“We have scaled a good deal on grand corruption today despite the fact that we are earning 60 percent less in revenue, we are actually able to spend more than ever before in the history of this country on infrastructure. In 2017, we spent over N1.2 trillion on capital. That’s the highest in the history of the country. So we are able to do far more with far less because we have controlled the impunity that went on, the grand corruption, and all of that.”
“The national strategy is to ensure that public officers in particular are not able to privatize public finances. And how do we intend to achieve that? We intend to achieve that by ensuring that there is consequence for corruption and also by automating processes, removing discretion from individuals because if you don’t remove discretion from individuals the individuals can have discretion as whether or not they will grant certain approvals through certain processes, then you continue to encourage corruption at one level or the other.” – Vice President
Q: On Nigeria’s rating by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
Vice President: I think that by even Transparency International’s own assessment, Transparency International uses nine different indexes to come to a conclusion. In four out of those indexes, Nigeria moved up, in another four Nigeria stabilized & dropped in only one index. So in aggregation, it (T.I) then decides that it has fallen in certain number of points below where we were.
I think the important thing to bear in mind about Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight is that the government has done what it ought to do by focusing on grand corruption. Grand corruption is the type we experienced years before when, for example, $15 billion was lost in defence contract. Two, three weeks to election, N100 billion in cash was taken out, and again $293 million in cash, two weeks, three weeks to election. That’s the kind of impunity. And of course you are also familiar with the scam that went on in the NNPC at the time; the so called statutory contracts, that’s grand corruption. That is the corruption that crippled the economy of the country.
Let me tell you very quickly how you can recognize that we have scaled a good deal on grand corruption today: despite the fact that we are earning 60 percent less in revenue, we are actually able to spend more than ever before in the history of this country on infrastructure. In 2017, we spent about N1.3 trillion on capital. That’s the highest in the history of the country. So we are able to do far more with far less because we have controlled the impunity that went on, the grand corruption, and all of that.
Now, how does that translate to perception; because grand corruption is a big aspect of corruption. It’s a big one because if you cannot control grand corruption, you can’t do what you want to do. But then you cannot address the corruption as you go through our airports, our ports or as you go through government offices, in many cases. That’s where the whole perception emerges.
We must have a deeper and much wider way of dealing with corruption. How are you going to do that? You must have an efficient way of doing that; like automation, removing discretion from individuals.
Q: What is the institutionalized process of fighting corruption?
Vice President: Institutionalization is not a one-off thing, it’s a process, and we are dealing with that, that’s exactly what we are doing. For example, the TSA and being able to look at government accounts and all of that is one way of institutionalizing a process by which you can be sure of what people are doing, how this things are happening. The process of allowing the EFCC to do its work without dictation, saying that “look, this what the EFCC is doing”, and giving them every support that you can. These are ways of institutionalizing. And it is that same process that we are taking in the public service – Automation.
For example, look at all that we have done in the ease of doing business. The whole point of doing that is institutionalizing processes, so that when you come into Nigeria you can get your visa after applying online; so that Customs don’t have to sit around the airport, that is why we are putting in the I-check and we are putting all sorts of other processes. That is to institutionalize; it’s not a one-off process.
Q: What’s the national strategy on anti-corruption?
Vice President: That’s a long conversation, but put simply, the national strategy is to ensure that public officers in particular are not able to privatize public finances. And how do we intend to achieve that? We intend to achieve that by ensuring that there is consequence for corruption and also by automating processes, removing discretion from individuals because if you don’t remove discretion from individuals the individuals can have discretion as whether or not they will grant certain approvals through certain processes; then you continue to encourage corruption at one level or the other.
Q: Asides from the EFCC, it seems the other anti-corruption agencies such as the ICPC are doing nothing…
Vice President: Well, I don’t agree. I think that you will find that alongside the work of the EFCC, in fact one of the critical things we do is, we try and re-direct the ICPC. We appointed the executive secretary of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Advisory Council, PACAC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, to head that body and we believe the ICPC is the important part of the whole fight against corruption. We revamped the leadership of the ICPC. Unfortunately we were stalled because it requires Senate confirmation, that hasn’t been done. That is the area of focus for us because the ICPC is supposed to be involved, not just in corruption, but in orientation and re-orientation of the public service. So, it’s an important part of our work.
Q: Nigerians in diaspora are one of the biggest foreign exchange contributors of about $20 billion. Aside from having a Special Adviser to the President on Diaspora Affairs, does Nigeria have a Diaspora partnership?
Vice President: I think we’ve also gone beyond the Office of the Adviser; we now have a Diaspora Commission by law, which I think is a policy step. That Commission will aggregate a lot of the records through data for diaspora in order to encourage the diaspora to interact more with government, with private sector and all that. But don’t forget that, with the whole diaspora experience and what is in tune with other nations of the world; the usual focus is on remittances; what are they able to remit as it is pointed out, it is a substantial amount of money. It is something in the region of $20 billion.
But it obviously goes beyond that. In developing the economy we also need diaspora’s talent. So we need diaspora in technology, we need diaspora in education, medical practice and all that. The Ministry of Health, for example, actively engaged with the personnel in diaspora for specialists, setting equipment and all of that. But I believe that one of the most critical ways of doing so is through the diaspora commission, ordering it, measuring it; once that is constituted.
Q: Allegations of nepotism against the Buhari administration.
Vice President: Look at the cabinet, for example, from the point of view of the religion, it has an equal number – 18 Christians, 18 Muslims; but, we have the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as well as the Head of Service who are Christians. So we have 20 Christians to 18 Muslims; that’s the structure of the cabinet. So if you take that narrative you may argue that perhaps the Christian have the upper hand; that’s a possible narrative.
Let us look a little deeper into that, so there are those who may argue, for example, that the north has an upper hand or perhaps one section has an upper hand in the cabinet as one narrative. The South East, for example, has five states. Four of the South Eastern states have senior ministers; all of them, except one, who is Minister of State for Education.
Q: The President has no choice in that, it is a constitutional requirement.
Vice President: In assigning particular portfolios he does. In the north, seven northern states have no senior minister, including the President’s home state, Katsina. Now, there are those who will say, if you are nepotistic; surely seven northern states have no senior minister. It’s a narrative depending on how you want to run it.
I give you another example; I’m from the South West. There are people who will say “I am from the South West, the North has everything.” The South West, for the first time in the history of this country, has one Minister who is in charge of three ministries: Power, Works and Housing. The Ministers of Finance & Communications are also from the South West. These are critical ministries. You can run the narrative in whichever way that you choose. There are those who will say, for instance, look at the number of CEOs of agencies of government; the highest number of CEOs in our nation today comes from Ogun State, the state has the largest number. There are those who will say that’s his state (i.e VP’S State). So you can run the narrative depending on how you want to run it.
The President has admitted that, yes there are situations where you can find certain things as true and he intends to have a look at that. For example, you’ve given the example of security positions and he said he is going to take a look at look at it. I believe that is the way to go because you can run any narrative that will suit the figures you are showing. And that is where we have legal process. There are people who don’t know that the number of CEOs from Anambra State are more than the number of CEOs from Katsina State or anywhere else, except Ogun.