Last week, Nigeria again maintained its status as one of the most corrupt nations in the world according to the ranking done by Transparency International (TI), which ranked the country as the 35th most corrupt nation on the Corruption Perception Index. Omololu Ogunmade revisits past TI's reports as well as various corruption scandals the nation has witnessed
The much-talked about anti-graft war by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan got a damning report last Wednesday, when Transparency International (TI), reputed as a global corruption watchdog, named Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt country in the world.
According to TI 2012 report released last week, Nigeria scored 27 out of the available 100 marks to rank among nations that topped the list of countries where graft has become a way of national life. Nigeria occupied 139th position out of the 176 countries surveyed for the report.
Also, ranked alongside Nigeria were such countries as Azerbaijan, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan. Nevertheless, despite her woeful showing on the survey, Nigeria recorded a slight improvement when compared to the 2011 survey by TI which placed it on the 37th position. According to the 2011 survey, Nigeria took 143rd position out of the 182 countries surveyed.
On the contrary, the trio of Denmark, Finland and New Zealand tied at 90 per cent to clinch the first position in this year’s index while Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia remain the worst countries, having been said to have lacked accountable leadership and effective public institutions to drive the fight against graft.
In the same vein, the Eurozone countries that are mainly affected by economic meltdown were poorly rated as TI has advised the zone to strengthen its efforts to promote corruption-proof public institutions.
Last year, according to the TI report, Nigeria’s counterparts in the most corrupt list were Azerbaijan, Belarus, Comoros, Mauritania, Niger, Russia, Timor-Leste, Togo and Uganda, Togo, Mali and Benin Republic. To the shock of many, Togo, Mali and Niger outperformed Nigeria in this year’s report as the smaller African countries were said to have improved in their fight against corruption.
The Corruption Perceptions Index is the leading indicator of public sector corruption, which offers a yearly picture of the relative degree of corruption problem by ranking countries across the globe.
TI, while appealing to governments across the world to prioritise the fight against corruption, remarked: “Looking at the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012, it's clear that corruption is a major threat facing humanity. Corruption destroys lives and communities, and undermines countries and institutions. It generates popular anger that threatens to further destabilise societies and exacerbate violent conflicts.
“The Corruption Perceptions Index scores countries on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). While no country has a perfect score, two-thirds of countries score below 50, indicating a serious corruption problem.
“Corruption translates into human suffering, with poor families being extorted for bribes to see doctors or to get access to clean drinking water. It leads to failure in the delivery of basic services like education or healthcare. It derails the building of essential infrastructure, as corrupt leaders skim funds.
“Corruption amounts to a dirty tax, and the poor and most vulnerable are its primary victims. So, how do we counter the effects of public sector corruption?
“Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all aspects of decision-making. They must prioritise better rules on lobbying and political financing, make public spending and contracting more transparent, and make public bodies more accountable.
“After a year with a global focus on corruption, we expected more governments to take a tougher stance against the abuse of power. The Corruption Perceptions Index results demonstrate that there are still many societies and governments that need to give a much higher priority to this issue,” the report stated.
Managing Director of TI, Cobus de Swardt, however urged the world’s leading economies to lead by example and ensure “that their institutions are fully transparent and their leaders are held accountable. This is crucial since their institutions play a significant role in preventing corruption from flourishing globally.”
But the Federal Government, which immediately reacted to the latest TI's ranking, said it showed that the present administration was addressing the menace of corruption head-on. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said: “When compared to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index of 2011, it shows clearly that Nigeria is gradually but steadily coming out of the cycle of most corrupt countries.
“In 2011, the Transparency International Report rated Nigeria 143 and in 2012, the same report said that Nigeria had moved down the leader to 139.
That means that something is happening. Though the rating is not good enough, it is an indication that something tangible is taking place,” the president’s aide said.
“When a student is rated 143 in 2011 and in 2012, the student improves from 143 to 139, it means that the student is gradually improving in his or her academic performance, but still needs to do some serious academic work to catch up with those that top the class.
“Even at that, the report of the Transparency International perception index on corruption is only a perception; it does not reflect the realities on ground. As much as one is not querying the report, the rating of Nigeria in 2012 is definitely different from the rating in 2011 and it shows that Nigeria has gained four points.”
“This simply shows that things are moving and improving for the better. The implication is that President Goodluck Jonathan is indeed fighting corruption and with time, there would be a tremendous improvement. However, it is a perception not reflecting the realities on ground. What happens with perception is that it takes time to change it to reality.
