Nta: ICPC CHAIRMAN
SPECIAL FOCUS ON ICPC Under Mr Ekpo Nta
The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) or the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission is an agency that was inaugurated on the 29th of September 2000 by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The mandate is to receive and investigate reports of corruption and in appropriate cases prosecute the offender[s], to examine, review and enforce the correction of corruption prone systems and procedures of public bodies, with a view to eliminate corruption in public life, and to educate and enlighten the public on and against corruption and related offences with also a view to enlist and foster public support for the fight against corruption. The Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000 governs the committee’s activities. ICPC targets corruption in the public sector, especially bribery, gratification, graft and abuse or misuse of office.
The ICPC works with other international bodies such as the United Nations Committee on Anti-Corruption (UNCAC), Transparency International and the African Union(AU) Convention Against Corruption.
In the first three years of its existence, the ICPC received a total of 942 petitions. In August 2003 about 400 of the petitions were under investigation, and about 60 were at various stages of prosecution.
The ICPC has prosecuted a number of prominent Nigerians. Some examples are Ghali Umar Na’Abba, speaker of the House of Representatives (2002), Fabian Osuji, head of the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Education (2006).
In June 2004, Justice Mustapha Akanbi said that although several petitions had been written against state governors, the ICPC was not empowered to investigate governors involved in corrupt practices. However, in August 2008 Emmanuel Ayoola said the commission would soon issue a list of former state governors found to have violated the provisions of the ICPC Act 2000. He noted that some of them were already being prosecuted for money laundering, and said the ICPC was scrutinising the file to see whether there are cases they could pursue.
In August 2009 the ICPC started investigations into an alleged N90 billion fraud leveled against managers of Pension Fund for retirees in the health sector. In September 2009, the ICPC summoned officials of the Ministry of Education linked with the alleged mismanagement of N1 billion meant for the Education Reform Programme. In March 2015, ICPC made public the status of criminal cases within its precinct as at March 2015. The list contained 267 criminal cases between 2001 and 2015, and 142 civil cases between 2007 and 2015.
Transparency International in their Corruption Perception Index in early 2002, pronounced Nigeria as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. This was in spite of the fact that democratic institutions had been introduced and the Anti – Corruption Commission set up. Even as at today, Nigeria occupies the last but one position down the ladder among nations adjudged to be corrupt by Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
The resolve to fight and win the war against corruption in Nigeria led to the promulgation of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000. The Act was the first bill presented by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to the National Assembly for consideration at the inception of his democratic administration in 1999.
With time, ICPC has come to be accepted by the populace and expectations on its activities are high. The volume of work of the Commission has been on the increase since inception due to its public enlightenment strategies. The Commission goes all out to raise public awareness on corruption and its negative effects and the fact that the money being stolen is public money and it is therefore their duty to complain when officials behave corruptly. This has yielded results going by the number of petitions being received on a daily basis by the Commission.
The Commission has gone further to create links with other government institutions by creating anti corruption units in Federal ministries and Parastatals with 100 of such units now established. The Commission hopes to increase its staff base by opening offices in the 6 geopolitical zones of the nation.
At inception, they had the daunting task of venturing into an uncharted territory which involved putting in place a structure capable of meeting the challenges that lay ahead, building up human resource capacity and pushing for infrastructural base to meet the demands of the new Commission.
Currently, the Commission in partnership with the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention has an on-going pilot project – the Judicial Integrity Project and purpose of which is to strengthen judicial integrity and capacity in Nigeria.
The present Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practice Commission, ICPC is Mr. Ekpo Nta, a no nonsense man. He was sworn in as Chairman, ICPC on 17th October 2012 by the former President Good luck Ebele Jonathan for a term of five years. By September this year, Chief Ekpo Nta’s tenure as the ICPC chairman will lapse. He has done quite a number of things
at the Commission that will live an indelible marks in the sand of time.
When he came on board in 2012, the first thing he did with his Board was to look at the state of the vehicle, to know whether or not it can take them to where they are going to. He did a thorough analysis to ascertain where his fight against corruption would terminate. To this end, Ekpo designed a Strategic Action Plan of five years development plan. He, together with his team focused on areas of achievements and what are required in terms of personnel, materials and funding, which culminated into the Strategic Action Plan. They had both in-house analysis and also asked an organ of the United Kingdom, DFID to do a similar thing for them. Their reports tallied. They then went in to retreat to train his personnel on targets and goals. The massive retraining got the people to know what they are to do. Mr. Ekpo thereafter designed an entirely anti corruption process that tallies with international best practice. This is how offices and departments are headed by ICPC trained staff as against the use of police at the initial stage in 2012.
