By AbuSatar Hamed
ABUJA: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that to further improve the country’s business climate, there will now be a direct connection between the anti-corruption agenda of the Buhari administration and the reform efforts of the Federal Government, in a bid to secure the reforms through criminal investigation and prosecution of public complaints. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) will carry out such prosecution where necessary.
According to a press release e-signed and made available to StarTrend Int’l magazine & www.startrendinternational.com by, Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, this was one of the highlights of the meeting of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, at the Presidential Vila, Abuja, on Monday, February 24, 2020.
Specifically, complaints from Nigerians regarding activities and practices in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) bordering on suspected corruption and deliberate stalling of reform efforts would now be referred from the REPORTGOV.NG portal of PEBEC to the ICPC for investigation and prosecution.
While noting that the Buhari administration remains committed to tackling corruption, Prof. Osinbajo said, “There is a lot of talk about high-level corruption and some public officials stealing money, etc; but I think for average Nigerians, the point of contact is really this sort of approvals for ID cards, for passports, customs, officials, police, and so on”.
Prof. Osinbajo noted that collaboration between PEBEC and the ICPC is an important step in achieving the FG’s reform agenda, especially regarding all government MDAs regulating business environment responsibilities, thereby ensuring a more condusive environment for businesses in the country.
“I think that if this collaboration is robust enough, we will be able to kill two birds with one stone; first is improving our Ease of Doing Business, second is our anti-corruption ranking internationally, because some of the ranking is a perception index. So, people are simply asked, what is your perception about corruption in Nigeria?
“So, if we work on these issues, we can really do a lot in terms of improving the image of the country, not just in the Ease of Doing Business rankings, but also in terms of perception of corruption”.
It would be recalled that following the issuance of Executive Order 01 (EO1) in May 2017, and subsequent directive of the PEBEC to track implementation of the Order, PEBEC, through its Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES), began tracking the compliance of MDAs to the EO1.
Consequently, to make it easier to resolve issues relating to government agencies, the EBES developed an online platform, REPORTGOV.NG, for the public to lodge complaints and provide feedback on services rendered by MDAs. Complaints from the portal would now proceed to the ICPC where and when necessary.
Also at the meeting attended by several ministers, the Ag. Head of Service and heads of agencies, the PEBEC 2019 Business Made Easy report was presented to the Vice President.
Top government officials at the meeting included the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo; Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; FCT Minister, Muhammad Musa Bello; Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Police Affairs, Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi; the Ag. Head of Service, Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan; Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd); Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammed Babandede; and other senior government officials.
The Special Adviser to the President, Ease of Doing Business, and PEBEC Secretary, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, noted that partnership with the ICPC will ensure that complaints received on the portal would be handed over to the anti-graft agency through the MDAs for prosecution.
She noted that some of the complaints and feedbacks received on the REPORTGOV.NG portal bordered on corrupt practices from public officials and civil servants, which necessitated the collaboration with the ICPC in resolving these complaints.
“So we started the conversation with the ICPC, which saw the value in our request that they take up those corruption-tainted complaints that come out of the portal,” Oduwole said.
She further said that, “between November 2018 and January 2019, a total of 1,966 complaints were received on the portal, of which 1,892 were resolved, representing 96.2 per cent success rate”.
In the same vein, the Chairman, ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, told the Council that the agency was happy about the collaboration as it would help in reforming the public service system. He stated that the ICPC would adopt a multi-pronged approach in tackling the issues.
“When we started reviewing samples of complaints, we jointly agreed that the first line of action, which we have started, is to have the particular agencies first of all take administrative action. Once there is a signal that something will happen, we believe that there will be some level of restraint from the particular agency.”
“We are also having a conversation with the Head of Service on this matter; that once we investigate public officers and there is credible information, we would file charges. The Public Service Rules has provisions to deal with those issues. In that way, we are able to at least begin to get some positive response. We could use that feedback to be able to stop systemic corruption.”
The PEBEC Secretary also briefed the Council on the progress of the 5th National Action Plan (NAP 5.0), which was launched on February 5 to ramp up on Ease of Doing Business reforms.
Over the last three years, since the Buhari administration began the implementation of its Ease of Doing Business reforms, Nigeria has moved up 39 places, from 170 to 131, on the World Bank Doing Business index, and the country was twice recognized as a top 10 most improved economy in the world by the World Bank during the same period.