The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, to see the Transparency Internationalâ€™s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), published last week, as a wake-up call to renew its oft-expressed commitment and raise its game to fight both grand and petty corruption, as well as end the legacy of impunity rather than simply dismissing the survey as â€˜fictionâ€™.
According to Transparency Internationalâ€™s report, the perception of corruption has worsened under President Buhari. The report showed that the perception of corruption in Nigeria worsened between 2016 and 2017. But the presidency has criticised the global watchdog, saying that TI was publishing fiction.
Reacting, SERAP in a statement yesterday by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, said: â€œWhile TIâ€™s index only measures perceptions of corruption, their findings correspond substantially with the reality of impunity of perpetrators, as demonstrated by the low conviction rate, the authoritiesâ€™ slowness to adopt and implement critical reforms, appearance of selectivity in the anti-corruption fight, apparent complicity of key officials and cover-up, as well as unaddressed alleged corruption against several state governors. The authorities should take the report seriously and use it as an opportunity to raise their game in their efforts to rid our country of corruption and underdevelopment.â€
The organisation said: â€œThe government should make no mistake about this: Nigerians know corruption when they see it. Rather than simply criticising TI as publishing fiction or going after its board members, the government should accept the fact that its oft-expressed commitment to fight corruption has not gone to plan.â€
The statement read in part: â€œThe CPI may not be perfect, and in fact no index is. The CPI may not show actual evidence of corruption in the country, but perceptions are commonly a good indicator of the real level of corruption. In any case, the devastating effects of corruption in virtually all sectors providing essential public services are too glaring for Nigerians to ignore.
â€œWhile the government may have blocked some leakages in the systems and reduced the level of impunity witnessed under the previous administrations, it has not done enough to address longstanding cases of corruption, and the appearance of selectivity in the prosecution of corruption allegations especially when such cases involve those close to the seat of power. Today, corruption still constitutes one of the greatest threats to the countryâ€™s sustainable and equitable development.
â€œAlmost three years after taking office, and promising to fight grand corruption, no â€˜big fishâ€™ suspected of corruption has yet been sent to jail. The situation has not significantly improved, and it seems unlikely that many of those facing grand corruption charges will be successfully prosecuted. Nigerians need to see real commitment and heavy investment in promoting a culture of clean government, and total obedience to the rule of law.
â€œPossessing the political will to fight corruption is not in itself enough if itâ€™s not sufficiently demonstrated. Buhari should take the CPI to heart and initiate and actively facilitate the passing of tough anti-corruption laws, strengthening the capacity and independence of anti-corruption agencies, substantially improving the criminal justice system, obeying decisions and judgments of our courts, and ensuring the passing of the Whistle-blower Bill.
â€œBuhari canâ€™t fight corruption successfully without significantly improving on the tools used by his predecessor former President Goodluck Jonathan. The government should as a matter of urgency implement governance reforms to advance effective functioning of government institutions, strengthen the quality of democratic institutions and rule of law, and reducing corruption, if Nigeria is ever going to improve on its global anti-corruption ranking.
â€œPublic officials still use political power to enrich themselves without considering the public good. Selective application of the law is a sign that the law is not being followed strictly enough, and that the fight against corruption is not maximally prosecuted.
â€œIn several states of the federation, and federal ministries, corruption is taking place every day and every hour, especially in the power sector, the education sector, the water sector, the health sector and other important public sectors. Corruption continues to directly affect the lives and well-being of millions of Nigerians across the country, and to erode public trust in public institutions and leaders, threatening the foundation of our democracy.
â€œThere is uneven implementation of the rule of law and democratic processes, limited citizen participation in policy processes, and deliberate disobedience of court orders and judgments, such as the judgment of Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court obtained by SERAP, which ordered the government to publish widely how recovered stolen funds since the return of democracy in 1999 have been spent.
â€œThe best measure of a countryâ€™s progress toward transparency and accountability is a total obedience to the rule of law. Â The law ought to command the highest levels of respect by for example, the government immediately obeying orders and judgments of competent courts. The fight against corruption wonâ€™t succeed if the government continues to selectively adhere to law or refuse to rectify any disobedience. No country in which official position and orders claim a place in peopleâ€™ s minds higher than the law can truly be said to fight corruption.
â€œDemocracy works only if the people have faith in those who govern, and that faith is bound to be shattered when high officials and their appointees engage in activities which arouse suspicions of malfeasance and corruption.â€
The CPI is one of the most respected international measurement of corruption trends. It was established in 1995 as a composite indicator used to measure perceptions of corruption in the public sector in different countries around the world. The CPI draws upon many available sources which capture perceptions of corruption.