THE anti-corruption efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration may not have recorded much success, as Nigeria slumped to 149 (out of 180) on Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), scoring 25 points out of 100.
The ranking places Nigeria as West Africa’s most corrupt country after Guinea-Bissau. These numbers are big blows on Buhari who became Nigeria’s president in 2015 mainly on corruption mantra.
In 2019, Nigeria was ranked 146th, with a total score of 26 (out of 100). In 2018 and 2017, the country maintained a CPI score of 27, ranking 144 and 148 respectively.
Nigeria ranked 136 out of 176 with a score of 27 in 2014, one year before Buhari was elected.
The 180-member nations are usually ranked from 0 to 100. While zero indicates the participating country is ‘highly corrupt,’ 100 signifies the highest level of transparency – ‘very clean.’
According to the report, the collected data showed that despite some recorded progress, most countries still failed to tackle corruption effectively.
It stated that, “this year’s CPI shows corruption is more pervasive in countries least equipped to handle the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic and other global crises.”
The report, released by the TI on Thursday, further highlighted the impact of the COVID-19, especially on public procurement and oversight functions.
“Many governments have drastically relaxed procurement processes. These rushed and opaque procedures provide ample opportunity for corruption and the diversion of public resources,” it stated, while calling for more openness in contracting processes and fair pricing.
Flawed procurements during COVID-19
In Nigeria, for instance, the Federal Government, through the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), introduced an emergency procurement method for public spending during the COVID-19 outbreak. But the measure resulted in crooked procurements by officials of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
In similar situations, some selected agencies of government also inflated contract prices, among other atrocities, breaching the procurement law.
In her remarks, Delia Ferreira Rubio, chairperson, Transparency International, acknowledged the vulnerability of the procurement process during the pandemic.
The required laws, she said, could be difficult to enforce, especially once procurements were of urgency.
“Corruption undermines an equitable response to COVID-19 and other crises, highlighting the importance of transparency and anti-corruption measures in emergency situations,” Rubio further said.
To reduce corruption rate, the report advised member countries to strengthen oversight institutions, ensure open and transparent contracting as well as defend the nations’ democracy.
The report emphasised the importance of publishing relevant data on public spending and distribution of resources for public consumption.
Though the Nigerian government has embraced the open governance portal, there are still several reported cases of corruption.
The ICIR, in a recent report, showed showed how the president was yet to fulfill his campaign promise on corruption, five years after assuming office.
Nigeria should have topped the TI list – Prof. Akinterinwa
Akinterinwa, in his opinion, said Nigeria should have topped the TI ranking due to high dishonesty and indiscipline in all ramifications across the country.
The Law teacher cited high corruption level in the transportation sector where traffic wardens received bribes after effecting arrests of those who flouted the traffic law. He also identified corruption at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and one-sided fight against corruption by the president.
“Corruption is not simply about embezzlement of public funds, but an expression of indiscipline. If it is not because of indiscipline, why will people steal public money?” he queried. “If you want to find out, for instance, reason for ranking the country high, you realise they see Nigeria as a nation that disrespect the rule of law.”
“You see people commit an offence against the traffic, instead of an arrest, they settle the officials, and you are cleared to go. Those are the things they (TI) look at.”
Akinterinwa, a former director-general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs and also the Lagos State coordinator for Volunteer Anti-corruption Corp, simply tagged corrupt practices in the country as dishonesty.
Speaking on Buhari’s efforts, the lawyer said, “the truth is, Buhari is fighting corruption at the top, but allowing it to grow from below.”
“So, how do you cut off a tree from the top when the root is still being wet with water. I have not read the report itself. I only heard it over the radio but the report cannot but be right because we see it on a daily basis. Why will the NIMC be demanding for N5000 to register people? They request for money openly and the TI are there, so these are the reasons. No big deal, in fact, if TI has done its work very well, there is no reason why we should not be the 180th country.”
However, he advised that corruption should be tackled from the lowest ebb to make genuine difference.
Silence in presidency
In 2020 when the country ranked 146th, both anti-graft agencies in the nation – the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) reacted to the TI rating.
The ICPC labelled the TI ranking as unfair and untenable.
The EFCC, particularly, described the ranking as illogical and baseless, while it restated its commitment to the anti-corruption fight.
“The claim and inference by TI that Nigeria ranks the fourth most corrupt country in West Africa is totally unacceptable, as it is evidently not supported by any empirical data, especially when placed side-by-side with the remarkable achievements of the Commission in the past years,” EFCC stated last year.
However, Wilson Uwujaren, the EFCC spokesperson, while reacting to the new ranking, told The ICIR that the new ranking was Nigeria’s rating and not the EFCC. He disclosed this when asked for comments and referred the reporter to the ‘government.’ Still, The ICIR called Uwujaren’s attention to recommendations of the global report which emphasised strengthening anti-graft bodies playing oversight functions.
“It is Nigeria that is rated, not EFCC. So government should respond to that,” he replied.
The reporter reached out to Mallam Garba Shehu, spokesperson for the president, but he did not respond to a text sent to his phone as of the time of publishing this story.
Aruba Nwunye Ogugua, ICPC spokesperson, responding to a text message sent to seek the reaction of the Commission, promised to inform The ICIR once the ICPC disclosed its ‘official position.’