The Federal Government has recovered 40 brand new Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and others from a former permanent secretary who single-handedly appropriated them to himself when he left office.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this while defending the government’s anti-corruption fight against allegation that it lacks a strategy. He said the government was being guided by a well-articulated strategy that had led to the recovery of the vehicles.
The anti-graft campaign has been dismissed as losing verve as it is only targeted at perceived or real enemies of the ruling party. It has also been condemned for allegedly resorting to extra-judicial measures. The Senate’s rejection of Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was a fallout of the perception that the campaign had failed. Thus, Mohammed’s defence is an attempt to shore up support for the campaign.
Mohammed said the government was working through the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to commence a trial run of electronic asset declaration to facilitate compliance and also to search and retrieve data on the assets of public officers in 2017.In a statement issued in Lagos, the minister said the Federal Government was not just fixated on prosecution alone but was also taking preventive measures to make corruption unattractive.
He listed the strict enforcement of the Treasury Singles Account (TSA), which has largely reduced the diversion of government funds into various secret accounts, and the constant fishing out of ghost workers in the public service, which many states are now adopting, as some of the preventive measures against corruption.
The minister listed other measures perfected to strengthen the anti-corruption fight as the establishment of the Presidential Committee on Asset Recovery and the Asset Tracing; setting up of an Asset Register; and the Whistle Blower Policy.
According to him, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption is working with relevant Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs), especially the National Bureau of Statistics to improve data collection on corruption indicators generally.
Expatiating on the Presidential Committee on Asset Recovery, the minister says it meets regularly to take reports from key law enforcement agencies on government’s anti-corruption effort, share information and intelligence, review the challenges faced in the anti-corruption efforts generally and give directives on the way forward.
‘’This same body, on the recommendation of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, has directed a centralised management of recovered looted assets through the Central Asset Management Committee under the leadership of Minister of Finance as legal custodian of government asset.
‘’This singular move has reduced the opportunity for re-looting of recovered assets that was prevalent under previous regimes. By this measure, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and all asset recovery law enforcement agencies are mandatorily required to furnish the Minister of Finance with full details of recovered assets whether cash or otherwise,’’ the minister said.
According to Mohammed, data reconciliation will soon be completed and the information will be made available to the public.
On the asset register, he said it had made very difficult the looting of government physical assets, most notably vehicles, by departing political appointees as well as senior and middle level officers.
He explained that the recently approved Whistle Blower Policy was designed to further enhance government’s effort to recover looted funds. ‘’People who give credible and useful information to government that leads to the recovery of stolen public assets will be rewarded with between 2.5% and 5% of the recovered fund and government will keep the identity of the whistle blower absolutely confidential.’’He hinted that the government was finalising the constitution of an asset tracing team to work with international reputable bodies to trace and recover public assets in private pockets.
‘’In this regard, government will also escalate the use of non-conviction-based asset recovery methods to boost revenue and diminish corruption and the perception that crime pays or criminals can keep their loot. The Federal Government is getting Nigerians in diaspora and international civil society organisations involved in the campaign for return of looted assets,’’ the minister added.