In a move to recover stolen funds stashed in foreign countries, the Federal Government on October 10, 2023, said that it was considering the establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC). It said that the IACC will be a paradigm shift in its approach to combating the issue at the global level. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), stated this in his speech delivered in Abuja during the 33rd Anti-Corruption Situation Room organized by Human and Environmental Development Agenda also known as HEDA Resource Centre, in collaboration with Integrity Initiatives International.
Fagbemi, who was represented by a Deputy Director (Public Prosecution), Yusuf Abdullahi Abdulkadir, said that the corrosive impact of corruption on Nigeria’s development, stability, and prosperity cannot be overstated. In his words, Nigeria, as a country that has been deeply affected, could benefit significantly from the establishment of an IACC. Such a court could provide a platform to address cases that involve individuals and assets located abroad, often tied to grand corruption schemes that have a devastating impact on Nigeria’s development efforts.
Agency will enable FG to prosecute high-profile cases.
Also, it could serve as an additional tool to complement and strengthen the nation’s domestic anti-corruption efforts. While describing corruption, in all its ramifications as a great threat to the stability, progress and development of nations around the world, the government said that theft is a cancer that knows no boundaries, undermines trust, weakens institutions, hampers economic growth and perpetuates social injustice.
Furthermore, the minister said that the IACC would enable the Nigerian government to tackle high-profile cases, powerful individuals and recover stolen assets and property abroad. At the event, the chairman of HEDA, Olanrewaju Suraj, said that corruption is a cankerworm that should be fought to a standstill in Nigeria. He said, “Everybody should be worried that what we have in Nigeria now is what is considered in the outside world as more or less a happy ending because many corrupt people are getting elevated to higher places.
Proceeds are seemingly being rewarded.
He cited ministers who were accused of dishonest behaviour being returned to office. He said that some of them are becoming ministers; some governors who are still standing trial and ministers are now heads of agencies, and quite a number of them are currently at the federal and state levels. “Everybody should actually be worried that the proceeds of corruption are actually used to either perpetuate themselves in office or to even get a better appointment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the AGF who acknowledged that Nigeria, like many other nations, is grappling with the debilitating effects for decades, said that corruption is a challenge that has permeated various facets of Nigerian society, from the public sector to the private sector, and from local communities to the highest echelons of government. Particularly, Nigerian leaders from the first republic, through the military regimes, and to the fourth republic have had the freedom of stashing money abroad with no questions asked. Late military head of state, General Sani Abacha’s stashed money abroad was being recovered decades after his demise.
Leaders who loot treasuries stash money abroad by default.
Thus, it is important that this proposed agency is equipped with necessary tools to tackle the endemic challenge plaguing the country. This is especially as leaders take their money to the safe haven of offshore accounts. The Director-General of Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, Prof. Tawfiq Ladan, who was represented by a former teacher of Public Law at the University of Jos, Prof. Emily Alemika, said that the conference was important as experts gather to explore, interrogate and share insights on international anti-corruption mechanisms and framework.