By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday challenged African youths to champion the fight against corruption, saying their involvement is critical to winning the anti-graft crusade in the continent.
Buhari gave the challenge while declaring open the 2018 Africa Youth Congress Against Corruption (AYCAC) at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, their involvement will help in reversing the negative trends of corruption and its implications for Africa.
“To the young people of Africa, this fight against corruption is yours to lead and to win in order to reverse the negative trends of corruption and its implications for Africa.
“The Youth of Africa must pool their energies to effectively ensure that our natural and mineral resources remain on the continent for value addition, job and wealth creation as well as to create affordable health-care and quality education for our people.
“Winning the fight against corruption is very much in your hands!
“Of particular interest to the youth, as reflected in the Nouakchott Declaration, is the emphasis on the imperative of investing in the demographic dividends through anti-corruption, education and sensitization campaigns, targeting young people as a means of bringing about behavioral change.
“I thereby encourage young Africans to use this Declaration as motivation to achieve greater resource investment in developing anti-corruption curricula and anti-graft campaigns in schools, businesses and the general public space.
“African Youth must remain the front and centre of restoring traditional African values of probity, integrity, honesty, diligence and hard work.
“It is only when the youth drive this change, that corruption will be eliminated!,’’ he said.
The president, who was appointed by the African Union (AU) in January as the 2018 AU Anti-Corruption Champion, emphasized that the youth must rise up to the occasion in order to check the rising trend of corruption in the continent.
He noted with delight that the youth regional consultative forums were informative and rewarding for the over 600 young people from across the continent who sharpened their strategies and skills to fight corruption.
While observing that youth meetings serve as vital platforms for young people to engage, the president recognized and commended some young African leaders who had demonstrated the zeal and determination to build the “Africa We Want”:
He said: “First, I wish to recognize Mr Moussa Kondo from Mali for his Accountability Lab in the Republic of Mali. He blazed the trail on how to build sustainable coalitions of “Accountapreneurs”.
“Secondly, I recognize, Mr Maxence Melo, from the United Republic of Tanzania, founder of JamiiForums for strengthening the viability of whistleblowing policy tools.
“I also enjoin us to celebrate our very own Nigerian – Damilola Olawale, founder of Code IT for using technology to give young people the tools to demand transparency in the management of public resources.’’
The President, whose administration’s three cardinal principles include the fight against corruption, also advocated for the introduction of anti-corruption curriculum and campaigns in schools.
He expressed optimism that the Abuja Congress of AYCAC would take adequate stock of policy and institutional mechanisms in the fight against corruption as well as the role of technology, among others.
He also hoped that the Congress would give due support to the continental strategies to stem illicit financial flows out of Africa and expedite stolen assets recovery and return as well as strengthen the capacity of national anti-corruption institutions.
Buhari also enjoined the Congress to explore the link between corruption and conflicts and strengthen oversight by citizens on budget performance.
“You should also strongly advocate the universal signing and ratification of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption by all Member States of the African Union.
“At the end of your deliberations in this Congress, I am confident that you will come up with an Agenda for Action on Winning the Fight against Corruption that will serve as the rallying cry of the African Youth towards a corruptfion-free Africa.
“Strive for an Agenda for Action that will be results-oriented and serve as a roadmap for our continent.
“Let me share with you what I believe are the A, B, C of fighting corruption:
“(A) stands for ACTION. Let us all move from talk to action. I urge you to develop tangible projects in your community to instill transparency and accountability of the highest standard. I look forward to receiving your Creed of Transparency from this Congress with a view to forwarding the recommendations to the next Summit of the African Union in February next year.
“(B) stands for BUILDING BRIDGES. The youth have a unique opportunity to spearhead the building of inter-generational and cross-sectoral bridges in our various communities. Often, fighting corruption requires partnerships with unlikely allies. Be open to exploring constructive partnerships with a wide base of actors. Again, I look forward to all of you joining the Transparency Champions Network that was created following the Regional Youth Consultations.
“(C) stands for CULTURE. So, let us cultivate and equip ourselves with African culture, right attitude and mindset change that will enable us to stand firmly against corruption. By so doing, accountability and change will begin with you and me.”
According to the president, while symbolic year may be ending, the campaign against corruption must not end, as the common future is even brighter.
He added that “as Africa promotes regional integration and global prosperity, corruption remains a major stumbling block to the realization of the seven aspirations of the African Union Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We must therefore fight it from all angles and avenues without ceasing.
“And only a united front led by the African Youth can change this present narrative to a great story of African transformation.’’
Buhari, therefore, urged the youth to challenge corruption in their different countries as “we are doing in Nigeria and DO NOT COMPROMISE!!’’
The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, noted that the level of corruption in Nigeria and Africa as a whole is unacceptably high and warrant urgent action.
He listed some of the measures taken by the Buhari administration to fight corruption to include the implementation of the whistle-blower policy, Treasury Single Account (TSA) and Bank Verification Number (BVN).
He disclosed that the agency had embarked on continuous audits to ensure public funds were spent judiciously.
He, however, stressed the need for the support and cooperation of the youth in the anti-corruption battle, and pledged never to betray the mandates of the agency.
According to Magu, the EFCC will redouble its efforts in the battle until corruption is wiped out.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, noted that the youth are the future leaders of Africa and they must go all out against corruption.
According to him, corruption is injustice against Africans and must be resisted vehemently, adding that “the time to kill corruption is now”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that representatives of United Nations (UNODC) and Chairperson of the African Union delivered goodwill messages at the event, which was attended by cabinet ministers and participants from across the African continent.