Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has warned against the diversion of stimulus and emergency funds meant to cushion the effect of Covid-19 pandemic, saying the crisis was creating additional opportunities for corruption.
Guterres stated this in his message to mark the 2020 International Anti-Corruption Day with the theme, ‘Recover with Integrity,’ delivered by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) representative in Nigeria, Dr. Oliver Stople, during a webinar on Wednesday in Abuja
He noted that collective successes against the pandemic, including Nigeria’s successes was critical to the ability to recover, as the anti corruption work has never been more critical than what it was presently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, “In recent years frustrations have erupted at corrupt leaders and governments in some countries people have taken to the streets to demand for social justice and accountability.
“Amidst these deep concerns, the COVID-19 crisis creates additional opportunities for corruption. Governments are spending rapidly to get economic sparks on track, they provide emergency support and procure medical supplies. Oversight maybe weaker and development of vaccines and treatments adds to the risk of bribery and profiteering.
“Corruption drains resources from people who need them, exacerbates the vast inequalities exposed by the virus and hinders strong recovery.
“We cannot allow stimulus funds and vital emergency finds to be diverted. Recovery from the pandemic must include measures to prevent and combat corruption and bribery.
“Action against corruption should be part of broader national and international reforms and initiatives to strengthen good governance, tackle illicit financial flows and return stolen assets in line with sustainable development goals.
“We must take the opportunity for ambitious reforms and initiatives at the first ever general assembly special session against corruption which will hold next year. All of us must resolve to work together to promote accountability and end corruption and bribery for a more just and equal world”, he added.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Waziri Adio reiterated the agency’s commitment towards the fight against corruption, said it was resolute in enthroning transparency and accountability in the oil, gas and mining sector.
Represented by NEITI’s Director Communications, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, he maintained that the last two years had recorded fruitful achievements especially in its work with companies, Civil Society Organisations and relevant government agencies that either warehouse, take custody or manage extractive revenue funds.
“The first step we took was to ensure our reports which fits into the national reforms in the sector are timely and of high quality in terms of content. The timeliness of our report is key to ensure that the data we provide in the entire reforms in the sector are current and reliable.
“We have taken vital steps to automate our processes by establishing the NEITI Audit Management System (NAMS), and introduced some policy documents that ensures we interface with policy makers to shape the direction and content of the reforms.
“We are certain that in no distant future, Nigerians will begin to feel the impact of revenues from oil, gas and mining which our entire focus is to ensure that it helps to provide road, water, electricity, basic infrastructures and build a much more harmonious society for the good of all.”
On his part, Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mohammed Abba who disclosed ongoing steps to prioritise domestication of the Commission’s operations, said technology remains a key instrument in winning the war against corruption in the country.
“We must leverage on each others strength to create the desired result we seek so that corruption will be minimised in our lives.
“To achieve all these, it will be important that we embrace the deployment of technology as an enabling tool in the fight against corruption for effective prevention, investigation and prosecution of corrupt related crimes.”
Earlier, Mrs Jane Onwumere, Technical Unit On Governance and Anti-Corruption Reform (TUGAR) explained that the theme for the Anti-Corruption Day this year, “Recover with Integrity”, focuses on the need to prevent and fight against corruption during and after the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure we recover better.
According to her, “The objective of commemorating the International Anti-Corruption Day is to create awareness about the negative effects of corruption and the need to prevent and fight corruption.
“This year, this event gives us an opportunity to recommit to collective action in preventing and addressing corruption as we reflect on the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on governance institutions, the economy and the society”.