The continuous training and retraining of ICPC personnel both locally and internationally have been a great achievement in the successful execution of ICPC assignments under Mr. Ekpo.
He also introduced an anti corruption academy in order to save cost of always moving out personnel abroad for training. The academy is of the same standard with what one finds anywhere in the world. He computerised every processes in the commission, with particular aspect of file management. The difficulty in tracing case file was nipped in the bud. Today, the ICPC petition registry ranks amongst the best in the world. The Commission has scanned every petition file from 2001 (inception of this commission) to date in electronic format. So even if one steals any petition files, the electronic format is available as backup.
Human resources processes was also computerised to avoid man to man contact in the running of the entire system. It involves taking of electronic history and biometrics of every personnel of the commission. Every personnel data can be checked electronically, and this is the workable concept introduced by ICPC chairman, Mr. Ekpo Nta at the Commission since he came. Indeed, Mr. Ekpo has done a lot in overhauling the system, which has also yielder results.
The quality of the cases going to the court has improved. He has had more convictions since coming in than previously. The Commission has had a lot more petitions coming in because of the electronic processes Ekpo has introduced for reporting petitions to the commission. He has also introduced a toll free line so that one does not have to use one’s money to call the Commission. This is because If one calls ICPC with the line, one will not be charged. A department is manned during work hours to receive calls. Even at the close hours, the machine takes over and records whatever one wants to say. When they come back in the morning they will view it. With this, one can file a petition from anywhere in the world online via firstname.lastname@example.org without physical being present at the Commission. He has devised ways to check visa racketeering and dubious ways of visa acquisition by some Nigerians to other countries, of which embassies are now very happy about it. This is because ICPC under Mr. Ekpo has helped them clean up the system. The commission brought back respect for Nigeria in the area of dubious visa acquisition.
In the year, 2013, the Commission seized over 300 passports from the visa scam. It also advised the embassy on steps they should take to make sure that their visa application processes are simplified. The UK government has found the advice very useful and has thanked the commission. As a result of the advice too, the UK changed her visa request processes online world over. It also donated to ICPC a forgery detecting machine. So, if you get any forged document related to banks or employment and all kinds, ICPC today can easily analyse it.
This is just not all. One other major achievement of ICPC under Mr. Ekpo is the involvement of the ICPC in the arrival and departure at Nigerian airports.
ICPC has arrested quite a number of people in a midnight operation. It also got involved in ports administration. It carried out what is known as the corruption risk assessment of the Nigerian Ports and then at the end of the exercise, it came up with standard operational platforms where every operation of the ports is captured on one portal. So, any person who is coming to Nigeria and he is doing business with our ports goes straight to the portal. This has been reported internationally as one of the best initiatives in the anti corruption fight in Nigeria. The portal was launched by the vice president of Nigeria.
Corruption Risk Assessment reports is the initiative of ICPC. It has done training on corruption risk assessor where it brought people to come from different agencies – EFCC, Code of Conduct, Civil Society Organisations etc and did the training under the UNDP. ICPC is the first country in the world to do this kind of training. The Commission has also ensured that discipline among its personnel becomes it’s watchword.
ICPC had done quite a substantial lot in areas of investigating politically exposed persons based on petitions that went to it.
For the first time, the ICPC introduced Law Report detailing all the cases that are worthy of note in order to keep permanent records. ICPC has compiled all the cases the Commission had been involved in from 2001 to date. It published the first part as part one in 2015. It also published several pages to let everybody know that this is what is going on. It has never been done before. Mr. Ekpo had to come in and review some of the cases the Commission had against chief executives of states and filed the ones that it needed to file. This runs into several pages. It had since published the part one and part two on the internet for everybody to follow the processes. The Commission updates every week showing the name of the court and the judge who is involved in the process.
Indeed, ICPC deserves a thumb and a pat on the back for its activities so far.
The man Mr Ekpo Nta is an indigene of Ndukpoise, Nsit Ubium Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. He was born on 12th October 1952. He started his Primary education at Zaria, Kaduna State in 1958 and finally finished at St. Anthony`s Primary School in Ibadan, Oyo State in 1964.
In September 1964, he commenced his Secondary School at Loyola College, Ibadan and completed at Hope Waddel Training Institute, Calabar in 1971.
