Corruption responsible for new wave of military coups in West Africa – ICPC boss

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From Adanna Nnaman, Abuja

The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, has blamed corruption in government as one of the major factors responsible for the resurgence of military coups in West Africa.

Owasanoye stated this Monday, at the 5th Annual General Assembly Meeting of the Network of National Anti-corruption Institutions in West Africa (NACIWA) held in Abuja.

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The ICPC boss who spoke at the two-day event with the theme, “The Role of Regional Economic Communities in the Implementation of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption”, called for the need to reflect on challenges being faced by the West African region, especially the negative role of corruption in the frustration of the aspirations of the subregion to attain socio-economic growth and meet global development standards.

He said: ‘Let me note with concern that the sub-region has in the past two years witnessed a resurgence of the military take over of governments and a reversal of years of gains of democratic culture in our 15 nation regional member states.

‘The new wave started in Mali in 2020 followed by Guinea in 2021 and most recently Burkina Faso in February 2022 just last month. There have been reported failed attempts in other places, most notably Guinea Bissau. The question is what role has corruption played in the resurgence of military coups in the West African sub-region.

‘Every student of West African history knows that social discontent is always a factor in the forceful takeover of government by military juntas. The current wave of coups is however occasioned by a mixed bag of issues within the region including regional political instability, insecurity, absence of rule of law, weak institutions and of course corruption in government and governance. The presence of these factors and more, but most especially weak institutions of state and corruption in government and governance has and continues to undermine development aspirations of the region and makes ordinary people welcome change of government no matter how implemented in the hope that livelihood will improve.’

Also speaking, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said that the Commission had secured an unprecedented conviction record of 2220 cases in the past year.

Abdulrasheed added that the Commission also recovered in excess of N152 billion, 386 million dollars among other recoveries.

He further disclosed that the anti-graft agency had embarked on several reforms aimed at strengthening the institution, including the launching of a reporting application known as Eagle Eye.

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The EFCC boss explained that the Eagle Eye application would ease the reporting of incidences of economic and financial crimes by the public.

‘The EFCC has further developed a five year Strategic Plan that guides its operational approach in law enforcement action.

‘ECOWAS sub-region is threatened by existential security challenges which may not be unrelated directly or indirectly to corruption.

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‘We must therefore intensify efforts to stem the spate of illicit financial flows within the sub-region including illicit flows by Politically ExpoPersons (PEPs).

‘We must also continue to amplify effective collaboration and intelligence sharing in our quest to rid the sub-region of economic and financial crimes while collectively addressing the security challenges prevalent in the sub-region,’ Bawa said.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, President Jean Claude Kassi Brou, said that corruption remains a major problem in the overall governance process across the ECOWAS Member States.

Brou who was represented by Prof Femi Ajibawa said, in recent times, the corruption crisis has led to a loss of trust and confidence between the citizenry and government.

He added that it was an issue that has partly contributed to the democratic reversal that the ECOWAS region was currently facing.

On his part, President NACIMA, Francis Kaifala, said the network has been very active in the Anti-corruption drive in the sub-region.

He, however, emphasised that the recent cases of coups had affected NACIMA’s mission and vision in West Africa.

‘The work of our membership has been useful in coordinating our activities to ensure that we conduct borderless investigations and support each other, addressing money laundering and other financial related crimes plaguing the region.’

Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama commended the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration for its fight against corruption. He restated the Federal Government’s commitment to supporting the anti-graft agencies in the country to complement the Africa Union’s (AU) effort aimed at Preventing and Combating Corruption.

He said the government of Nigeria would continue to provide the necessary material and capacity support to its agencies saddled with the responsibility of dealing with corruption and other related crimes.

According to him, ‘the Nigerian government believes that the West African sub-region has always been at the forefront of the fight against corruption and as such NACIWA shall be supported to achieve its objectives.

‘We are confident that deliberations from this meeting will come up with recommendations that shall assist Heads of State and Government of the sub-region with strategies to deal with the issue of corruption.’

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