Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday declared that his biggest surprise as the number two citizen of Nigeria was the “grand corruption” in the Nigerian public service.
Osinbajo, who spoke at the first plenary session that focused on Corruption and Rule of Law at the ongoing 24th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, also regretted the reluctance by foreign banks and governments to release stolen funds that are kept in their domains by looters.
The Vice-President had earlier declared the summit open on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, before answering questions during the plenary.
When asked what his biggest surprise as Vice-President was, Osinbajo stated that he was astonished by acts of corruption where a public official would take money from the country’s treasury for his or her personal use.
“I think, frankly, the biggest surprise for me has been the sheer impact of corruption on development,” he said.
Distinguishing between grand corruption and other kinds of corruption, he added, “Grand corruption is, in our context, where money is taken directly from the treasury and is simply diverted to private uses and that is one of the most shocking types of corruption.
“Whereas what we were more familiar with was corruption in the public procurement process and the like. But what is rare and damaging is directly going to the very source of revenue and taking public resource for private use.”
He warned that corruption in public procurement processes, systemic corruption and other corrupt activities in the public sector discouraged investments in Nigeria and must be addressed.
Osinbajo lamented that after several years of corruption and impunity in the country, the two vices were already being seen as part of the country’s culture.
He said corruption needed to be confronted for Nigerians to see positive results.
The Vice-President said the government had made some significant impact in this area by “holding persons who made away with public funds accountable, taking them to court, seizing their assets both locally and internationally and transferring back to the country proceeds of corruption.”
He assured delegates at the plenary that the highest echelon of government was fully in support of the anti-corruption fight, adding that the judiciary was being monitored as well.
He described a big obstacle to Federal Government’s anti-graft campaign, the unwillingness of some countries to release funds looted from Nigeria.
“Trying to get money from foreign governments or from foreign banks is an obstacle for us. It is laden with all manner of difficulties and it is obvious that there is no enthusiasm about returning money that is already in their custody. It is very, very difficult,” Osinbajo said.
Meanwhile, the Vice-President will on Tuesday visit Bauchi State to inaugurate the National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Clinic and the Trader Moni.
The Special Adviser to the Vice-President on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Tola Johnson, disclosed this at a press conference in Bauchi on Monday.
Johnson said the schemes, which started in Abia State, had already spread to 20 other states.