By Henry Uche
The era of corrupt practices and impunity, especially in African regions where poverty is glaringly ravaging the Citizens due to mismanagement of public resources and maladministration by Politically Exposed Persons, may soon by over if the International Anti-Corruption court (IACC) is established eventually.
After a hybrid Conference held in Abuja – Nigeria organized by Human & Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) in Partnership with Integrity Initiatives International (III) and with the Support of MacArthur Foundation, stakeholders drawn from different sectors and disciplines likened the level of corrupt practices in the world but particularly in Africa as a suppurating sore, unfortunately.
From a communique signed by the Chairman of HEDA and Head of Integrity Initiatives International, Olanrewaju Suraju & Ian Lynch, respectively, participants from national and international bodies observed with dismay that: The establishment of the IACC was long overdue given that perpetrators of corruption have continued to get smarter and more powerful, wriggling out of national laws most of the times.
They also observed that the African Union has a robust framework for tackling corruption, yet, the legal frameworks have made little or no improvements in national governments’ tackling of corruption.
Furthermore, they asseverated that the challenges of implementing anti-corruption laws and conventions was not peculiar to developing countries, it remains a critical challenge to even developed nations; for instance, only about 10% of the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) signatory countries are actively implementing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.
They said, “Despite robust provision to cooperate with one another and provide mutual legal assistance to prevent money laundering, African governments have been unable to stop illicit transfer of funds nor improve the tracking, monitoring and prosecution of illicit transfer and movement of funds.
“The civic space in Africa is continuously shrinking with the major reason being that Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) always want to get away with their corrupt practices using state and non state actors,”
According to them, one of the key gaps in the existing anti-corruption frameworks in Africa was that they focus less on corruption perpetrated by Multinational Corporations (MNCs) such as the International Oil Companies (IOCs) as well as international banks, while corruption remains the biggest impediment to achievement of the SDGs and other development goals with huge financing gaps; corruption negatively impacts human development, quality of life and standard of living by reducing public spending on them and wasting limited resources.
They affirmed thus; “Corruption is connected to terrorism, environmental crime with negative implications for local and international efforts to fight climate change and other global ecological crisis which now require very large new investments of public funds at global levels, regional levels, all across the world.
“Corruption is harmful to the rule of law with the tragic irony being that in highly corrupt countries like Nigeria, it is the very institutions that are supposed to enforce the law and apply justice that are among the worst perpetrators of corruption, thus emphasising the need for an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC).
They maintained that when compared to the annual loss of the international community to corruption in terms of illicit wealth and assets, institutionalising the IACC should be cost effective.
As a way of expediting action to see this proposed court come true, they came up with salient recommendations saying: To address the challenges of implementation facing anti-corruption laws and frameworks across developed and developing nations, countries across the globe should support the establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC) to fill the huge gap in the global institutional or international framework for enhancing integrity, reducing kleptocratic behaviour and ending impunity.
“For Africa to be able to effectively combat corruption, State parties should show more political will towards implementing the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC).
“While the IACC will be very different from the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as other international courts or similar institutions, it must learn actively from the ICC as well as other international courts, ad-hoc tribunals or individuals who have worked in similar institutions to ensure a robust institution,”
Similarly, to ensure that the IACC prudently deliver on its mandate and objectives, stakeholders should pay a great deal of attention to how its operational structure is instituted, its funding model, degree of independence, jurisdiction, relationship with national jurisdictions and its capacity to adapt to emerging challenges, among other key issues.
More so, for the IACC to function effectively, State institutions and international bodies who are supporting its establishment should also be willing to support it in implementing the decisions of the Court.
The groups stressed that in fashioning out a robust IACC, efforts should be channeled towards ensuring that the Court is able to prosecute former or sitting members of state, while attention should be paid to ensuring that the court is able to rid itself of corruption and also address the involvement of international and local institutions and corporations in corruption.
“To sustain commitments to the establishment of IACC, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) must synergise and create sustained pressure on States and international actors. While present and erstwhile Heads of States, Chief Justices and key state actors should ensure they sign the declaration for the IACC, if indeed they are committed to fighting corruption. Campaigners for the IACC should be mindful of the local contexts and international politics involved as no international institution can be established, or if established, succeed, without adequate political will and fertile political environment.
They averred that supporting the creation of IACC is good politics, therefore, political actors should provide adequate support for the IACC as this in turns helps them to gain support in the civil society and build legitimacy among the electorate.
“Stakeholders should pay more attention to ensuring that the IACC actually help to prosecute genuine cases of grand corruption, rather than worry about the personality or origin of the persons being prosecuted,” the communique read.