Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has declared that there were millions of Nigerians spread across the globe who are corrupt-free aside President Muhammadu Buhari.
This as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said it recovered a total of N500 billion between 2015 and 2018 while 486 convictions were secured within the three years.
Dogara, who spoke yesterday at the commissioning of the new Corporate Headquarters of EFCC in Abuja, acknowledged that President Buhari has won global acclaim for his hard stance against corruption.
He said: “The chairman made a statement about a reference that was made of Nigeria as a fantastically corrupt country. Incidentally, that statement was made in a city that is the home of illicit funds. The person also stated that Nigeria leads the world in criminal enterprise. In fact, that in the University of Lagos, you can study and major in credit card fraud.
“That’s the narrative out there, but that must change due to the fact that we have, seating before us here, a president who has won global acclaim as being corrupt free. I can tell you that he is not alone in Nigeria, there are millions of Nigerians that we come across day-by-day that are corrupt-free.”
Dogara, who made an allusion to the Holy Scriptures, said: “As a representative of history, a prophet cried to God and said there was no pure prophet anymore, that they had all bowed their knees to Baal. God replied this prophet that He had reserved in that city thousands who had not bowed their knees to Baal.
“There are millions of Nigerians that have not bent their knees to the god of corruption, that fact I must emphasize.”
Also, Dogara said the building of the new EFCC headquarters was a demonstration of the Federal Government’s commitment to the fight against corruption.
The Speaker explained that it was necessary for the government to now begin to place emphasis on staff and officials of the commission whose trust and sacrifice is critical to the entire anti-corruption war.
“Mr. President, we have the responsibility to insulate the officers and men of this agency from temptation and that means we have to better their condition of service,” he added.
In his remarks, Buhari told the gathering that he will not be deterred from continuing with his anti-corruption war despite prevailing hitches.
The President said he was imprisoned for three years the last time he made an attempt to fight corruption in the country.
He said: “My first attempt to fight corruption, corruption fought back. I was detained for three years. In spite of that, my objective of fighting corruption remains steadfast.
“I have made significant progress on fighting corruption since 2015. We are pursuing corruption everywhere.
“I see in the office the resolve of Nigerians to fight corruption. We must change our ways of handling public trust. War on corruption is not easy to fight. We must encourage Nigerians to change their attitude. We are not engaged in witch-hunting,” the President added.
Buhari, who said that his administration has made progress in the fight against graft since it took over in 2015, promised to hold corrupt officials to account, no matter how long it takes.
The President said his government has recovered trillions of naira that were stolen in the past few years, and is still pursuing recoveries everywhere to make sure that everyone who has been found culpable is made to answer for his or her crime under the law.
While seeking collaboration of the judiciary, which is a critical stakeholder and partner in the war against graft, the President also called on the legislature which provides the framework for the anti-corruption war to add more verve to the determination of his government to rid the brazen menace witnessed in recent years.
This, he said, could be done through the review of archaic provisions in the country’s laws and proactive passage of new legislations.
“We must change our ways of handling public trust. Corruption not only kills governments, but destroys societies. It is the major reason why we are struggling with basic developmental issues that other comparable nations have long overcome.
“War of corruption is not an easy one to fight, because it affects so many different branches of our lives, so much that some people do not even consider breaking trust is anymore a crime. It has become the norm. That is why we must fight this attitude and encourage Nigerians to change their attitudes and perspectives.
“The goal of this administration is to ensure the protection of public trust, and the anti-corruption war is at its centre. We never intended, and we are not engaged in witch-hunt, but we are determined within the laws to call people to account,” he said.
Buhari further appealed to Nigerians to support regulatory agencies like EFCC, adding that fighting corruption is everyone’s concern.
Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, told guests at the event that the new building was conceived in 2005 with the contract awarded to construction giant, Julius Berger in 2010.
According to him, the headquarters will accommodate 700 staff members of the organisation and has a laboratory and health facility.
Magu said that since Buhari took over office in 2015, the EFCC has secured about 486 convictions, with 89 of them secured in 2018 alone. The commission, he said, has recovered about N500 billion looted funds.
“From January to date, we have secured 89 convictions. We have secured 486 convictions in two and half years.
“So far, we have recovered over N500 billion. We are also making strides as regards prosecution of high profile cases,” Magu said.
To demonstrate the renewed efforts at prosecuting and convicting high-profile individuals, Magu drew attention to the recent conviction of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr. Joseph Nwobike.
Magu said: “For the first time in history, we have secured the conviction of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“There is no better time than now to fight corruption so that the international community will no longer view Nigeria as fantastically corrupt.”
Dignitaries at the event included Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Baroness Patricia Scotland; former President of South Africa, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, federal lawmakers, ministers and traditional rulers, among others.
The new office is located in Jabi area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The construction of the new building, which is fully funded by the Federal Government, cost about N24 billion.
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