President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja vowed never to allow history to repeat itself like during his term as military Head of State when corruption fought and defeated as well as incarcerated him.
The President stated this when he inaugurated the head office building of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at Jabi District, Abuja.
Buhari, who narrated how he was detained for three years after losing the first battle against corruption in August 1985, however, assured that the current crusade against corruption would be fought steadfastly.
He, however, maintained that “we never intended, and we are not engaged in witch-hunts, but we are determined within the laws to call people to account’’.
“I do not like to start with digression but it has become relevant here because of recent a renowned citizen of this country said this government promises to fight corruption but he is warning us that corruption will continue to fight back. I’m sure this he meant it for the rest of the country not for me because my first attempt to fight corruption, corruption fought back successfully.
“I was removed as Head of State, detained for three years. Those that we put (as members of) committees to investigate for abusing office they were given whatever they had misappropriated and I remained in detention until a journalist from Edo state said “My mother had to die to safe me from detention because I was only released when my mother died after three years.
“So, in spite of that my objective of fighting corruption remains steadfast,’’ he said.
Buhari noted that throughout his journey in national service and since 2015, he had made a very conscious decision to pursue a vigorous fight against corruption in public life.
He said: “Since 2015, we have made significant progress in the fight against corruption.
“Everyone now knows that corrupt officials will be held to account, no matter how long it takes.
“We have recovered and are still recovering trillions of naira that were stolen in the past few years by people without conscience.
“We are pursuing recoveries everywhere and are making sure that anyone who has been found culpable is made to answer for his or her crime under the law.’’
The president expressed the hope that the National Assembly, the Judiciary and other critical stakeholders would continue to collaborate with the Executive to bring corrupt people to book.
He particularly called on the Legislature to add more verve to the determination of the government to rid the nation of the brazen corruption witnessed in recent years, through reviewing archaic constitutional provisions and proactive passage of new legislation.
Buhari said Nigerians must change their ways of handling public trust, saying that “corruption not only kills governments but destroys societies.
“It is the major reason why we are struggling with basic developmental issues that other comparable nations have long overcome.’’
He added: “War of corruption is not an easy one to fight, because it affects so many different branches of our lives, so much that some people do not even consider breaking trust is any more a crime.
“It has become the norm. That is why we must fight this attitude and encourage Nigerians to change their attitudes and perspectives.’’
The president noted that a number of nations had signified interest to help Nigeria tighten its laws and enter into agreements with the country to repatriate not only stolen funds but to make the culprits face due process of law.
He, therefore, appealed to Nigerians to support regulatory agencies like EFCC, because fighting corruption was everyone’s concern.
He said the federal government on its part was committed to working with the nation’s foreign friends to stop the inflow of stolen funds from Nigeria into their countries and recovering what was there already.
According to the president, these assets, when repatriated will be put to building infrastructure across the country.
In his remarks, the acting chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, expressed the hope that the head office building would address the office accommodation challenges facing the commission.
He said the multi-billion building structure had medical facilities to cater for staff and suspects as well as modern detention centres for male and female suspects.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that goodwill messages were delivered by former South African President, Mr Thebo Mbeki and the Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland at the event.
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