CISLAC, TI National Contact Frets over Nigeria’s Fight against Corruption

  • Urges govt to make 2017 anti-corruption strategy public

Abimbola Akosile

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the National Contact of Transparency International (TI) has expressed worry over the new, unfavourable trend in the fight against corruption in the country.

This stance was buttressed in the newly published Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2017 which shows that Nigeria is slipping further down in the international ranking on the fight against corruption, according to a release issued recently by the non-governmental organisation.

To repair the situation, the Federal Government was urged to make the 2017 anti-corruption strategy public, assign responsibilities for its implementation, and prepare a detailed action plan monitored by civil society organisations. Government was also enjoined to prioritise anti-corruption courts and nominate judges with proven record of high integrity and no controversies.

In the update of the CPI, Nigeria was ranked 148 out of 180 countries assessed in 2017 on the perception of the state of the corruption in the country. Out of 100 points signaling maximum transparency and no corruption, Nigeria scored 27 points. These results show a slight deterioration in the scoring of the perception about corruption in public administration compared to 2016.

In 2016, Nigeria scored 28 points and ranked 136th in the ranking of countries. Despite the one-point reduction in the score, Nigeria has slipped in the country-ranking by 12 points in 2017. This shows that, as the rest of the world has improved in the perception on corruption, Nigeria slips further down as the fight against corruption stagnates.

On the African continent, Nigeria ranks 32nd in Africa out of 52 assessed countries in 2017, and Botswana leads the continent with the record of competent and largely corruption-free public administration. In West Africa, Nigeria ranks 16th out of 17 countries, leaving only Guinea Bissau behind.

The CPI is one of the most respected international measurements 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.

It draws upon a number of available sources which capture perceptions of corruption. CPI is computed by the Transparency International Secretariat in Germany and is published in Nigeria exclusively by CISLAC, a Transparency International chapter in Nigeria, which is headed by Mr. Auwal Musa Ibrahim (Rafsanjani).

According to CISLAC “this fresh setback in the fight against corruption confirms that grand corruption, political corruption, nepotism, favouritism and bribery persist in Nigeria at all levels. It is CISLAC’s view that the negative perception is mainly a consequence of the inability to combat grand corruption and astronomical plundering of public coffers costing the Nigerian tax payers around 25 per cent of annual GDP.

“Since the current administration has come to power on the anti-corruption ticket, no significant politically exposed person has been duly sentenced on anti-corruption charges.

“CISLAC notes that anti-corruption agencies have accelerated the rate of convictions on anti-corruption charges. Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for example has in 2016/17 brought 286 cases to conviction. However, the majority are rather insufficient cases with little impact of returned assets into the state budget and no effect on unfavorable public opinion.

“There is a reason to suspect that judiciary is either not able or willing to prosecute the VIP cases of senior public servants and elected politicians who have either directly plundered lucrative Nigerian state resources or are at least responsible for the catastrophic lack of oversight over public funds as mandated by the Constitution.
“Promising steps such as the drafting of the first-ever National Anti-Corruption Strategy in 2017 have been undertaken. However, little or nothing has been done to put the strategy in motion. No effort has been made to expose the strategy to the public or let alone, make public participate in its implementation. Such half-way abandoned projects are unlikely to convince the Nigerian public and the international community about the seriousness to fight corruption.

“On a similar note, Nigeria has made numerous international commitments to tackle corruption and lack of transparency. 14 commitments were made as part of the Open Government Partnership effort. In some cases, modest progress has been made. The World Bank Doing Business Index has improved due to concerted effort of the government and the civil society”, the release stated.

According to CISLAC, “However, majority of the 14 commitments stay unfulfilled. Citizen participation in public budgeting is still weak. 20 commitments were also made by the Buhari administration in London 2016 during an anti-corruption conference. One and half years later, not a single commitment has been completed. 50 per cent of anti-corruption commitments are underway while 25 per cent are inactive.

“Public contracting is shredded in chaos and lack of transparency. Beneficial ownership register is nowhere near completion and crucial asset recovery legislation such as the Proceeds of Crime Bill has been hopelessly stalled in the uncooperative National Assembly.

“The pledge to work towards full implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard has not resulted in tangible actions and public procurement reform is stalled as key appointments for the National Procurement Council have not commenced.

“Furthermore, the National Assembly has delayed the confirmation of 60 nominees for leadership of various institutions, including agencies vital to fight corruption. The failure to screen and confirm nominees from the executive is undermining governance and complicating the ongoing fight against corruption in the country.

“These above-mentioned failures contribute to the deterioration of the public patience and perception about the ability to fight corruption in Nigeria. Unless the justice system expedites politically exposed cases and forfeits meaningful amounts of recovered assets, unless the National Assembly stops political boycott of key appointments and passes much needed legislation and unless there is a tangible strategy of the Government to damage-control plundering of public resources, public perception on anti-corruption is unlikely to improve”, the organisation added.

It recommended various steps to re-galvanise public engagement and secure cooperation of international community in the fight against corruption.

Government was urged to prioritise international cooperation and usage of international agreements to repatriate Nigerian assets abroad and use foreign jurisdictions’ legal instruments such as recently passed Unexplained Wealth Order in UK to expose Nigerian illicit financial flows; and to strengthen the functions of supreme audit institutions such as the Office of the Auditor General and hold National Assembly accountable for an oversight or a lack of it.

The federal government was also enjoined to “get rid of absurd privileges for elected public officials and senior civil servants, including insisting on the public submission of asset declarations of the executive, legislative and judiciary officials as stipulated by the law.”

It was also urged to carry out immediate appointment and prompt inauguration of the National Procurement Council as provided in the Public Procurement Act to curb continued systemic corruption in the nation’s procurement process and persons essential for smooth functioning of anti-corruption institutions.

According to CISLAC the National TI Contact, government should strengthen anti-corruption institutions, ensure adequate protection and encouragement for whistle-blowers, and intensify media and public consciousness in demanding transparency and accountability in governance.