By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja, Nov. 20, 2020 President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the commitment of his administration to fight corruption to a standstill, saying “no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State.”
The president stated this when he received the Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on the Investigation of Ibrahim Magu, the suspected acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in Abuja on Friday.
The Commission was headed by Justice Ayo Salami, a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal.
According to Buhari, the desire of his administration is to make Nigeria a country that has no tolerance for corruption, but one where the menace is vigorously battled.
He said: ”The sad reality confronting us as a people is that there is corruption almost everywhere; at many levels of government, and nearly every stratum of our society.
“Mindful of the threat that corruption poses to us as a nation, this administration has specifically focused on the fight against corruption.
”Corruption is present in all countries. Some Governments treat it with levity. Some fight it all the time.
“I want Nigeria to be counted among those countries that do not tolerate but fight corruption.”
The President called on all stakeholders, and indeed every Nigerian to own the fight against corruption at their respective levels In order to protect Nigeria’s political and economic systems, and the continuous existence of the Nigerian State from the serious threat of corruption
While pledging that the fight against corruption is one that must be fought without fear or favour, Buhari thanked members of the Commission for their dedication and commitment to the fight against corruption.
The president noted that a lot of efforts had gone into building and development of anti-corruption institutions in the country.
”As a government, and in furtherance of our anti-corruption programme, we have since inception engaged in many reforms in removing corruption including but not limited to the enforcement of Treasury Single Account (TSA), strict implementation of the Bank Verification Number Policy and signing unto the Open Government Partnership,’’ he added.
According to him, the Federal Government has so far kept faith with its promise and shall remain committed until Nigeria triumphs over the evil of corruption, attain a prosperous economic status and surmounts her security challenges.
”However, the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touches on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes.
“It is an abomination that strikes at the root, and undermines the Government’s anti-corruption programme.
”It was in response to the serious allegations against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that I set up a Panel headed by Justice Isa Ayo Salami, retired President of the Court of Appeal, via an Instrument dated 3rd July 2020 pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (Cap T21, LFN, 2004).
”We recognize that there are more grounds to cover in the war against corruption, and we are prepared to go out to possess those lands by cutting off any stream that nourishes the seed of corruption and supports its growth.
”Let it be known that in the fight against corruption, no one is too big to tackle, as no individual is bigger than the Nigerian State!” he said.
In his remarks, Salami said that the suspended Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, and 113 witnesses appeared and testified before the Commission.
He also revealed that 46 petitions and memoranda were presented by individuals and organisations with complaints against the suspended Acting Chairman, EFCC or both.
Salami disclosed that the Commission also embarked on a nationwide physical verification of recovered forfeited assets, comprising real estates, automobiles, vessels and non-cash assets.
He commended the president for the initiative to dispose all forfeited assets ”because of the poor condition of the assets we saw during our physical verification nationwide.”
While noting that the four chairmen of EFCC since inception were from the police, Salami also recommended that in appointing a new chairman consideration should be given to candidates from other law enforcement or security agencies and core staff of the EFCC as provided in the EFCC establishment Act of 2004.
He expressed gratitude to the president for giving the Commission members a wonderful opportunity to serve the nation.