ABUJA, 13 November - On a visit to Nigeria today, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, praised Nigeria's efforts in bringing about a "climate change" in attitudes and practices associated with corruption.
"Thanks to strong political leadership and a fearless anti-corruption agency, high level officials who used to be esteemed or feared because of the money that they stole are now behind bars", said Mr. Costa. Greater international cooperation - for example as a result of the UNODC and World Bank Stolen Asset (StAR) Recovery Initiative - is helping the people of Nigeria to recover some of the estimated $400 billion that was stolen between 1960 and 1999. Preventive measures taken by the public and private sectors should help to reduce the risk of such plunder occurring in the future.
The UNODC head praised the work of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), calling it the "most effective anti-corruption agency in Africa". He described the Commission's Chairman, Mr. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, as "a crime-buster made of the hardest steel alloy ever manufactured". He urged the Government to provide the EFCC with the resources and independence that it needs to carry out its work effectively.
He also urged the Nigerian authorities to do more to crack down on cyber-crime originating in Nigeria, to strengthen the accountability of public officials, and prevent money-laundering. He underlined UNODC's on-going commitment to strengthen judicial integrity and improve transparency and accountability in business transactions in Nigeria.
"Such checks and balances can ensure that, unlike in the past, Nigeria's wealth - particularly from oil and gas - will be shared by all of its citizens rather than a few corrupt leaders", said Mr. Costa.
He also urged foreign companies operating in Nigeria - particularly in extraction industries - to assume corporate responsibility for their activities. "If you contribute to corruption, you contribute to instability and increase your own costs and insecurity, not to mention the damage caused to the environment and the lives of vulnerable people - look no further than the Niger Delta", warned Mr. Costa.
To read Mr. Costa's remarks in full click here.
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