President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to sustain the anti-corruption war despite the scars he suffered in his first attempt at fighting corruption as a military head of state between 1984 and 1985.
Buhari made the promise Tuesday while inaugurating the new head office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja.
The president, who recounted how he was jailed for three years after he was overthrown, said corruption successfully defeated him during his first attempt to rid the country of graft.
He said he would not bow to any form of pressure in his second attempt to tame corruption in the country.
“In my first attempt to fight corruption, corruption fought back successfully. I was detained for three years and only released after my mother died. In spite of that, my objective of fighting corruption remains steadfast.
“The war against corruption is not an easy one to fight, because it affects so many different branches of our lives, so much so that some people do not even consider breaking the people’s trust a crime anymore.
“It has become the norm. That is why we must fight this attitude and encourage Nigerians to change their attitudes and perspectives,” he said.
Buhari stressed that throughout his journey in national service and since 2015, he had made a very conscious decision to pursue a vigorous fight against corruption in public life.
He, however, noted that the fight would not be successful without the support of the legislature and judiciary.
The president expressed hope that the judiciary, which is a critical stakeholder and partner in the war against corruption, would continue to collaborate with the executive to bring corrupt people to book.
He also called on the legislature, which provides the legal framework for the anti-corruption war, to add more verve to the determination of government to rid the country of the brazen corruption witnessed in recent years by reviewing the archaic provisions in Nigerian laws and proactive passage of new legislations.
“I call on the judiciary and the National Assembly to join hands in this national effort,” he appealed.
The president said since 2015, his administration had made significant progress in the fight against corruption.
He confirmed that the government under him has recovered and is still recovering trillions of naira that were stolen in the past few years by people without a conscience.
“Everyone now knows that corrupt officials will be held to account, no matter how long it takes.
“We are pursuing recoveries everywhere and are making sure that anyone who has been found culpable is made to answer for his or her crime under the law.”
Buhari said that the goal of his administration was to ensure the protection of public trust, noting that the anti-corruption war was at its centre.
According to him, “They never intended, and we are not engaged in witch-hunts, but we are determined by the laws to call people to account.”
Against this backdrop, the president appealed to Nigerians to support agencies like the EFCC, because fighting corruption is “everyone’s concern”.
He also noted that quite a number of nations had signified interest in strengthening their laws and entering into agreements with Nigeria to repatriate not only stolen funds but to make culprits face due process of the law.
Buhari said his government was committed to working with foreign countries to stop the inflow of stolen funds from Nigeria into their jurisdictions and repatriating what was there already.
He stressed that these assets, when repatriated, will be used in building infrastructure in Nigeria.
Also speaking at the event, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, debunked the perception that “Nigerians are fantastically corrupt”, save for Buhari.
Dogara, in his goodwill message, said that the president was not the only corrupt-free Nigerian, saying there are millions of hardworking and committed citizens equally passionate about the anti-corruption drive.
“Mr. President is not alone in this, he is not the only corrupt-free Nigerian. There are millions of Nigerians who are not corrupt,” he said.
The Speaker, while commending the president and the EFCC on the new head office for the commission, called for further training of staff and improvement in their welfare so as to shield them from temptation.
Earlier, the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, said the building was both historic and a legacy for generations to come.
Magu explained that in the fight against corruption, increasing economic crimes had made it inevitable for EFCC to expand its scope of operations.
Magu further assured his audience that there will be no hiding place for corrupt officials, adding that the agency under his leadership had secured 486 convictions including that of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
He said the commission has also recovered over N500 billion and promised to intensify the fight against corruption.