Between 1972 and 1980, he attended the University of Ibadan where he underwent preliminary Science Programme in Chemistry, Physics and Botany, and later obtained B.Sc. (Hons) Political Science majoring in International Relations in 1977 and M.Sc Political Science majoring in Public Policy & Statistics in 1980. He also obtained LL.B. (Hons) Civil Law majoring in Public International Institutions at the University of Calabar between 1983 and 1987, and afterwards attended the Nigerian Law School Lagos between 1987 and 1988.
Mr Nta started his working experience with Nigerian Television Authority Kano as a youth Corp Member in 1977. He was appointed Assistant Secretary by the Cross River State Water Board where he served and rose up to Acting Secretary of the Board between 1978 and 1985. He was appointed Senior Assistant Registrar of the University of Cross River now referred to as University of Uyo, in 1986 where he served until 1987 before moving to the Akwa Ibom State Water Corporation, Uyo as Head, Personnel/Manpower Development & Training.
The Chairman was a Counsel with the Ministry of Justice Uyo and Deputy Liason Officer/ Lawyer at the Office of the Akwa Ibom State Military Governor (Lagos State Liaison Office) in 1989. In 1990 he was appointed Chief Administrative Officer of the Akwa Ibom Agricultural Development Project, Uyo. From March 1993 to June 2001 he worked with the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) now referred to as Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC as Director of Administration and Human Resource Development.
On 17th December 2015, Mr. Nta was elected as a member of Board of Governors of the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) in Laxenburg, Austria.
Mr Nta has attended many Professional Courses within and outside Nigeria and is also a member of Professional bodies like the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Association for Public Administration and Management and Nigerian Industrial Relation Association. He has travelled widely and has a sound knowledge of Information and Communication Technology.
When Mr. Ekpo Nta of the ICPC probably leaves office in September this year as his five years term end, he would have in no doubt left an indelible marks in the Commission because he has marvellously done well and achieved a lot for the commission, which in future, his footprints cannot be easily erased from the sand of time.
A BOARD WITH MANY FIRSTS
By Femi Gold
The present Board of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). headed by Mr. Ekpo Nta was inaugurated by former President Goodluck Jonathan on 29TH November, 2011 at the expiration of the tenure of his predecessor, Justice Emmanuel Ayoola.
As provided for in Section 3, sub-section 3 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, the Commission consists of a Chairman and Board Members representing each of the six geo-political zones of the country.
The tenure of the present board has been filled with events and successes as facts show. The Commission is now better focused, and strategies clearer due to a 5-year Strategic Action Plan instituted by the board to enhance its operations.
The board has set itself apart with many innovations, which it brought to bear in the business of anti-corruption campaign. The board believes that to prevent corruption is cheaper and much more effective than chasing after corrupt persons.
Consequently, many corruption prevention strategies were initiated and vigorously executed. Some of these include: successful partnerships with relevant stakeholders, Corruption Risk Assessments, System Studies and Reviews of government bodies, and others.
Some notable partnerships, established under the present Board with outstanding benefits to ICPCs war against corruption are:
1. The University System Study and Review (USSR), conducted in partnership with the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), which resulted in the closure of 21 illegal institutions, prosecution of their proprietors; issuance of new directives by the NUC and the NYSC in respect of the undergraduate programmes run by Universities; development of a Template for Systems Studies in the University Sector; a directive to universities to develop 5-year Integrity Plans to address conflict resolution mechanisms, gender protection and grievance resolution procedures.
2. Partnership with Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which led ICPC to the investigation of companies involved in the provision of public supplies and works, resulting in more revenue for Government, prosecution of FIRS officials involved in corrupt practices; Corruption prone areas of tax administration and documentation have been identified and remediation advised. In addition, investigations of the activities of tax defaulters and recoveries have been stepped up by ICPC. Not too long ago, the Commission caused the payment of N76 million undeclared tax to the FIRS.
3. Collaboration with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) led to improved transparency in the bidding process; enhanced payment of appropriate taxes by corporate bodies and helped BPP to identify 134 companies providing fake tax profiles with 50 persons already facing prosecution.
4. Another successful partnership, under the current board, was with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and embassies in Nigeria, which resulted in the arrest of 47 persons, seizure of 412 passports, and arraignment of 18 suspects in court. It also led to referrals of suspicious requests received from MDAs and embassies of countries like Spain, Mexico, Brazil to the Commission for investigation.
