Although the struggle to combat bribery and corruption is multifaceted, the most important part is enforcement. Unless stolen assets can be recovered and the people responsible subjected to criminal sanctions, political efforts to alter the cultural view of corruption won’t take hold.
The difficulty President Muhammadu Buhari, for example, has met since his election in Nigeria two-and- a-half years ago is putting into practice his pledges to combat corruption. Plus, in South Africa and elsewhere, there are simmering corruption scandals.
But to address corruption through political and judicial systems that are themselves corrupt is complex. Which is why central governments in Africa often rely on foreign agencies to do the governments’ enforcement work.
When foreign agencies intervene
Given the shared common law traditions and historical links between anglophone Africa and the UK, it’s no surprise the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) has been among the most active in bringing criminal charges in these circumstances.
One high-profile case involves the former Nigerian oil minister and president of OPEC, Diezani Alison- Madueke. In October 2015, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the NCA arrested Ms Alison-Madueke along with four others as part of an inquiry into suspected bribery and money laundering.
The allegations against Ms Alison-Madueke surround her tenure as oil minister. The government-run oil company NNPC allegedly failed to pay billions of dollars of revenues to the state. In August 2017, the NCA was reported to have frozen £10m worth of property in the UK belonging to Ms Alison-Madueke. The Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Ms Alison-Madueke with corruption and fraud offenses in Nigeria as well.
International cooperation on domestic corruption A cooperative approach was also used in the case of James Ibori, the former governor of one of Nigeria’s largest oil-producing states. After an investigation by the EFCC and the London Metropolitan Police, Mr Ibori pled guilty to 10 counts of money laundering and fraud in February 2012. He was sentenced to 13 years in a British prison. Although released after four years, his conviction does show the effectiveness of cooperation between African agencies and their overseas counterparts.
Enforcement agencies from other European jurisdictions participate in these collaborative methods, too. A French court convicted Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue — Vice President of Equatorial Guinea, son of the President, and self-styled Instagram star — of embezzling public money in October 2017. On top of a €30m fine and a three-year suspended prison sentence, the French court confiscated all Mr Obiang’s assets in France.