By: Alex A. Bah
“Corruption is the urgency of today and the emergency of Africa’s tomorrow. Our generation must take collective action against the cancer corruption”, is a key message that Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. proclaimed when interviewed by the West African Leadership and Empowerment Centre (WALEC) for its official magazine, at this year’s West African Leadership Summit in Lagos, Nigeria.
The West African Leadership Summit is an annual event that brings together exceptional leaders and change makers in the sub-region, to X-ray its very many impelling challenges and seeks to provide solutions. This year’s edition; 4th, was premised on the theme “Building a United Africa: Critical Role of Women and Youth”.
Sierra Leone that is a now a template for its huge and unimaginable gains made in the fight against corruption, took the center stage in providing a much desired experience sharing exchange, on its cryptic strides in repulsing the continent’s greatest plague-corruption. As a panelist and awardee of this acclaimed event, the ACC Boss accordingly shared vital details on the country’s model of fighting corruption that has tallied huge successes and received immense plaudits and global approbation.
However, on a number of requests from esteemed media outlets in Nigeria, Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala made few appearances to share to the wider international public, Sierra Leone’s story in making corruption a high risk and low return venture. In his interview on Arise News TV, which is a London-based world news channel with studios in New York, London, Johannesburg, Abuja and Lagos, the Commissioner talked about the importance of exerting concerted efforts to protect a nation’s collective resources through uncompromisingly taking a fearless stance to repel corruption. He emphasized on the importance of administering punitive sanctions so as to send the strongest dissuasion to the public. In this regard, he revealed the country’s setting up of a Special Division of the High Court of Sierra Leone to expeditiously try corruption cases. “In Sierra Leone, what we have done to navigate the justice problem is to set up a Special Division of the High Court, where corruption cases will not have to pile up with Land cases or other criminal cases; where they can be tried faster and judgment delivered faster. That moved our timeframe of completing cases from probably 3-6 years on average, to 1 to 6 months”, the ACC boss noted.
In his interview on Silverbird TV, which is also a TV station widely viewed/watched in a good number of states across Nigeria, the Commissioner revealed that the country has hugely succeeded in the fight fundamentally as a result of a Presidential and Political Will that necessitated the Commission to embark on legal and political reforms to better arm it in its fight. “We have to understand the cost of corruption in economic terms. It is not about what is really stolen, but what you lose because people don’t invest in your country…the reputational cost just by people knowing this is a corrupt country. It even goes beyond what is taken from the cookie jar”. This, the Commissioner added, was central to his initial conversation with His Excellency Brigadier (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, when he just appointed him as Head of the ACC.
Commissioner Kaifala noted the importance of public engagement in the fight against corruption, as a key tool he has used by constantly keeping in touch with the people on his responsibility and progress made, and has so far travelled to all major towns across the country to have conversation with the very people that matter but often left out. This he furthered, aimed to stimulate their desires, raise awareness, and awaken their consciousness on the ills of corruption, their enormous role to join the fight individually and collectively, and the benefits of a corrupt-free society. “This is what the country exports and what other countries like Liberia, Uganda, among many others, come to the country to inquire and learn,” he said.
Mr. Kaifala was also interviewed on News Central TV station where he similarly discussed the country’s strides in curbing corruption. He talked about the effective and radical policy reforms, among other strategies used in making Sierra Leone a blueprint in the global sphere.
Impressively, the ACC Boss whose story is a cover page of this year’s WALSummit Official Magazine, was exclusively interviewed by team, where he equally shared useful insights on the country’s anti-graft success. On what informs his strong desire and drive to curb graft, the Commissioner explained that the African continent loses too much money on corruption. He stated that bad governance, lack of accountability and transparency are the very incentives that have led to diversion of State resources into the pockets of corrupt public officers, that would have gone a long way in addressing the citizens’ plight, alleviate poverty, ameliorate infant and maternal mortality rate, to name but a few. “Despite the potential in our human and natural resources, the poverty rate is alarming. Various studies have supported the position that if we seriously maximize our revenue mobilization; utilize our resources judiciously by negating corruption and corrupt practices of all kinds; it will be extreme for Africa to need foreign loans and donations”, he added.
The ACC Boss noted that, the scourge of corruption, largely and disproportionately, affects the youth. He encouraged the youth of the continent to “ignite a ferment change in favour of an honest, fair and just society”. As a youth himself, appointed at the age of 34, he has proven that better is indeed possible for the continent, by entrusting the youth with the onus of redefining Africa and creating a pattern and radical pathway for growth and development.
With the huge respect and admiration for the country at this International event of eminent leaders in the Sub-Region, the United States Government’s International Anti-Corruption Champion awardee, President of the Network of Anti-Corruption Institutions in West Africa and elected Board Member of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, Francis Ben Kaifala was conferred as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management and Leadership, and also awarded as Young Leader of the Year.
While the Commissioner is back to continue the fight, Sierra Leone is proud to be an emblem that countries wow in awe and admiration, especially in a fight that represents a fundamental global concern. We are proud of the Commissioner and the ACC team for changing the sickening narratives and putting Sierra Leone at the limelight.
Public Relations Unit, ACC