NIGERIA’s ranking on the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has worsened with the country dropping two places on the 2019 report released on Wednesday and ranking among the 34th worst across the world.
According to the latest report, Nigeria is ranked 146 out of a total of 180 countries, compared to its 2018 ranking of 144. Within the one year period, its score has also reduced from 27 to 26 — its second-worst performance since 2012. This is both below the global average of 43 and the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 32.
Addressing journalists at a press briefing in Abuja, Chinedu Bassey, programme officer at the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), explained that the index aggregates data from various sources reflecting the views of the business community and country experts.
Nigeria’s sources include the World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey, Global Insight Country Risk Ratings, African Development Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment, and six multinational groups.
CISLAC is the national chapter of Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based international non-governmental organisation which releases the ranking every year.
Auwal Rafsanjani, CISLAC’s executive director urged the Nigerian government to address why the country appears not to be winning the war on corruption rather than brand critical citizens and advocates as unpatriotic.
He suggested reasons why, despite certain reforms, Nigeria is still infamous for a lack of transparency in public institutions.
“All useful reforms in Nigeria are limited to those who cannot afford to ignore them,” he noted.
“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.”
He said the series of backlash against media and civil society organisations and institutionalised extortion in different political parties are also damaging the country’s anti-corruption efforts.
“Despite legal and policy provisions for many aspects of anti-corruption, we still lack crucial laws and policies,” he added.
“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.”
Rafsanjani said corruption cases must not be cherry-picked and advised that the anti-corruption campaign covers critical revenue-making establishments and areas such as the Central Bank of Nigeria, extractive sectors, Customs, and Nigeria Ports Authority.
“Governments can achieve greater improvement in anti-corruption by forging stronger collaboration and coordination with non-state actors involved in anti-corruption. We can achieve more working together than what is possible working in silos,” he concluded.
Responding to a question from The ICIR about TI Nigeria’s recently launched project, CorruptionCases.ng, Bassey said the group hopes it will serve as a reflection of how easy or difficult it is to secure convictions in corruption-related cases.
“It is a new initiative to aggregate the level of cases that have been escalated in a particular country and what has happened to them,” he explained, considering especially that criminal cases in Nigeria often take time before they are concluded.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in February admitted “it has not been easy” for the administration to fight corruption. “But,” he said, he has “told the security agencies to keep a tab on those on our watch list and ensure that those who have cases to answer do not escape justice.”
US hits eight-year rock bottom
It is not only Nigeria that has been affected by diminishing trust in government agencies. In 2019, the United States, according to TI, received its lowest score in eight years, dropping from 71 to 69.
“Weaknesses in our laws are being exploited by a growing list of bad actors at home and abroad,” remarked Gary Kalman, Director of the new US office of Transparency International.
“From foreign despots to terror networks, drug cartels to human traffickers, some of the world’s most destructive forces are benefitting from gaps in US law. Multiple corruption scandals in the last year alone have shown that transnational corruption is often facilitated, enabled, or perpetuated by countries toward the top of the Index, including the United States.
“Fortunately, bipartisan legislation currently before Congress, the Illicit Cash Act and the Corporate Transparency Act, would go a long way toward stopping these interests from using the US as a laundromat for their dirty cash.”
The country whose score was the most upset was Barbados, which dropped six places to 62 within one year. It was followed by Liberia, Eswatini, and Canada, which all dropped four places.