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Nuhu Ribadu is a prosecutor and police officer by training. Until 2007, he served as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, which he helped establish in 2003. In this essay, he reflects on his experience as the head of the EFCC and the international work needed to challenge corruption in Africa.

From the essay:

Corruption is one of many serious challenges which undermine the effectiveness of institutions and entire governments in many African countries. It seems to be appropriate to hold it responsible for impeding investor confidence and depriving citizens of true governance, democracy, and development. The former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, described it perfectly when he said, “Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice, and discouraging foreign investment and aid.”

Despite the immense size of the problem, corruption can be defeated. My own experience at the EFCC in Nigeria taught me that change is possible, yet difficult. With the right political atmosphere, we secured an unprecedented number of convictions of those previously regarded as untouchable. Unfortunately, we proved that while it was possible to punish some of the guilty, it was a much larger task to tackle a culture so rich with corruption. Anticorruption offices need help and support from agencies from around the world, particularly the United States. With a strong internal and external base, anticorruption movements have the potential to conquer this cancer on society.

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