20 Years of Anti-Corruption Efforts in Nigeria: A Critical Look

Corruption in Nigeria is ubiquitous and takes many forms: from massive contract fraud to petty bribery; from straight-up embezzlement to complicated money laundering schemes. Just six years after independence, the country experienced its first military coup that ousted out the elected officials of the first republic. One notable justification for the 1966 coup d'etat by the military was the pervasive corruption of the first republic civilian leadership. There have been notable anti-corruption achievements in the last two decades. The passage of critical anti-corruption legislation has revolutionised Nigeria's anti-corruption landscape, and it has continued to adapt to the shifting dynamics in corruption practices. In the area of prosecutions, non-traditional tactics such as plea bargains, asset forfeitures, and non-custodial sentences - following the enactment of the Correctional Service Act in 2019 - have become ways to bypass bottlenecks, resulting in faster convictions and financial losses for those convicted of corruption. This paper makes six critical recommendations to improve anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria. To begin, politicians should be required to publicly disclose their sources of income to foster accountability and develop public trust. Second, legislators should collaborate with anti-corruption agencies and commissions to enact legislation effecting the prosecution of corruption cases. Thirdly, given the decentralised nature of cryptocurrency, legislators should amend vital legislation to address virtual money laundering concerns. Fourth, the National Assembly should revise the Code of Conduct Bureau Act to permit public disclosure of officeholders' asset declarations without jeopardising officeholders' privacy or safety. Fifth, the Presidency and National Assembly must strengthen their supervision over ministries, departments, and agencies and collaborate to reinforce their legal and administrative mandates. Finally, Nigeria's international partners should support national efforts by taking firmer measures to deter public funds theft and prevent illicit financial flows.

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