The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has promised to fight the scourge of corruption in Nigeria better than current president, Muhammadu Buhari, has done.

In his policy document which he released to the public on Monday, November 19, 2018, Atiku said corruption poses critical challenges to Nigeria's economic and social development.

"Corruption not only diverts resources from legitimate causes beneficial to the society at large, but denies millions of people their fundamental freedoms and human rights. The challenges posed by systemic corruption contribute to the perpetuation of poverty and the hindering of economic opportunities," he said.

The former vice president noted that despite the establishment of relevant anti-graft agencies by previous governments, the present one, led by Buhari, has been accused of serious nepotism, partisanship and lack of political will and the impartiality to deal decisively with corruption.

He alleged that the Buhari-led administration's fight against corruption lacks transparency and allows for rules to be subverted without appropriate sanctions as there's no effective mechanism to enforce the laws of the nation.

He also blamed the ineffectiveness of Buhari's anti-corruption war on weak anti-graft institutions which he said are inefficient, unresponsive, and susceptible to corruption.

The former vice president concluded that the absence of a coordinated national anti-corruption strategy that fosters transparency and accountability in a non-partisan manner means that Buhari's fight against corruption cannot be trusted by Nigerians.

How I'll fight corruption - Atiku

To combat corruption, Atiku said his government would focus on building strong anti-corruption institutions that cannot be manipulated by personalities, while also establishing a culture of accountability, effectiveness, efficiency and transparency.

Atiku Abubakar
Atiku Abubakar

He said he would also ensure rigorous enforcement of  judicious use of public resources, with zero tolerance for nepotism, corruption and poor management.

Listing the steps his government would take, he said, "We shall: a. Strengthen the anti-corruption agencies to be totally independent of government interference and control, and delineate the functions of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Code of Conduct Bureau, Code of Conduct Tribunal and other law enforcement agencies;

"b. Reinforce the abilities of the anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies through improved funding and improved conditions of service to enable the agencies perform optimally;

"c. Encourage all anti-corruption agencies to enjoy a seamless and rancour-free relationship with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation in order to improve the efficiency of the anti-corruption drive of the Federal Government;

"d. Support and transform the capacity of the criminal justice system to deal with corruption and corrupt practices in a more efficient and effective way; and

"e. Initiate measures aimed at changing public perception towards corrupt practices especially transferring of ill-gotten wealth to foreign accounts and jurisdictions through:

"i. Improving the control and management of international borders by creating and training specialized units and border police to combat the illegal transfer of ill-gotten assets and properties.

"ii. Increasing cooperation, strengthening of organizational, human and financial resources of law enforcement departments in the observance, adherence and implementation of foreign treaties or conventions on corruption and the recovery and repatriation of proceeds of corruption."

As part of immediate actions to combat corruption under his government, Atiku said he would launch a comprehensive National Anti-Corruption Strategy based on the rule of law, separation of powers, neutrality and non-partisanship so as to reposition and refocus all anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies within the first 100 days in office.

He said he would also set up a Major Corruption Case Monitoring and Review Committee for all major corruption cases under the Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. He said the committee would include Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the media as observers to ensure that selective investigation and prosecution of major corruption cases by all anti-corruption agencies is permanently eliminated.

He also promised to review and expedite action on the passage of all existing and pending new laws or amendments to all anti-corruption laws currently in the National Assembly.

How to prevent corruption - Atiku

Atiku Abubakar
Atiku Abubakar

To cut down on the prevalence of corruption in Nigeria, Atiku said he would establish a reward system whereby a comprehensive review and increase of salaries of all public officers within the federal services, law enforcement and armed forces would be executed. He said the increments would be financed through improved revenue income from reduced leakages.

He also said the concept of "FAIR PAY for FAIR WORK" would be emphasised from the highest levels of government while also promising that all public workers would be adequately rewarded and compensated, thus providing the government with the moral authority to sanction errant public workers.

How I'll sanction corruption - Atiku

To make perpetrators of corruption serve as deterrents to others, Atiku promised that he would ensure adequate punishment is meted out to whoever is caught.

He said he would do this by ensuring that judgments on corruption cases are fully followed through and enforced by the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

He also said he would create special tribunals to try corruption cases sent to it by the relevant anti-corruption agencies as well as speed up judgments on outstanding cases of corruption and ensuring plea bargains are not abused.

2019 presidential election

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (left) and President Muhammadu Buhari (right)
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (left) and President Muhammadu Buhari (right)

While next year's election, scheduled for February 16, 2019, is expected to be keenly-contested between Atiku and President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), they both face competition from other candidates including Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Obiageli Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), and Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC).

Others are Tope Fasua of the Abundance Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Eunice Atuejide of the National Interest Party (NIP), Adesina Fagbenro-Byron of the Kowa Party (KP), Chike Ukaegbu of the Advanced Allied Party (AAP), Hamza Al-Mustapha of the People's Party of Nigeria (PPN), Obadiah Mailafia of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), and many more.

79 candidates will contest in the election, the highest number ever in Nigeria's electoral history.