“So, the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government should be commended for what it has achieved within the period of between 18 to 20 months; that the country has gained four points in the fight against corruption,” Okupe said.
Also, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr. Labaran Maku, appealed to the media and Nigerians to help government presents a better image of the nation to the world.
According to Maku, both the TI report and a recent Gallup Poll that also showed that Nigeria was among corrupt nations globally were products of interactions with Nigerians and synopsis of negative media reports. He said all these are perceptions of both the people and media practitioners, which fail to appreciate that the incumbent administration is taking steps to deal with corruption by employing systematic and institutional approaches that are gradual in yielding results.
Maku gave the example of the efforts the government was making in prosecuting fraudsters implicated in the fuel subsidy scam, investigation into the pension fund scandal, the geometric audit of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), and curbing of graft in the supply of fertiliser and seedlings to farmers.
“Government has continued to take decisive measures against defaulters in the fuel subsidy scam. There are so many issues involved in dealing with corruption. When you are systematic, deliberate reform goes deeper,” Maku said.
Resident consultant, media and publicity of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Mr. Folu Olamiti, said the anti-corruption war was a work-in-progress.
“We have not studied the report, but we hope that the next ranking will be better. ICPC is under a new leadership with a different approach to tackling corruption; we should not be vilifying our country, Nigerians should hope for the better," Olamiti said.
On his part, the spokesman of EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, told THISDAY that the commission did not want to be distracted from the challenge of tackling corruption and economic crimes in the country.
But Chairman, House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Hon. Adams Jagaba described yesterday's ranking of Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt country in the world as disastrous but doubtful.
“I have not read the report but I am surprised because I thought our situation was worse. In my personal opinion, if they rated us as the 35th most corrupt nation, then they did not even do their job well. If they did their job well, we cannot go beyond the first five countries on the list of corrupt countries.
“There are some indices they should have considered. One of them is the political will of the government to fight corruption. If the political will is not there, then there is no way we cannot remain one of the worst countries in terms of corruption.
“As far as I am concerned, there is even some politics being played in this report because corruption has reached a climax in Nigeria. If you go by our ranking last year, Nigeria is actually getting worse not better. This is a wake-up call for the government and the various anti-corruption agencies to sit up in the fight against corruption. But like I always say, you cannot fight corruption successfully without exemplary leadership. If you have leaders that refuse to declare their assets and if you have leaders that protect corruption, definitely corruption cannot go away.
“In every administration, people read the body language of their leaders and take a cue from there. The day the war against corruption will start is the day our leaders will change their body language. We have a long way to go,” Jagaba said.
Analysing Nigeria’s woeful performance in this year’s survey, an online medium, premiumtimesng.com, said the ranking accorded Nigeria did not take anyone aback because “since assuming office in 2010, the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has not shown as much vigour in the fight against corruption– including corruption involving past and current actors in his administration.”
It added: “The tipping point in the president’s profile, regarding reluctance in promoting transparency, came when in a televised media chat in June, he scoffed at a question on why he had not publicly declared his asset. On live television, the president snapped: ‘I don’t give a damn!’”
The report also said: “In August 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan secretly ordered the payment of $155 million to Malabu oil, a firm owned by an ex-convict and former petroleum minister, Dan Etete. Not only was the payment done without the knowledge of the Finance Minister, as revealed by PREMIUM TIMES, Malabu transferred the money into dubious accounts including that owned by a man with links to Mr. Jonathan. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed to investigate the Malabu scandal.”
In recent times, there has be growing criticism of Jonathan’s perceived unpreparedness to fight the anti-corruption war. This is especially so following a recent report in a national daily which alleged that in less than two years of his administration, not less than N5 trillion has been stolen, with over N2 trillion of the sum as subsidy scam.
The sleaze recently uncovered by the Presidential Task Force led by former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, in the oil sector which indicted some top plyers in the oil and gas sector is viewed as another incontrovertible evidence that this government is indifferent to fighting corruption despite claims that it is up to the task.
In the past one year, there has been a perceived lull in anti-corruption battle with major cases of financial crimes involving high profile personalities seemingly forgotten in court while the culprits do not only walk freely on the streets but are still playing active roles in the political and economic arena.
On its part, EFCC has attributed its complacency on the anti-corruption battle to insufficient funds to prosecute anti-corruption cases- another development that many said showed the level of commitment of this government to the fight against corruption.
Opposition parties have also exploited the recent report which harped on Jonathan administration’s move to build a N2.2 billion royal banquet hall in the presidential villa in the face of pervading poverty in the land to dismiss the much touted anti-graft battle.