5. Due to numerous corruption issues in government e-platforms, the Commission, under the present ICPC board, is carrying out corruption risk assessment of the e-government platforms, namely: Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), Treasury Single Account (TSA) and Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS). Major stakeholders include Central Bank of Nigeria, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, and so on. As a fall-out from ICPC investigation of IPPIS/GIFMIS processes, ghost workers with fake biometrics are currently being prosecuted. The Commission is also part of a committee monitoring the implementation of IPPIS owing to partnership with the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF).
6. Still under the present ICPC Board, in December, 2014, the Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Ministry of Aviation to carry out a CRA in this sector, specifically, at two international airports namely: Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
After the assessment was carried out, the findings revealed that:
There were no unified Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) at the airports, which created uncertainty, misunderstanding, confusion and clashes among officials who render services at the airport.
There was no proper code of conduct for the officials, which made workers to justify gifts or tips on the grounds that they were unsolicited and given voluntarily.
There was lack of automation in many processes and inadequate CCTV cameras, scanners, detectors, etc. thereby creating unnecessary contact between officials and passengers while inevitably building an environment for corruption to thrive.
There were no defined criteria for the posting of officials to airports; and no mechanism to test their integrity before assumption of duty.
To correct this unsavory situation, it was recommended that Standard Operating Procedures and a Code of Ethics be put in place to guide activities of operatives within the airports. A mechanism for receiving complaints has also been set up. Touting and other unwholesome activities at the airports have since been reduced.
6. Partnership by the present ICPC board has also led to scrutiny of various sectors of the nations economy for corruption risks with a view to identifying weaknesses in systems that allow corruption to thrive and thereby institute an Integrity Plan directed at plugging the loopholes.
One of such sector is the ports sector. Assessments of the ports revealed wide discretionary powers and delay in the processing of documents, multiple and overlapping procedures, amongst others which created opportunity for unwholesome practices.
Six Nigeria ports -Rivers, Onne, Calabar, Warri, Tincan and Apapa – were therefore marked for Corruption Risk Assessment by ICPC officials with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and in conjunction with the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms (TUGAR) and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) which culminated in all the agencies in the ports developing a harmonised standard operating procedure and anti-corruption policies for enhanced compliance with anti-corruption legislation.
This assessment was adjudged by the UN Global Compacts Publication 2015 as one of the best anti-corruption initiatives of the year.
One component of the recommendations of ICPC assessment, which is the establishment of a central online mechanism for receiving and resolving complaints by port users, called Port Service Support Portal (PSSP) was launched by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, GCON on 23rd June, 2016 in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transportation.. The portal is available at www.pssp.ng
7. With the assistance of UNDP and in collboration with TUGAR, and BPP, the Commission certified 69 Corruption Risk Assessors. in 2012. This is an international certification with participants drawn from Federal, State Public Services and Civil Society Organisations.. Fifty more assessors were certified in 2016.
These are just some of the successful collaborations instituted by the present board of ICPC, many others abound.
For instance, in 2012, ICPC conducted system study and review of budgetary allocation and expenditure profile on personnel costs of 234 MDAs, leading to the return of N9 billion to the STF by MDAs as unspent balances on Personnel Costs.
As part of Corruption Prevention, the Commission, led by the present board, undertook a massive verification exercise of Utility Bills payments by MDAs. As a result, startling discoveries of nonpayment of N6, 165,690,646.26 bills in three cities. The intervention is ongoing.
Again, within the last five years, the Commission has made a total recovery of both movable and immovable assets valued at over N18 billion. The recoveries include cash, plots of land, buildings and vehicles, through a very robust non conviction assets recovery process pioneered by the present board.
Not long ago, ICPC handed over 40 official vehicles to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources. They were dishonestly carted away by retiring public officers in whose custody the vehicles were placed for administrative and operational duties. 71 more vehicles, retrieved from MDAs after the winding of of SURE-P programme are still within the premises of the Commission.
Within the period under review, the Commission successfully executed System Study and Review in Gombe State Board of Internal Revenue (GSBIR), Niger Delta University, National Examination Council (NECO), Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and Gombe State Water Board. The Commission has also commenced same in National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN), and so on. The primary goal of the System Study & Review was to assess the operational processes and procedures of MDAs by means of detecting areas of vulnerabilities and risks to corruption in order to provide directives for improvement in compliance to extant rules and regulations governing the conduct of government business.
Prior to the intervention of ICPC, pension administration was chaotic, unwieldy and prone to corruption. The Commission, under the present board, discovered over N23billion that was conveniently lost in 40 bank accounts of Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (OHCSF) without records, tracking and monitoring. The Commission consolidated these accounts into four (4). In a particular instance, one of the accounts had accumulated an interest of N496million, which the Commission recovered and paid back into the Treasury.
