The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN have revealed that corruption more than anything else is the biggest impediments to national development.
Also the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that the everyone is all victims of corruption.
He insisted that, it consists actions that are often clandestine and practices that those who perpetrate it always try to conceal and it is now acknowledged that many of our political, social and especially economic problems in Nigeria is traceable to corruption.
Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, said the AGF stated this in his keynote address at the 1st Meeting of the National Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) on Tuesday in Abuja.
Isah disclosed that the Minister re-emphasised President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to make governance more open, accountable and responsive to the citizenry.
He said, “In May, 2016 the President attended the International Anti-Corruption Summit organised by the government of United Kingdom where he reaffirmed his commitment to strengthen anti-corruption reforms through implementing programs aimed at: Exposing Corruption, Punishing the corrupt and providing support to victims who has suffered from corruption and thirdly, Driving out the culture of corruption”.
Malami reiterated that the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on improving transparency, accountability, citizen participation and responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation, which Nigeria formally joined the initiative as the 70th country in July, 2016.
He disclosed that President Buhari has approved the Open Government Partnership National Steering Committee of which the Federal Ministry of Justice is coordinating, adding that it consists of representatives of the government Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs) as well as Civil Society Organisations, Organised private sector and professional associations.
The AGF explained that these group representing various institutions have worked together to co-create a two-year National Action Plan (NAP) to mainstream transparency mechanisms in the management of public funds across all sectors and citizen engagement.
He highlighted the progress made so far since Nigeria joined the OGP as follows: the commencement of consultation on the implementation of the Beneficial Ownership Transparency of which President Buhari had presented the Money Laundering Prevention and Prohibition Bill, 2016 to the Parliament, stressing that the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Nigeria Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) are also working together to develop a register of beneficial owners of all companies operating in Nigerian extractive industry.
According to him, the United Kingdom government has commenced the implementation of beneficial ownership public register in 2016 which was among one of the first to commence consultation process involving a triangular process (Government, Business, and Civil Society) towards the establishment of public register of beneficial owners.
Malami expressed that, in the area of open contracting, the President has recently approved Executive Orders to improve transparency in government contracting, surmising that amongst other achievements is the Whistle Blowers Policy which the Federal Ministry of Finance just issued to enable voluntary disclosure of stolen assets.
Furthermore, “the application of the Freedom of Information Act is becoming more robust and access to public information is increasing. The OGP Secretariat plans to train all relevant agencies to ensure effective application of the FOI law”, he affirmed.
Also, the government, through the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is working on adopting a technology based citizens’ feedback on projects and programs within the OGP framework, he added.
“We are the first country to recognise civil society as critical in the monitoring of recovered and returned stolen assets, Nigeria Network on Asset Recovery has participated actively in the negotiation of agreements for return of stolen assets thus setting a global standard”, the AGF hinted.
He assured that participating in the OGP process would provide the requisite hub of coordination, information sharing, innovation and cross-fertilization of ideas within government and with our global partners that will lead to better service delivery that its citizens yearn for.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in his remark at the occasion pointed out that corruption is not a victimless crime; everyone is all victims of corruption, assuring that the government intentions were not to witchhunt anyone but to let Nigerians know what is the cost of corruption in their lives.
Mohammed further stated that town hall meetings were conducted for the purpose of the Ministers to give accounts of their achievements and that there was no censored questions.
He added that following the town hall meeting, the FG introduced the campaign for Change Begins with Me, which cut across all ethnicity affirming his Ministry’s commitment to work with OGP.
On his part, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewoye who was also personally present at the National Steering Committee meeting advised that Nigerians should be committed in erasing the errors of the past and to ensure that things are done with properly.
The Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and Civil Society Co-Chair of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Nigeria, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, earlier in his remarks, said that the OGP Steering Committee consists of equal numbers of government and civil society representatives who together oversee the development of the OGP, providing guidance and direction for the process, as well as maintaining high standards for the initiative and ensuring that it is sustainable.
Ojo revealed that the OGP has a rotating leadership group which also comes from both sectors, with government and civil society co-chairs of Steering Committee.
Also present at the meeting were Hajia Zainab Ahmed, Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Dr. Joe Abah, Director General, Bureau for Public Service Reform amongst others.