National Assembly. The eloquent provisions of Section 4 (1) – (2) run thus:
(1) The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
(2)The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.
Our apex court expounded on this subject matter in the case of AG Ondo StateV. AG Federation, on June 7, 2002. There, while considering Ondo State challenge of the National Assembly’s powers to enact the ICPC Act speaking through Uwaifo JSC, the Supreme Court posited that:
It would seem right to conclude that where a subject-matter in its manifestation spreads across the States and even over the borders of Nigeria and is such that is best suited for legislation by the National Assembly upon a liberal construction of all relevant provisions of the Constitution, a legislation thus made cannot be said to be an interference with the affairs of the States just because it is made applicable all over the Federation. The purpose of and mission of the Act are clear. The Act is meant to make justiciable by legislation a declared State Policy to abolish corrupt practices and abuse of power; it is to hearken to national and international concerns over corruption, it is to give a national leadership an impetus to the crusade while not standing in the way of the States; it seeks among other things, to deal with and punish specific offences on corrupt practices even including those committed outside Nigeria by citizens and persons granted permanent residence in Nigeria: see Section 66. It is not in any way an attempt to embark on a general criminal law legislative jurisdiction. The eradication of corrupt practices and abuse of power will ensure to the good government of Nigeria. [2002 – 2003] Vol. 2 LLRN. P 720].
This case settled the elastic and borderless jurisdiction of the legislative powers of the National Assembly with respect to curbing corruption. At this juncture, this apt statement by Joe Biden former US Vice President is valid that:
“Corruption is a cancer: a cancer that eats away citizen’s faith in democracy diminished the instinct for innovation and creativity.”
II. Representative role of the National Assembly.
On similar tone, Section 47 – 49 of the 1999 Constitution eloquently enshrined the composition of the National Assembly.Let me simply declare that that institution is an embodiment of the democratic representation of Nigeria. Therefore, it is the most visible and tangible actualisation of our constitutional preambulary declaration of “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.In essence, a bold statement of “Power to the People”.
III. Constitutional oversight powers of the National Assembly
Oversight has assumed a prominent status in legislative agenda, due to the universal demands of accountability, transparency, participation and rule of law as the capstone of good governance.
The National Institute for Legislative Studies affirmed this positive role of Oversight in these words:
Legislative Oversight is an important tool in promoting transparency and accountability in government. It is an effective instrument deployed by legislators, as representatives of the citizenry, to hold government accountable.
– (Legislative Oversight Manual – National Institute for Legislative Studies, National Assembly, Abuja, March 2015, P. 1).
Characteristically, Woodrow Wilson the 28th President of the United States highlighted oversight as:
The duty of a representative body to look diligently into every affairs of government and to talk much about what it sees. It is meant to be the eyes and the voice, and to embody the will and wisdom of its constituents.
(Congressional Government, Poston, 1885, P. 297).
Our Supreme Court in the case AG Abia State V. AG Federation &Ors concurred with the relevance of oversight that:
There are three types of oversight functions. These are the power of the legislature to conduct investigations, control and surveillance over the financial affairs of the executive, and control and supervision of government general business.  7SC.P.110.
In summary, legislative oversight entails totality of constitutional statutory and incidental powers of the legislature that enables it to initiate, direct, monitor, supervise and control the general business of the other arms of government especially the executive.
Our Constitution by virtue of section 88-89 endorsed oversight powers of the National Assembly as dictated by the powers of the same to conduct investigations and matters of evidence. The popular reference of section 88 (2) (a)-(b) which in diligent scrutiny serve as limitation may assuage your expectation as follows:
(2) The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercise only for the purpose of enabling it to:
(a) make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and to correct any defects in existing laws: and
(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.
I will for the sake of time and brevity, specifically highlight legislative oversight instrument or tools and adopt the same trend to the end of this presentation.
Legislative oversight instrument or tools are as follows:
i. Questions and interactive sessions
ii. Public hearing
iv. Oversight visit and investigation
v. Bill referral
vi. Appropriation powers and budget defence
vii. Receipt and application of the Auditor-General’s report
viii. Overriding presidential veto
ix. Impeachment proceedings
x. Legislative and statutory authority.
