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How to address Nigeria’s endemic corruption

By Bayo Ogunmupe
20 May 2022   |   1:25 am
As Nigerians continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the economic downturn, corruption needs also to be addressed. From small and midsize enterprises to multinational corporation....

As Nigerians continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the economic downturn, corruption needs also to be addressed. From small and midsize enterprises to multinational corporations and for countries around the world, everyone bears the burden of corruption. Even so, corruption and the pandemic are responsible for the drop of two million of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) within four years. It means between 2017 and 2021 MSMEs reduced from 41 million to 39 million in 2021, according to a recent release from the Director General of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Alhaji Dikko Radda.

   
Like the pandemic and Climate Change, corruption is a transnational and multisectoral problem that requires transnational and multisectoral solutions. The ninth session of the Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) comes amid urgent global challenges. As the world continues to respond to COVID-19, the climate crisis and the growing debt burden, it is critical that we also address the issue of corruption—for corporate and political integrity and transparency are integral to realizing the equitable and sustainable future we are striving to reach.

Anti corruption efforts are needed so that we can invest effectively in urgent priorities. The trillions of dollars governments and businesses are devoting to revitalizing our economies are at risk of being diluted if these funds become fertile ground for corruption and self- dealing. By some estimates, the yearly cost of corruption is over $3.5 trillion – capital that could more than fund the $300bilion estimated cost of climate adaptation in development economies.
   
But knowing that we must address corruption is just one part of the story. The other is how we go about addressing the challenges of corruption. Here, the challenges we are confronting are instructive. Just as the pandemic and climate change, each demands global collaboration, so too does the battle against corruption. The fact that 188 states are parties to the Convention Against Corruption speaks to the recognition that a collective commitment is crucial to meeting our anti- corruption objectives.
   
Importantly, when we speak of collective action, it must also mean multilateral and multistakeholder in nature, because no single country, company or industry can achieve its anti- corruption goals by itself. From small and midsize enterprises to multinational corporations and for countries around the world, everyone bears the burden of corruption, even if it is not within their own boardrooms or borders. Every stakeholder, therefore, needs to be part of the solution. Although granting pardon to people convicted of corruption isn’t helping matters.

   
Article 12 of the Convention Against Corruption directly addresses the importance of engaging the private sector in the fight against corruption. The convention encourages state parties to partner with private entities and to help develop corporate anti- corruption safeguards, including conflict checks, disclosure obligations and accounting and auditing standards. However, there are global efforts to fight corruption.
   
The World Economic Forum- the International Organization for Public- Private Cooperation, is spearheading innovative initiatives to bring together stakeholders from business, government and civil society to propel an anti- corruption agenda. The partnership Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) is comprised of 90 companies from across industries the World Economic Forum serves as the principal chief executive officer led platform for battling global corruption.
   
This community not only creates a virtuous environment among itself, in which leaders reinforce anti- corruption commitments and actions, but it also sends a powerful market signal. Namely, the world’s leading companies have zero tolerance for corruption and are ready to work collectively across sectoral boundaries to curb it. In June last year, PACI launched a unifying framework for private sector intermediaries – known as gatekeepers- who are positioned to prevent or interrupt illicit financial flows. 
   
The framework, developed in partnership with WEF’s Global Future Council on Transparency and Anti- Corruption, the World Bank Star Initiative, aims to unite a complementing, reinforcing, or enhancing existing regulatory measures. Indeed, there are regional efforts to fighting corruption. Similarly, regional initiatives are raising anti- corruption standards within the private sector. For instance, the Pearl Initiative convenes public and private sector leaders to promote corporate accountability and transparency across the Gulf region. And the Maritime Anti corruption Network (MACN) leverages local partnerships to rid ports and canals of corruption.
   
The efforts of MACN have notably benefited one of the world’s essential maritime channels, the Suez Canal, reducing demands for facilitation payments and tangibly improving the operating environment for all stakeholders. What these initiatives all have in common, is the idea of integrity beyond compliance. While abiding by anti corruption laws is essential, it is frequently insufficient. To achieve truly transparent, accountable and honest markets, corporate leaders increasingly understand that they must often go above and beyond what is strictly required under the law to build a culture of integrity within their organizations.
   
As we embrace the future, effective anti- corruption must be understood as a necessary foundation of a healthy and prosperous society. We cannot meaningfully reduce human rights violations nor can we increase access to life- saving medicines and life sustaining employment unless our political and economic systems are grounded in the principles of transparency, accountability and integrity. Corruption needs multisectoral and transnational solutions. Thus, collective action and public and private collaboration will prove essential in the coming months and years as we shape a more equitable post- pandemic Nigeria and a more sustainable future.

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