Fast-tracking the effective Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption in support of the Sustainable Development Goals

On 4 and 5 December 2019, the Federal Government of Nigeria in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime gathered national stakeholders and international anti-corruption experts in Abuja to launch the second report on Nigeria's implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

Nigeria signed the Convention on 9 December 2003 and ratified it on 24 October 2004. Following its first review in 2014, when Nigeria was assessed by Lesotho and Montenegro for the implementation of Chapter III (Criminalization and law enforcement) and of Chapter IV (International cooperation), the second cycle review which was conducted by Cote d'Ivoire and Myanmar and completed in late 2019 focused on Nigeria's compliance with the provisions of Chapters II on Prevention and Chapter V on Asset Recovery.

UNCAC has been ratified by 186 countries, including Nigeria. As such, it is widely accepted as the global framework guiding the fight against corruption. Nigeria's report, which is accessible through UNODC's website, identified several successes and good practices, including the establishment of anti-corruption units across Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, the provision made for civil society consultations in the adoption of the national budget, as well as the adoption of the Freedom of Information Act. The report also specifically recognized Nigeria's leadership in pursuing asset recovery cases and its readiness in sharing its wealth of experience with other countries facing similar challenges.

At the same time the report identifies a number of areas in which further improvements are required with a view to effectively and fully implementing the provisions of UNCAC, such as achieving the complementarity of functions of various anti-corruption bodies, providing specific training for civil servants considered vulnerable to corruption, as well as members of the judiciary; a further clarification of conflicts of interest beyond the area of public procurement and the establishment of a beneficial ownership register. The report also noted a number of bills pending in the National Assembly, including the Whistleblower Protection Bill, the Public Interest Disclosure Bill, the Witness Protection Bill and the Proceeds of Crime Bill.

Mr. Edward Kallon, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, remarked: "Corruption and insecurity are among the primary spoilers of sustainable development. In 2015, when Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, they recognized that one of the weaknesses of the Millennium Development Goals had been the failure to include corruption prevention among its targets. Recognizing this omission, Sustainable Development Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions establishes several targets dedicated to the eradication of corruption, the strengthening of transparent and accountable institutions, the curbing of illicit financial flows and the recovery and return of stolen assets."

Mr. John Brandolino, Director of the Division of Treaty Affairs of UNODC stated that "States must not only continue their efforts to address any gaps identified, but they also must remain vigilant as to potential gaps that may be discovered, as corrupt practices sometimes find creative ways of circumventing existing measures. UNODC will continue to support States in all substantive areas of the Convention, including the review and revision of legislative and policy frameworks; the development of new bodies; the establishment of effective research, data-gathering and analysis mechanisms, and the facilitation of international cooperation."

Ms Lilian Ekeanyanwu, Head of the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption acknowledged "Nigeria has significant corruption issues but the efforts and resources deployed to combat it are equally significant. If we continue on this trajectory, we shall overcome."

Reaffirming Nigeria's commitment to the United Nations Convention against Corruption President Buhari, in his key note address, highlighted "the critical importance of effective implementation of Chapter V of the Convention on Asset Recovery and Return both at the national and global level. Nigeria has sustained a campaign to return stolen assets stashed in foreign jurisdictions, to the countries of origin. The most effective deterrent for the corrupt is to divest them of the ill-gotten gains and reapply them for the benefit of victims."  He further remarked: "I am happy to note that several African countries are with us in this campaign as well as the campaign to check illicit financial flows. It is critical to pay attention to these two issues if we, and other affected developing countries are to fulfil our obligations under agenda 2030 on sustainable development."

The first and second cycle UNCAC implementation review reports of Nigeria