Mr Lateef Fagbemi, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, has described corruption as a major challenge which depletes national wealth and erodes trust in the system.
Fagbemi said this in Abuja at the senstitisation workshop on the revised guidelines on negotiation and drafting agreements by government parties to prevent corruption, Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) and ensure sustainable development.
The workshop was organised on Tuesday by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)
“Corruption is indeed a challenge to the rule of law and it is undoubted that the political system loses its legitimacy when power is used for private advantage.
“It depletes national wealth and erodes trust in the system,” he said.
Fagbemi, who noted that there could not be any substantial development without stemming corruption, said that the Federal Government is poised to tackle the menace headlong in the nation.
He observed with concern that corruption is being promoted by IFFs and arbitrary award of contracts.
He said that Federal Government is working towards promoting more effective and transparent management of public resources as well as well-functioning institutions to combat IFFs.
Fagbemi said that government had put in place measures to deter corruption in negotiation and execution of contracts.
“The government has taken measures aimed at ensuring that all contracts within Federal Executive Council’s threshold are properly vetted.
“As we have discovered that a major source of drain on our national purse is the increasing utilization of litigation and arbitration.
“This is sometimes funded by litigation sharks, to foist contracts and agreements that were ab initio procured through bribery and corruption on Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, one thing is however clear, there can be no sustainable development without stemming corruption and IFFs.
He noted that key to fighting corruption and IFFs is the methodology of approach.
“Experience has however shown that law and order approach alone is not sustainable. Effectiveness and efficiency require a nuance combination or well-tailored mixture of governance reforms, prevention and sanctions.
“It is estimated that Nigeria loses an average of $1-18 billion annually to illicit financial flows, more than 60 per cent of which is due to commercial IFFs which would be largely prevented with capable negotiation, drafting transparency and patriotic zeal.
“Consequently, the methodology adopted with this workshop is a preventive effort aimed at enlightening key stakeholders charged with the responsibility of negotiating contracts on behalf of Government in the contents of the Revised Guidelines.
“This would hopefully deter corruption in negotiation and execution of Government contracts, which is part of the Federal Government’s Ministerial deliverables on Improved Governance for Effective Service Delivery,” he said.
According to him, the Federal Ministry of Justice is therefore committed to supporting initiatives undertaken by MDAs which are aimed at engendering transparency, efficiency and preventing corruption.
“Equally at the ministerial level, the ministry has developed policy documents and specific mechanisms to ensure transparency and reduce incidence of bad judgment awards.
“Which always arise from poor drafting or drafting of Federal Government Contracts with malafide intention against the country and its citizenry, particularly as it relates to contracts within the threshold of the Federal Executive Council,” he said.
The Chairman of ICPC, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, noted that Nigeria had continued to experience corruption, IFFs, litigation and arbitral proceedings that could have been avoided with specific guidelines, better negotiation skills, aptitude, patriotism and professionalism.
“Information in the public domain shows that odious contract terms through which Nigeria has been fleeced through IFFs were oiled by a combination of bribery and corruption, competence and capacity deficiency.
“Also through negligence of negotiators, unpatriotic legal professional services in the chain of drafting, negotiating, signing, and contesting litigation or arbitration arising from some of such agreements,” he said.
He said that the workshop was to provide guidance on how to prevent corruption and IFFs in the course of negotiating and drafting of contracts and agreements in doing government business.
“The guidelines that this sensitization workshop is grounded upon was reviewed by experts, improved upon and tested via different capacity building activities implemented by ICPC between 2019 and 2022.
“This is done with local and international experts in furtherance of ICPC mandates of preventing corruption and advising MDAs on ways of minimizing corruption and adopting systems and processes for better efficiency and transparency,” he said.
Amb. Yonov Agah, Director-General/Chief Trade Negotiator, Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN), lauded ICPC for the production and dissemination of the guidelines to the wider public and relevant stakeholders.
He said the guidelines also underscore the unwavering resolve to uproot corruption and ensure the prudent utilisation of public resources.
He said this would cultivate an environment not only conducive for sustainable economic growth and development, but also a better future for the country.
He said that crafted guideline is a navigational tool capable of safeguarding the national interest against possible corrupt practices, while drafting and negotiating agreements.
“This important tool should ensure that agreements in Nigeria serve as blueprints for progress rather than as fertile grounds for corruption and illicit activities,” he said(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Source: News Agency of Nigeria