First to openly attack Jonathan on his perceived lacklustre performance in anti-graft campaign was former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who in far away Switzerland in 2010, told a world gathering that Jonathan lacked the will to combat the menace of corruption.
The former president who was addressing what was described as a high-level panel meeting on the platform of the Club de Madrid at the 100th International Labour Conference which held in Geneva, did not mince words to say that the claim of any fight against corruption in Nigeria should not be taken seriously.
He traced the origin of corruption in Nigeria to the discovery of oil in Oloibiri, Port Harcourt, in 1958, which according to him brought doom into the country instead of boom. Obasanjo said politicians had exploited the advent of oil boom to drain the nation's resources through mindless award of contracts to themselves.
“You are absolutely right about corruption as the cankerworm that has militated against our development and does not allow us to develop as fast as we ought to be. When we came out of the civil war, oil was discovered but the oil became a doom rather than a boom for us because nobody wanted to do anything as we were torn between agriculture, industry and oil. Nobody wanted to do anything because we were thinking oil, sleeping oil and were almost drinking oil. It was that bad.
"More importantly, corruption came in initially with politics at independence when our politicians were awarding contracts at 10 per cent; they saw it as a way to make money for their party. Ten per cent of that contract is used to develop the party. Then it went beyond 10 per cent to 20 per cent and sometimes 25 per cent and at a time it grew so large that when you are given a job, you don't just care to do it but share the money or whatever they call it. That was very bad."
Obasanjo who had constituted both the EFCC and the ICPC during his tenure as a civilian leader, praised his government, saying his administration which ran between 1999 and 2007, recorded tremendous breakthrough in the fight against corruption. He explained that government had no regard for either the lowly or the mighty, claiming that it did not hesitate to bring high ranking public officers down from their lofty heights once caught in the wheel of corruption.
“When I became president of Nigeria, the first thing I did after my election was to establish two independent bodies to fight corruption. Those bodies were so effective that ministers of government, the head of the police, head of parastatals were put to jail. But if you are going to fight corruption, it is not a one day or one night job.
“You have to be consistent and persistent with it. I have not seen that will of persistence and consistency in Nigeria because the people that are involved in corruption in Nigeria are strongly entrenched and unless you are ready to confront them at the point of even giving your life for it, then, you will give in and when you give in, that is the end of it," Obasanjo stated.
Also speaking on the lack of surefooted approach by the Jonathan administration to fight graft, a human rights crusader, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, argued that corruption has remained on the rise in Nigeria because to government officials are backward and lazy people who do not believe in developing the society but rather in amassing the nation’s wealth in pursuit of their selfish interests. He also described them as wasteful and unproductive persons whose pre-occupation is to make easy money.
“I think we have not had enough of those scandals. And those scandals are nothing but a tip of the iceberg because our ruling class is a terribly backward and corrupt class. It is backward because it is a class that does not believe in developing the society. It does not believe in creating infrastructural basis for development.
“Because it is also backward, it plays a very peripheral role in international capitalist system. So, what it means is that because it is not a productive class, it is a class that believes in speculation, a class that believes in idling away, a class that believes in making easy money.
“When you have such a class, you then have this tendency. That tendency is that the class will then begin to engage in what you call primitive accumulation. The only way it can begin to enjoy a semblance of what its counterparts in Europe and advanced societies enjoy is to steal money. That is what I call primitive accumulation. And that is why I said our ruling class is a very backward class.
“It is a lazy class and it is a class of looters…It is a very lazy and backward class. They don't produce anything. That is why all our production companies have almost collapsed. Many of them are operating at less than 30 per cent capacity. Yet, you see them buying new cars, buying flashy cars, building new houses, buying new houses worth N100 million.
“These are people who have no means of livelihood. So, that is the kind of class that you are dealing with. That is why many of them cannot but become politicians. Politics for them is another profession because they go to the place, steal money and they will collect estacode. They will collect allowances. They will live the life of opulence that has no bearing with their contributions to our society,” he said.
Aturu made references to a number of corruption scandals that successive governments have glossed over, describing them as the prevalent sleaze among Nigerian leaders. “So, the Wilbross scandal, the Siemens, Etete scandals are parts of the same sleaze that you find among our leaders.
He criticised attempts by Obasanjo to exonerate himself and his administration from prevalent corruption in the land as nothing but vain glory, insisting that the fact that a number of scandals broke out during his administration showed that no war was fought at all during the period.
