Two years on: Institutionalising the ‘Buhari-effect’ in defence sector reform
President Buhari’s election has been a turning point for the Nigerian anti-corruption struggle. The President moved quickly to dismiss the service chiefs and make his own appointments, while a number of those implicated in defence sector corruption are being prosecuted.
Two presidential ad hoc audit committees were quickly established to identify who was responsible for arms procurement fraud leading to losses under the previous administration estimated by Acting President Osinbajo at US$ 15 billion. The Nigerian armed forces have also attempted to cut out third parties by contracting for key equipment directly with governments and working with the Bureau for Public Procurement to increase oversight.
These are significant steps and deserve recognition. But it is our view that on their own they are not enough to institutionalise the ‘Buhari-effect’ and ensure that there is no repetition of ‘Dasukigate’ in 2, 5 or 10 years time.
To build on these anti-corruption efforts and contribute to Nigeria winning the long fight against corruption, TI in collaboration with CISLAC, reviewed the material published by the Presidential Audit Committees, cases currently being prosecuted by the EFCC and the 2016 Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index assessment for Nigeria, to see what lessons could be identified. Those lessons, together with a number of recommendations, are contained in our report, Weaponising Transparency, and below. Implementing these will help to avoid a repetition of the past, when frontline soldiers were left to fight Boko Haram with inadequate support.
Whilst TI and CISLAC recognise the efforts made by the current administration to fight corruption, these are unlikely to be sustained beyond this presidency, if significant measures are not taken to cement the anti-corruption drive. And that means introducing stronger institutional reforms to shut down the opportunities for corruption in the first place. We look forward to continuing to engage with the armed forces in pursuit of this goal.
Weaponising Transparency Recommendations:
– Develop a defence sector anti-corruption strategy to address the main enablers of corruption. The MoD and military leadership should create a special Reform Board responsible for ensuring this is executed across the sector.
– Extend public access to defence and security information by amending the Freedom of Information Act. This would strengthen the recent Public Procurement Act reforms and reduce opportunities to abuse national secrecy for personal gain.
– Monitor confidential procurements by establishing a confidential Senate committee and a well-trained unit with suitable security clearance inside the Bureau of Public Procurement.
– Regulate secretive security votes. As one of the most durable forms of corruption in Nigeria today, security votes should be abolished or strictly regulated.
– Protect whistle-blowers. The Attorney General should clarify that current protections cover the defence and security sector, and enact these protections in law.
TI and CISLAC have also called on the international community to prioritise and support Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts during security engagement and the repatriation of stolen assets.