National Democracy Day

President Buhari and Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda at the Nigeria Anti-Corruption Summit in Abuja.

Tomorrow – 12 June - is National Democracy Day in Nigeria. Today, to mark the occasion, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) hosted an Anti-Corruption Summit themed: Curbing Electoral Spending: A Panacea to Public CorruptionHE President Buhari was the Special Guest of Honour; HE Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda was the Key Note Speaker and Prof P.L O Lumumba, former Chair of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission delivered guest remarks.  

I attended and was really pleased that discussions went well beyond how much money the EFCC has recovered, because it is really not clear, despite some attempt to explain, what really happens to recovered loot.  This opaqueness is something the passing of the Proceeds of Crime Bill would improve, but that’s another story….  However, I was pleased that the EFCC had made what appeared to be a strong effort to reduce vote buying during the recent elections, hopefully on both sides of the fence, not just Opposition.  Also, seeing the continental challenge, Acting Chairman Magu called for more effective collaboration between African States to stamp out safe havens. But what I welcomed most was recognition of the need to change social norms.  Magu said it was critical that the majority of the population must have a change of heart towards disapproving of corruption and acting against it!

Of course, Lumumba’s speech was really inspiring. Having lauded Buhari and Kagame, he got down to the business of candidly speaking about how corruption undermines democracy; invading electoral processes.  He said his aim was to reenergise the fight against corruption in view of the severe harms to society. 

Kagame talked about the need to reframe the fight against corruption, considering culture, responsibility; accountability and effectiveness. He said well established institutions were not enough – it was important to make sure that institutions actually worked. He also said corruption should not take decades to eradicate. He made some interesting points which really resonated:
-          Africans should be in charge of their own future and focus on making their societies better;
-          Governments should be more accountable to keep the trust of the people;
-          Set sights high, by placing the fight against corruption within greater ambitions of growth and wealth creation.

President Buhari rounded off by restating tackling corruption as one of his three priorities (the other two are security and economy).  So, we are all waiting to see how his refreshed Administration, once formed, takes this important fight to the next level.