Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka says the anti-graft war would not be said to have been won until former Nigerian presidents guilty of corruption are jailed by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Soyinka stated this at the opening ceremony of a meeting of heads of anti-corruption agencies from Commonwealth Africa in Abuja on Monday, May 14, 2018.
Recalling his moments with the acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu, during a visit to the agency’s new office, Soyinka asked if the facility had a “presidential wing”.
“I had asked for the presidential wing of the cells out of his human rights concerns to ensure such personalities are well treated while in detention,” Soyinka said.
“But Magu said they are an egalitarian organisation that treats peoples equally.
“Until we make some of our leaders walk through those doors [of the EFCC new office] the fight against corruption will not be won,” Soyinka added.
Soyinka advocated for the full recovery of all money stolen by former Head of State, Sani Abacha.
He recalled making similar request at a Commonwealth meeting during the reign of Abacha over some monies alleged to be shared as bribes to some leaders for the military leader to remain in power.
President Muhammadu Buhari who was represented at the event by his vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, called for more collaboration amongst African countries, stressing that it was key to winning the fight against corruption.
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“It is only through collective action that we can stay ahead of the criminal elements who rob our countries and our citizens of their present and their future.
“We must also work hard to build cooperation and mutual understanding. We must insist that recovered stolen assets be returned to countries of origin, without any preconditions in line with article 51 UNCAC”.
“Recovered funds must also be returned to countries of origin without preconditions,” he added.
While acknowledging the “complex nature” of obtaining legal assistance in repatriating looted funds, Osinbajo maintained that “corruption must be tackled globally.”
He further noted that: “the fight against corruption is futile, if proceeds of corruption find safe haven. Regrettably, the procedures to obtain mutual legal assistance to seize, confiscate, to repatriate proceeds of corruption are often so complex.
“Corruption is a global challenge and it requires global collaboration to tackle it. We need to break down the walls and collaborate. African countries must come together to address this issue,” he added.
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In his opening remarks, Magu described the presence of his colleagues from Commonwealth African countries for the meeting as an endorsement of Nigeria’s efforts against corruption.
He said President Buhari has kept faith with his promise not to interfere with the operations of the anti-corruption agencies in the country.
However, Mr Magu stressed that “the most valuable support you need to do this job is that of the masses admixed with the political will at the very top”.
The conference, which will run till May 18, 2018 has as its theme: “Partnering towards Assets Recovery and Return”.
Other dignitaries at the event include, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd); Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, Hammed Ali; Speaker House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara, represented by Kayode Oladele, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen; Thabo Mbeki, for President of South Africa; Paulus Noa, Director General Namibia ACC, amongst others.