The Nigerian government has praised the Commonwealth’s role in supporting its fight against corruption.
During a visit to the Secretariat’s headquarters in London, a delegation from the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption thanked the Commonwealth for the technical assistance it provided to Nigeria for the recovery of the proceeds of crime.
After the Commonwealth’s Tackling Corruption Together conference last year, Nigeria asked the Secretariat for assistance. In response, the Secretariat convened an international workshop in July 2016 on criminal justice administration to strengthen the capacity of judges to tackle systemic corruption . It also organised a meeting of high-level stakeholders in the management of recovered stolen assets resulting in the development of a Framework for the Management of recovered stolen assets which Nigeria did not have.
In April 2017, another capacity-building workshop for judges was held in Lagos. The outcome was the production of Guidance Notes for Judges and Prosecutors on the recovery of proceeds of corruption through a non-conviction route.
Speaking after the event at Marlborough House, Professor Itse Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, said, “The Secretariat helped us in the area of non-conviction based asset recovery. We were not properly trained in this area, and didn’t have the ability to recover assets without sending someone to prison, which was becoming increasingly difficult without a conviction.
“So the Secretariat organised a workshop where experts attended from all over the world and which taught us the areas, the procedures, and the avenues and ways in which asset recovery can be done without necessarily sending a person to prison.” As a result, assets recovered this year alone exceed by far the amount that the government has recovered over the past 10 years. In addition, a clear structure for managing the recovered stolen assets has been established, including the creation of a central recovery account, to prevent funds from being ‘re-looted’.
The Executive Secretary of the Committee, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, who is also the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, said, “We have had some very successful collaboration with the Commonwealth in developing technical tools and documents and building capacity of important actors in the whole anti-corruption architecture for delivering on their mandate, notably judges and prosecutors.
“All of the background work to preparing the forfeiture framework was done with the Commonwealth, so it’s been a very excellent collaboration and has resulted in some very positive results for Nigeria.”
Commonwealth officials praised the progress of the Nigerian government and the political will it took to move ahead. Katalaina Sapolu, Director of the Secretariat’s Governance and Peace Directorate, said,
“I am delighted that the measures the Commonwealth Secretariat helped to set out have been implemented by the Government of Nigeria and are now bearing fruit.
“A system of governance that is fit for purpose is integral to the wellbeing and functionality of a nation, and that’s why providing a framework to ensure that countries such as Nigeria can root out corruption is absolutely essential.”