“And the fact that these things happened during the regime that claimed that it was fighting corruption, is quite revealing. That tells you that no corruption was fought by Obasanjo.
Aturu also highlighted the reason anti-corruption war has not thrived in Nigeria, lamenting that although there is anti-corruption war, there is another war, which he described as war against anti-corruption war.
“The war against corruption is a very serious war. And I think nobody should be under the illusion that it would be an easy war or that those people who are corrupt will not fight back one way or the other. And they will fight back in many ways. They will fight back in different perspectives, using different methods.
“Now, which one will be victorious at the end of the day will depend not on just the Attorney General or the EFCC alone, but on what the people of Nigeria themselves want; what the civil societies want and that is what the press wants.
“I think this is the kind of thing that we want. We must make Nigeria ungovernable for those who want to steal. We must make Nigeria a hot place for those who stole and are trying to defend the basis of their crimes. Until this is done, I tell you, the war cannot be won,” Aturu said.
However, many generally see the latest TI ranking as another dent on Nigeria’s poor image in the international community. Nigeria’s image has consistently received a bashing in the comity of nations as in the past one decade, the nation has never passed a survey test while it has continued to be caught in the web of series of scandals which critics say make it a laughing stock in the international circle. For example, in a 2009 survey, Nigeria was ranked as the 15th most failed nation in the world.
Nigeria came about that ill-fated ranking when the United States think-tank and an independent research organisation tagged: The Fund for Peace, released the 2009 Failed State Index. Nigeria was ranked 15th out of the total of 177 countries that were surveyed. By that ranking, Nigeria moved three steps backward from its 18th and 17th positions in 2008 and 2007 respectively, which implied that Nigeria’s status was deteriorating.
The description of Nigeria as a failed state, in the eyes of pundits, is hinged on the decay and prevalent corruption in the system.
Whereas Somalia, another African nation, retained its earlier position as the most failed state, Norway was voted as the best and most sustainable state that year. The ranking was reportedly predicated on 12 indicators of state vulnerability, out of which four were social, two economic and six political. The indicators were meant to measure a state's vulnerability to collapse or conflict.
Of the 15 most failed nations surveyed, 10 of them were from Africa, suggesting that Africa has continued to take the back seat among other continents of the world. The failed African countries so named and their ranks were Somalia (1st), Zimbabwe (2nd), Sudan (3rd), Chad (4th), Democratic Republic of Congo (5th), Central African Republic (8th), Guinea (9th), Ivory Coast (11th), Kenya (14th) and Nigeria (15th).
It is worthy of note that in the survey, the profile of Ghana, a neighbouring African country, rose in the comity of nations as it was ranked as the best state in Africa. Specifically, Ghana was ranked 124 of the 177 states, having been described as a moderate state. Also ranked among the overall best five states were Norway (177), Finland (176), Sweden (175), Switzerland (174), and Ireland (173), while USA and United Kingdom were ranked as 159 and 161 respectively.
Organisers of the survey remarked that a state would be said to have failed when it could no longer perform its basic functions of providing security for its people and their property as well as engendering national development as it has seemingly been the case with Nigeria. They also stated that such a state would be noted to have lost control of its territory.
However, the rank accorded Nigeria at the time the Federal Government led by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, was brandishing a rebranding campaign was described as a justification for the criticism of the agenda.
At the launch of the rebranding campaign few months to the release of the index report, critics of the exercise argued that spearheading a rebranding exercise when Nigeria was witnessing a rising spate of corruption, insecurity and infrastructural decay in nearly every sphere, amounted to putting the cart before the horse.
Despite renewed calls for the probe of culprits of Halliburton scandal, the path to justice on this international scandal is strewn with many hurdles. More than three months after the intervention of the National Assembly as well as countless petitions to the EFCC over this scam, the way forward in the perception of many, is still confusing, fuelling fears of an abortive investigation in the end.
Successive administrations have allegedly paid lips’ service to a number of international scandals despite the gravity of such scams. Culprits of the scams are highly placed persons in the society and in spite of public outcry against the scams, they appear to have now been rested.
The Halliburton scandal involved the exchange of $180 million bribe between officials of a United States firm, Halliburton and top Nigerian officials. The $180 million bribe was allegedly paid to Nigerian officials by Kellog Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, to facilitate four Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) contracts worth $6 billion at Bonny Island between 1994 and 2004 in violation of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Consequently, the US government had arraigned Americans involved in the case, while Halliburton had equally agreed to pay $559 million as a fine for the sin of bribe perpetrated by its officials in Nigeria. Against this background, Jeffrey Tesler was sentenced to 21 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for delivering $132 million bribes for KBR and its partners. He also forfeited $149 million as part of his plea bargain deal.
