NIGERIANS BACK TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL, SAY CORRUPTION WORSE

Almost 80 per cent of Nigerians have said that corruption has worsened in the country in the last year.

This is according to an online poll conducted by PREMIUM TIMES with respect to Nigeria’s latest ranking on the corruption index by Transparency International – a global anti-corruption watchdog.

Transparency International placed Nigeria 146th on the ranking of its 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) – out of 180 countries that were surveyed worldwide.

This is despite the proclaimed war on corruption by the federal government as well as claims of winning the war on corruption.

A total of 4,922 voters participated in the poll which was conducted on the PREMIUM TIMES’ website and on its official Twitter account.

The poll lasted for about seven days and was conducted in a way that made it impossible for a respondent to vote more than once from the same computer or mobile device.

The participants were asked a single question: “Do you agree with Transparency International that corruption has worsened in Nigeria in the last year?” with options of “yes” and “no.”

A total of 3,760 respondents (76.4 per cent) aligned themselves with Transparency International’s ranking while 1,162 participants (23.6 per cent) disagreed with the report.

Over the years, Transparency International has used the CPI to rate the supposed corruption in different sectors of different countries.

Nigeria’s current position of 146 on the corruption perception index has moved the country two places down to rank the world’s 34th most corrupt nation compared to the 2018 results.

According to the report, Nigeria scored 26 out of 100 points, falling by one point compared to 2018.

The ranking is done on a scale of zero to 100 – with zero ranked “highly corrupt” and 100 as “least corrupt” or “very clean.”

The Sub-Saharan Africa region was rated as the lowest-performing region while Western Europe was the highest-scoring region.

Of the 19 countries in the West African region, Nigeria was ranked the fourth most corrupt country.

Although the report 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, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), a branch of Transparency International, said.

It is, however, necessary to note that the report is solely based on how a country is perceived corrupt and not cases of corruption like fraud, bribery or other crimes reported by the police or other anti-graft agencies.

The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, had said the index is about the perception of Nigerians on the Immigration (Service), the Custom, the National Assembly, the judiciary, ease of doing business, getting employment, gaining admission.

It examined the lack of compliance for the rule of law, public procurement and disregard for extant law in the country, especially the FOI, he explained.

PREMIUM TIMES has reported the methodology used in the latest corruption index.

Furthermore, CISLAC has given reasons as to why Nigeria failed to improve on the CPI. Some of which are: selective rule of law, backlash against the media and civil society, corruption in key sectors, among others.

Although the Buhari-led administration has since 2015, promised war on corruption and even claimed to be winning the said war, the latest index says otherwise.

There have been some deliberate efforts by the federal government to tackle corruption, although it has, however, flopped in other important areas.

Going by the concerns raised by CISLAC for example, this government has a high record of attack on journalists and civic groups.

Since 2015 till date, journalists and human rights advocates have been harassed, arrested and insulted over posts, reports or protests.

One of the most popular was the arrest and illegal detention of journalist and advocate, Omoyele Sowore, over a planned protest to call for a revolution in August 2019.

Mr Sowore was detained for over 100 days despite a court order granting him bail.

Only recently, Nigerian soldiers arrested a Daily Trust reporter, Olatunji Omirin, in Maiduguri, Borno State, over a report about the Boko Haram war.

He was arrested because “the military was not happy with some of his reports”, and that the officer demanded to know his sources.

Not forgetting the recent arrest of campus journalist, Ayoola Babalola, “for publishing articles critical of President Muhammadu Buhari and some chieftains of the All Progressives Congress” and the detention of PREMIUM TIMES’ journalist, Alfred Olufemi, over a report that exposed an Islamic cleric who raped a 16-year-old girl in Osun State.

These are a few of the many cases of attacks against journalists.

There have also been reports of corruption in key sectors including the legislature which ranges from budget padding to siphoning funds from the Zonal Intervention Projects.

The federal government was very swift to react to the CPI, describing it as baseless and untenable.

The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), condemned the report, saying Transparency International ignored the “achievements” of the Buhari-administration in its resolve to tackle corruption, one of its three cardinal campaign promises.

Mr Malami said, “the facts on the ground do not correlate with the information dished out by the group”.

In terms of the fight against corruption, we have been doing more, we have done more, and we will continue to do more out of inherent conviction and desire on our part to fight against corruption devoid of any extraneous considerations relating to the rating by Transparency International,” he argued.

The EFCC described the report as baseless and appalling.

Another anti-graft agency, ICPC, also faulted the report while the Presidency said it was not based on “facts”, but on perception and hearsay.

Akinloye Oyeniyi, a director in the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC), said TI was only echoing the obvious.

He faulted the nation “whose federal Attorney General hired lawyers to sign papers on repatriation of Abacha loot and got paid in billions of naira.

“Look at the amount voted to be used in renovating the National Assembly, despite Nigerians uproar against the humongous N37 billion, the nation whose government Secretary once used hundreds of millions to cut grass in its war-ravaged North East, is yet going ahead to carry out the renovation for such a ridiculous amount.

“So, there is nothing ordinary in what the index said, it is simply indexing the reality on the ground in Nigeria under the current government that came to power with anti-corruption as (its) campaign policy.”

Mr Oyeniyi believes the problem started when the body language of the current government against corruption became all about the opposition or Nigerians not in the government or the ruling party.

“A government that came to power with so much noise about anti-corruption but ended up covering up its own officials who are neck-deep in corruption scandals like never before. A government in whose presidential campaign, the national chairman of the ruling party openly announced that all sins, including ongoing corruption cases of defectors from any other parties, are forgiven once they join the ruling party,” he said.

“For years, Nigerians have been crying about federal appointments made by the president being nepotistic and unconstitutionally favourable to a section of the country, yet new key appointments are going to the same section; that too is an empirical sample of corruption.

“There is nobody else to be blamed for what has happened except Mr President, President Muhammadu Buhari, because the bulk stops in his desk and he should do something about it.”

When asked what should be done to improve Nigeria’s position on the ranking, he said nothing extraordinary other than giving reality to the fight against corruption, one of the two campaign areas which the government came to power in 2015.

People inside and outside Nigeria are seeing what has happened to corruption cases of the likes of Danjuma Gojes, Timi Silvas, Babachir Lawals, Hope Uzodinmas, Godswill Akpabios and many others who are key members of this government; and those and many more are data that will eventually decide our position on the table, he said.

He urged the president to “take his anti-corruption fight serious and reign in on his government’s handlers to always see data like this as an opportunity to adjust and do well rather than seeing them as attacks thereby making them to always defend the obvious.”

 

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