Promoting good corporate practice in the maritime industry extends from tackling bribes and facilitating payment to other forms of corruption. These require adopting principles that can be deployed to encourage best practices and create the much needed awareness of the long-run effects of corruption on any given economy. In this exclusive media chat with Ifeoma Oguamanam of MMS Plus, the Spokesperson of Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Mrs Rasheedat Okoduwa bares all……Excerpts.
What necessitated the introduction of a Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) Programme in Nigeria?
To talk about what necessitated the corruption risk management programme in Nigeria, will mean to speak about ICPC corruption prevention powers. By those powers ICPC through its governing laws has the powers to go into any government agencies to study their processes and procedures and review the ones that are corruption prone. When the review is done ICPC has the power to instruct on the use of the review system to ensure that organizations take on board the reviewed systems. So that is speaking generally on the powers of ICPC.
ICPC based on that power can go into any sector of government operations, so it is not as if we went into the port to purposely malign the ports, or to sort of say that the ports is the only corrupt system in the Nigerian economy, no. We went into the ports based on our powers but the more important reason is the fact that the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network which is a global Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), on shipping and maritime issues approached Nigeria through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to say that they wanted a CSA done in the Nigerian ports because in their own research, Nigeria as well as some other countries were flagged as some of the countries that would benefit from the programme.
To benefit from CSA, we have to identify the vulnerability in the ports system and when we are able to address those vulnerabilities, we can thereby reduce the incidents of corrupt practices in the ports system.
When did this initiative start?
The one for the ports started early 2013. Before then in 2012, ICPC had trained, with the support of UNDP, what we know as Corruption Risk Assessors that training started in August 2012; it was an extensive training that lasted for about 3-4months, it had on-line components and face to face components, so it was that training that dove tailed into the Corruption Risk Assessment at the ports.
We used officers that have had previous training; those trained were drawn from ICPC, there were officers from other agencies, there were people from the ministries and even officers from civil society groups who were all trained as Corruption Risk Assessors. The important thing is that in doing the Corruption Risk Assessment, the trained assessors did not work alone in the port sector, we worked in collaboration with the port official themselves.
So what is ICPC doing to ensure that the level of corruption is reduced in our ports?
The three mandate and functional areas for ICPC; is enforcement of the law, corruption prevention through systems study and review and public enlightenment education against corruption. These are the focal areas for ICPC in reducing corruption in the country. Corruption cannot be totally eradicated, there is nowhere in the world where corruption is totally eradicated, what we have and what we can work towards is the reduction of corruption.
So, ICPC enforces the laws, that is, it accepts petitions from people against alleged corrupt persons, investigates those petitions and then prosecutes offenders where necessary. It also does, like we said earlier, corruption prevention by studying the system, of which this CRA in the ports sector is one. We have done in this in other areas. We have done systems study in the university system and the results of that, we are implementing now; to make the university system more transparent and better result oriented.
We are doing a current CRA in the aviation sector and we are also doing it in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and some other MDAs that are maybe specific to individuals alone. Also the public enlightenment and education training, is a training that is ongoing, at least we are partnering with organizations who are funding and supporting us to host this programmes because we are educating people and enlightening them on the need to have integrity as their watch word in all their transactions.
At this level, with so many programmes on going, we do not get to hear of many prosecutions of corrupt persons especially in the ports. Why is that?
That cannot be true, because for instance, very soon, in the next three days we will be in Gusau trying a high profile case of sort. So, if you keep your eyes and yours ears open, you will read about it. ICPC has been prosecuting offenders, our cases are in the courts and there have been convictions. From the ports I don’t think so, but if we have evidence of corruption against anybody, we will not hesitate to persecute because corruption has dramatically increased the costs of transporting goods by sea, all these small bribes and facilitation money that port users are made to part with has become embedded in almost all transactions in the sector and this has to stop.
Even shipping companies who are exposed to different forms of corruption are no saints, some of them are fraudulent and are eager to compromise port officials. So we won’t spare anyone found wanting. I cannot off-hand tell you categorically about the level of trials and convictions that we have had but ICPC has definitely been going to the court to prosecute cases of corruption and actually convict offenders and the ports will not be an exception.