In addition, delayed pension benefits and severance payments belonging to retirees but delayed due to corruption or negligence, including mobilisation fee on abandoned projects, amounting to billions of naira have been recovered and paid to the retirees, thereby putting smiles on the faces of the weak and voiceless in the society.
The capacity of ICPC staff have been greatly enhanced through local and international trainings. Since the inauguration of the present board in 2012, Commissions staff have received 1,882 local trainings, while 112 staff were sent on foreign trainings. This figure is far higher than the number of staff trained in 12 years prior to the inauguration of the present board.
The Anti‐Corruption Academy of Nigeria, ACAN, a research and training arm of ICPC, which is instrumental to the capacity building success, has also provided trainings for public officers, including States legislators on good governance, accountability, transparency, integrity, ethics and all other issues critical to building a strong anti-corruption ethos
When the Immigration Liaison Manager of the British High Commission, Mr. Liam Harrison, visited the academy in 2016, he expressed satisfaction with the Computer-Based Testing (CBT) centre and other facilities in the academy.
In his words, The facilities are very impressive actually, Im surprised! This is probably the most advanced training facility I have seen in Nigeria so far. I have been to a few academies belonging to some other organisations but I wasnt as impressed as what I have seen here. (End of quote).
From the inception of the present board to mid-2017, ICPC has filed 294 cases in courts. In spite of Nigerias slow judicial process, the Commission has been able to secure 47 convictions. The categories of persons caught in the enforcement net include: former governors, ministers, commissioners, military chiefs and law enforcement officers, heads of MDAs, CEOs, directors, legislators, local government chairmen, civil servants, judicial staff, academicians, fraudsters, bankers, insurers, stockbrokers, etc.
Troubled by Nigerias unfavourable business environment, ICPC under the current board has committed itself to treating all petitions from investors and Nigerians in Diaspora expeditiously. This, it has done through speedy investigation, prosecution and conduct of Corruption Risk Assessments in relation to any person or public institution that creates corruption bottlenecks for investments, especially in the areas of property acquisition, incorporation of company processes or licensing and business partnerships.
Similarly, ICPC in collaboration with the office of the Vice President and Federal Housing Authority (FHA) is driving a major residential scheme expected to yield 15,680 housing units by 2018.
The scheme, christened FHA Diaspora City project and targeted at Nigerians abroad is expected to provide a non-oil window for sustainable flow of foreign exchange to the economy annually, when eventually completed.
The project, which is designed to provide a secure and sustainable home ownership for Nigerians living and working outside the country, as well as workers of Nigerian Diplomatic Missions would commence in four Nigerian cities, namely, Abuja, Benin, Port Harcourt and Lagos, while the second phase of the project would start in Enugu, Kaduna, Asaba and Ibadan.
The functions of Anti-Corruption and Transparency Units (ACTU) have been expanded to cover other areas beyond just monitoring and reporting on corruption issues. In this regard, ethics and compliance was introduced under the current board in line with international best practices for entrenching organisational core values and promoting effective service delivery.
ACTUs are now better focused and more active because of restructuring and capacity development trainings. Some of the successes include increased corruption reportage, system studies, investigations and increased capacity to assess corruption vulnerabilities efficiently in the MDAs and increased education and communication activities.
Indeed, the board pioneered so many new initiatives that improved both operational and administrative duties of the Commission. For instance, the present Board introduced Computer-Based Testing (CBT) for staff promotion exercises, biometric attendance for staff, forensics laboratory and training of staff, computerisation of petition registry and five (5) toll free lines to enable the public report corruption to the Commission at no cost.
What is more, the Commissions headquarters building which had become dilapidated due to lack of funds since 2001 is now wearing a new look. This is as result of an increase in its capital budgetary allocation in 2016. Staff are happy and their morale and efficiency boosted.
Unarguably, none of these could have been realised without the support received from the National Assembly, UNODC, UNDP, USAID, EU, DFID, J4A and many others who provided funds, trainings and equipment for the Commission.
Building on the foundation established by the previous boards, the current board, under the leadership of Mr Ekpo Nta is leaving a pool of standards and direction for a better future for the Commission and its workforce. It is heartening to note that ICPC impact as an anti-corruption agency is now being felt by more Nigerians.
Femi Gold is a Public Enlightenment Department staff of ICPC.