In the same vein, Jack Stanley, an American executive, who allegedly masterminded KBR Nigeria’s delivery scheme, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years’ probation following his release. He had earlier been granted bail in the sum of $100,000.
The Halliburton scandal which ran for a period of 10 years, beginning from 1994, when the late dictator, General Sani Abacha, was head of state, to 2004, when the scandal broke out during the second term of former President Olusegun Obsanjo, became a fresh international scandal, in London on March 19, 2009, when Obasanjo appeared on a BBC programme, “Hardtalk.”
The BBC interview with Obasanjo hit hard on the situation and thus prompting the Senate within 24 hours of the interview to urge the US to name Nigerians involved in the scandal. The Senate motion, moved by Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw, called for investigation into the scandal by the Senate with a view to unravelling the identity of Nigerian officials who took bribe from Kellog Brown.
Henshaw who described the bribe allegation as one of the worst and embarrassing cases of corruption involving Nigerians, said the only honourable path to toe by the government of President Umaru Yar’Adua, which daily sang rule of law as a regular refrain, was to emulate the United States, by accordingly punishing Nigerians involved in this act of corruption.
The story is not different in Siemens scandal where some former ministers of communications were alleged to have taken bribes amounting to 10 million Euros from the German telecoms firm, Siemens, to enable it to secure juicy contracts. Former ministers who allegedly took part in this scandal were Dr. Bello Mohammed Haliru, immediate past Minister of Defence, the late Haruna Elewi and General Tajudeen Olanrewaju.
Although, Haliru and Olanrewaju had denied taking bribe from Siemens, moves by the ICPC to unravel the mystery behind the scandal have failed while culprits of the scandal do not only walk free on the streets of Nigeria today, they also occupy important positions.
At the height of uproar which accompanied the scandal, Yar'Adua threatened that "in this Siemens scandal, as in all cases that border on good governance and transparency, there will neither be sacred cows nor a cover-up for anybody found culpable of breaching the law."
But till date, that declaration by Yar’Adua has amounted to empty threat, whereas beyond the shores of Nigeria, the company's chairman and chief executive had both quit their offices over the scandal while at least two other employees were suspended for bribery and breach of trust. Consequently, Siemens accepted the Munich court judgment to pay 179million euros to the tax authorities.
Corruption in Power Sector
Another failed probe was the investigation into alleged squandering of $16 billion in the power sector during the administration of Obasanjo. The power probe committee set up by the House of Representatives to look into the allegation with a view to bringing culprits to book eventually ran into a stalemate following the alleged involvement of the committee chairman, Ndudi Elumelu, in bribery allegation during the probe.
Since then, hopes of Nigerians for prosecution of persons involved in this heinous crime have been dashed.
One of the most recent dumbfounding corruptions cases was found in pension department. A probe was conducted by the Senate into the mismanagement of pension funds and revelations from the pension probe portrayed the pension scam as one of the most scandalous crimes against humanity in Nigeria.
It involved the theft of N156 billion by pension management staff. While one of the staff members was said to have opened 10 different accounts in one bank, N2 billion cash was found in the house of a permanent secretary in addition to billions of naira stashed in banks as well as assets worth several billions owned by the member of staff.
There was also brazen falsification of documents to withdraw pension funds by the culprits in addition to officials of the Police Pension Board falsifying documents to withdraw N24 billion from the budget office for the payment of pension which required only N3.5 billion.
Similarly, Chairman of the Pension Review Task Force Team, Maina Abdulrasheed, told the Senate probe committee that the task force uncovered two major accounts in Lagos where pension funds for the police were lodged. The accounts contained N21 billion and N24 billion respectively. He also disclosed that on a daily basis, various sums of money ranging from between N200 million and N300 million were illegally withdrawn, among other shocking revelations that emerged during the probe. But as disheartening as this scandal is, memory of it is gradually fading away since no move has been made to bring culprits to justice.
However, as grievous as these corruption cases were, none of the culprits has been brought to justice, thus fuelling insinuations that Nigeria’s image in the international community may grow worse as the days go by since the country does not seem to be making any headway in the battle against corruption.
Defences from presidential aides who thought there have been slight improvements make no meaning to an average Nigeria who cannot relate their position with the realities on ground. Besides, that there is no palpable will power from the president is believed to believed to be responsible for why corruption has continued to thrive in virtually all sectors of the system.