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Tackling corruption in Nigeria

Nigeria is understood to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. In a ground-breaking initiative, a team of researchers from Northumbria’s Business School, led by Professor Jackie Harvey, has brought anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria together to collaborate in practice and to expand international understanding of the issue.

If left unaddressed, figures suggest corruption could cost Nigeria up to 37% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by 2030 amounting to nearly $2,000 per person). Though corruption has been a problem in Nigeria for many years, the recent downgrade of the country from ‘somewhat weak’ to ‘weak’ for overall transparency and accountability suggests the situation is deteriorating. A multidisciplinary team of researchers from Northumbria’s Business and Law Schools (Jackie Harvey, Peter Sproat, Tony Ward, Sue Turner, Christopher Mitford and Sinan Gonul) are working with colleagues in Nigeria on an ambitious project exploring whether better tracking of beneficial ownership could prevent laundering of the proceeds of corruption and aid the recovery of assets. The beneficial owner is the natural person who ultimately owns or controls an asset such as a company or trust, in criminal situations this person would seek to disguise their ownership of an illegally acquired asset.

The research, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), investigates how international anti-corruption frameworks function in Nigeria and how they can be better targeted to reduce opportunities for the proceeds of corruption to be moved across the globe. Nigeria has 23 anti-corruption agencies working to tackle this issue; however, they traditionally work independently of each other, and this hampers the progress they can make. Acknowledging this, Professor Harvey and colleagues are encouraging cross-agency collaboration, in the hope of improving their success.

A two-day workshop organised and hosted by the research team in July 2019 laid the groundwork for this by bringing together many agencies to work collaboratively in identifying some of the operational challenges. Several prestigious bodies attended including the: Central Bank of Nigeria, Special Control Unit against Money Laundering, Corporate Affairs Commission, Federal Ministry of Justice, Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, Nigerian Police Forces, and Association of Chief Audit Officers of Banks in Nigeria. Despite the traditional divisions between these agencies, this workshop was well received, and more events are being held in 2020 to further cement the approach.

As well as fostering collaboration, the project aims to provide an up-to-date, in-depth, evidence base for the Nigerian authorities to help change practice, enabling a simpler, cost-effective approach to preventing corruption. As part of this, the research team will produce a new range of improved resources to support the work of anti-corruption agencies, including a tool to help assess risks and an analysis of different types of corruption cases. It will also inform international regulatory authorities of the implementation problems faced on the ground.

For further information on this work, visit the following blogs:

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