IV. Important international conventions on anti-corruption
• Convention on combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions 2003
• United Nations Convention against Transnational Crime 2003
• Convention on Money Laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds from crime and on the financial of terrorism 2004
• Convention on taking of evidence abroad in civil or commercial matters 2004
• United Nations Convention Against Corruption 2006.
(B. Ekeyi 2019).
V. relevant anti-corruption legislations in Nigeria
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)
Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act, 2004
Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006
Public Procurement Act, 2007
Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007
Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended)
Freedom of Information Act 2011
Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractices in Bank Act, 1994
Banks and Other Financial Institutions and Miscellaneous Offences Act, 1994
Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap. C15 LFN, 2004
Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Act, 2018
We must also advert our mind to the fact that the Federal Executive Council approved the National Anti-corruption strategy (NACS) 2017-2021, on July 5, 2017.
Despite these laws, it is very pertinent to mention here that several other anti-corruption bills still pending and waiting to be enacted into laws. This includes the Whistle Blowers, Proceeds of Crime (Management Agency) Bill, Witness Protection, the Audit bill and most controversial and ever recurrent Petroleum Industry Bill. The Audit Bill for instance, is targeted at punishing default Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) that fail to submit their audited reports to the National Assembly Public Accounts Committees. It has been reported that at least, 85 Agencies and parastatals failed to submit their audited reports since inception to the Senate Public Account Committee. (see CISLAC policy brief-improved legislative oversight on Accountability in public sector operations p.8).
VI. Challenges of Anti-Corruption Campaign in Nigeria
Poor political culture and socialization process-indolent citizenry
Institutional capacity problem of the National Assembly
Underfunding and irregular subvention to the Anti-corruption agencies
Political influence and divergent interests
Low performance of the civil society and frustrating political culture
Lack of political will of Nigerian leadership class to fight corruption.
We cannot overlook the baneful effect of corruption on every facet of our national life. It has long assumed an alarming dimension according to C. Ndubeze:
PriceWaterhouse Research on “The cost of corruption in Nigeria” indicated that corruption in Nigeria could cost up to 37% of the GDP by 2030 if it is not dealt with immediately. This cost is equated to around $1,000 per person in 2014 and nearly $2,000 per person that lives in Nigeria by 2030.
On the same stern tone, B. Ekeyi has it that:
1999/2000 – World Bank Country Procurement Assessment Report (CPAR) – Nigeria lost approximately N40billion (US$300 million) each year from public procurement corruption.
We cannot pretend over this monumental loss of our collective national patrimony. We are not here to apportion blame or pass buck and call names. Our primary purpose and mission is to objectively fashion out legal and regulatory measures to combat and curb corruption in Nigeria. I therefore, recommend the following measures among others:
i. A critical analysis of our Anti-Corruption legislations to establish areas of review and reasons for their low performing rating.
ii. An objective listing of all anti-Corruption proposed legislations and proactive demand on both the Legislative and the Executive Arms of government to consider them as matters of urgent national importance with a view to passing them into laws without further delays;
iii. A dynamic ethical reorientation that will engage the National Orientation Agency, the CSOs, Media, Schools and colleges, traditional as well as religious institutions.
iv. This forum must articulate and produce a viable action plan that will aid the National Assembly to actualise these highlighted drawbacks of legislative actions.
The National Assembly is the constitutionally ordained institution which is most democratically positioned to lead and direct the war against corruption in Nigeria. It must rise to these constitutional and statutory responsibilities reposed on it and cooperate with the Executive arm of government towards the realization of this objective.
Once again, I wish to thank HEDA, the leadership of the House of Representatives, the Senate Committee on Diaspora and NGOs and each and every one of us for attending this very important event.
I wish you all a most fruitful deliberation.
. Being a keynote address presented by Hon. Kayode Oladele, former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes in the 8th Assembly, aat an anti-corruption seminar in Abuja.