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Transparency: Corruption worse in Nigeria

Nigeria has dropped on Transparency International‘s yearly corruption perception ranking, moving two places down to rank the world’s 34th most corrupt nation in the world.

In the 2019 Transparency International’s corruption perception index released on Thursday, Nigeria scored 26 out of 100 points, falling by one point compared to 2018. In the country comparison, Nigeria ranks this year 146 out of 180 countries – two places down compared to 2018 results.

According to the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Transparency International Chapter in Nigeria, the index aggregates data from different sources that provide perceptions by business community and country experts of the level of corruption in the public sector.

While the index does not show real incidences of corruption, it is a reliable indication of the perception of the Nigerian public and the international community about the state of corruption in the country. The index is 100% impartial, objective and globally well respected, CISLAC said.

“The negative result from this year provokes tough questions. Despite the proclaimed war on corruption, why is Nigeria perceived by Nigerians and the international community still as very corrupt? The Government of Nigeria claims winning the war on corruption, but is this statement backed by evidence?” Auwal Rafsanjani of CISLAC said in a statement.

“As every year, when results are not favourable to the Government, the CPI, CISLAC and all other critical citizens will be dismissed, branded as unpatriotic and some activists may even be physically attacked.”

“Instead of analytically discussing why Nigeria does not seem to be winning the war on corruption, the Government and her supporters will spend taxpayers’ resources and precious time on denying the obvious – Nigeria does not make much progress in the fight against corruption!”

The group provided possible explanations why Nigeria has failed to improve in corruption perception index despite the government’s declared “war on corruption.”

“1)Nigeria’s rule of law is selective – the rich and powerful do not play by the rules

All useful reforms in Nigeria are limited to those who cannot afford to ignore them. The pre-election period witnessed mind-blowing scandals, which stayed without consequences. Politicians stashing millions of dollars in kickbacks or having corruption charges upon them just need to switch political parties or stay loyal and charges are dropped against them. Despite evidences brought by brave media and civil society, prominent personalities in politics and business are untouchable by the Nigerian law enforcement and the executive.

2)Backlash against media and civil society damages Nigeria’s anti-corruption effort

Like previous years, last year witnessed further growth in civil society and media involvement and activism in anti-corruption. A lot more investigative journalists are risking their lives to expose corruption in procurement, constituency projects and government spending, while civil groups are collaborating to put pressure on government across the federal and local government levels to make duty bearers accountable. These efforts are helping to put corruption in the public consciousness and mobilize civic voices.

But the period also witnessed increased attacks on civil society and media. A perfect expression of corruption fighting back and government not doing enough to appropriate the partnership opportunities provided by renewed civic involvement in anti-corruption. We witnessed increased threats to civic space, targeted attacks and arrest of journalists and civil society activists. Exposing corruption of those in power was met with harassment and intimidation. One example was the attack on a journalist with the privately owned broadcaster, Rave Television, in Edo State, by a group of people on November 9, 2019. In another prominent example, Omoyele Sowore was dragged out of the court room while the judges were literally held at gunpoint by DSS. The whole world watched in shock as state apparatus became a major threat to public safety and justice in Nigeria.

3)Institutionalised corruption in political parties and political integrity

Nigeria’s system of governance and the foundations of democracy are for sale! We do not have political parties. We have platforms without ideology and any ideas to offer voters. Our politicians are masters of survival changing political parties as they please. Political party primaries are for sale to the highest bidder in a system of godfathers and criminals, who buy themselves the right to loot Nigeria from within the Government, National Assembly or other politically exposed positions. Nigeria won’t win the fight against corruption when corruption is institutionalised within the political party system. At various arms and levels of government, see routine and systematic abuse of office which by many government appointees that has been elevated to a position of being celebrated and yet government has decided to not even acknowledge the serious negative impact of this on the failure of its anti-corruption campaign to bear substantive results.

4)Poor understanding of the definition of corruption and how to tackle it

The authorities lack consistency and understanding on what corruption actually is. Corruption thrives with incompetency and lack of technical understanding in sectoral areas. Take the example of the disastrous privatisation of the energy sector or botched defence contracts. In an environment where senior officials are nominated, promoted and advanced based on ethnic, religious and nepotistic criteria, technical understanding of governance, including the fight against corruption, is a scarce commodity.

5)Anti-corruption legal and policy framework is underdeveloped

Despite legal and policy provisions for many aspects of anti-corruption, we still lack crucial laws and policies. Take the example of asset recovery, which the Government takes as a big success. Our management of confiscated assets is questionable, if not dubious. Government has not created a transparent and accountable mechanism for the management of recovered assets and loots. It does not brief Nigerians on the whereabout of the recovered assts and loots, where it is being used and how. Nigerians are yet to see the results from the use of the recovered assets, if they have at all been put to us.

It takes an average of 10 years to confiscate criminally obtained assets. Nigeria has no legal and policy framework which would enable accountable confiscated assets management. The Proceeds of Crime Act that we have been negotiating for over 10 years has not been signed by the Presidency, probably due to the resistance of the anti-corruption agencies, which do not want any accountable and transparent system. While few profits from the chaos, Nigeria continuous suffering.

6)Inability to implement recommendations on anti-corruption

It does not matter how we are ranked on anti-corruption. It is obvious that we are NOT making progress. Nigeria is the world leader in the number of poorest of the poor. Insecurity has become endemic everywhere in the country. The state of our roads, hospitals, schools is disastrous. One of the reasons is that we do not implement sound recommendations.

For example, government identifies procurement as the single source of corruption. It is inexplicable that the National Procurement Council (NPC) as provided in the Public Procurement Act is not in place! Government has a whistleblower policy, yet whistleblowers are attacked and sometimes even sent to jail! Even governmental data recently launched through the Second Bribery Survey shows that Nigerians do not report corruption because they are afraid of repercussions.

7)Corruption in vital sectors such as oil and gas and defence is endemic.

As reported every year, Nigeria cannot make progress against corruption if some key sectors do not see rapid improvement. Anti-corruption in the defence and security sector is even openly loathed by some government officials. Illegal checkpoints, secretive army defence procurement and corrupt usage of security votes fuel insecurity and insurgency.

Corruption in the energy sector, education, health and others, may not be as evident as by the police or security services but it eats out the social fabric of Nigerians. Every generation of Nigerians comes in less educated, less healthy and worse prepared than the generation before!

This year, we will not repeat any recommendations. The Government must make sure that their own recommendations are followed. Civil Society and well-meaning Nigerians can suggest, but the Government has to lead the fight.

The Nigerian elite needs to reflect on the state of Nigeria and look at the foundations why we do not progress. Rule of law needs to apply to all, not just those who are powerless. Government sanctioned attacks on journalists and civil society discounts the little progress that we are making against corruption. Political parties and complete breakdown of political integrity are the real sources of Nigeria’s lack of progress.

Furthermore, we need to have an impartial discussion of what corruption is and how we can tackle it without political agenda behind it. The approach to legal and policy framework is dominated by hidden agendas. Those very corrupt who would be most affected if these laws and policies are implemented decide about the legal and policy instruments. We do not lack recommendations and technical solutions on anti-corruption, we lack the authority, which could enforce the implementation to the benefit of Nigerians.


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