Nigeria’s worsening position on corruption index

Although it has often disputed the widely held belief by Nigerians that it has not delivered on its signal electoral promises to revamp the economy, curb insecurity and stamp out corruption from the polity, the Muhammadu Buhari administration can have no one but itself to blame for the latest verdict by the global anti-graft watchdog, Transparency International (TI), thumbing down its claims regarding an anti-corruption war. In the latest ranking released by TI, the country dropped three places and scored lower points than in its previous record. Going by the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2020 report, Nigeria currently occupies the 149th position out of the 180 countries surveyed, with an overall score of 25 out of 100 points. With the current ranking, it is now the second most corrupt country in West Africa, with Guinea-Bissau being the only country more corrupt country in the sub-region. For perspective, in the 2019 report, Nigeria was ranked 146th out of the 180 countries surveyed, scoring 26 points out of 100 points. According to the latest report, Denmark and New Zealand with 88 points each, are the least perceived corrupt countries, followed by Finland, Singapore and Sweden and Switzerland scoring 85 points each.

Predictably, the Federal Government has once again played the ostrich. A statement issued in Abuja by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, called the TI’s integrity into question, claiming that the country’s low rating in the 2020 CPI did not truly reflect the great strides by the country in its fight against corruption. According to the minister, the implementation of the various reforms, especially in the Ease of Doing Business, was expected to yield positive outcomes in the country’s corruption perception and other relevant assessments in the next 12 to 24 months. Mohammed said: “For instance, following the release of the 2019 TI-Corruption Perception Index, the government initiated reforms to improve on Nigeria’s Ease of Doing Business indices. This is because we found that up to 40 per cent of the country’s corruption perception survey indices relates to business processes and general public service delivery processes. Government’s swift action has led to major reforms in the processes at our ports and business process points. In addition to placing more emphasis on corruption prevention measures and building of integrity systems, high profile corruption cases are currently under investigation and prosecution.”

The world over, governments intending to be taken seriously refrain from taking criticism, however severe, as mere mischief. They make efforts, backed by proven results, to change the status quo. But judging by the Buhari administration’s typical all-is-well attitude, it is no surprise that it comes up short, often criminally so, on all the relevant indices for measuring a serious administration. To be sure, Minister Mohammed’s response merely reinforces the platitudes offered by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami,  who had said at the release of the last index that the report did not corroborate “the facts on the ground”. The Buhari administration seems to inhabit an alternative universe where facts, statistics and, well, development, are as mouthed by government officials, not felt, lived or experienced by the people. This is why the Information Minister can say, for instance, that “even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of key transparency and accountability policies were developed and are currently being implemented”, without elaborating on those key policies.

Time and again, we have consistently raised concern about the worsening level of corruption in the country.  In particular, we have deplored the seemingly ceaseless cases of disdain for due process in recruitments and appointments into federal agencies such as the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Nigeria Police and even the Department of State Services (DSS). If anything, the official disregard for public outcry over the shady actions of top government functionaries involved in the so-called conditional cash transfer programme of the administration, running into billions of naira, strengthens the view that for all its anti-graft rhetoric, the Buhari administration is no different from, or in fact may be actually worse than, its often panned predecessors. The administration routinely turns deaf ears to outcry by credible non-governmental organisations over the impunity of its officials. Whatever it has been doing is apparently pro-corruption.

 

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