Show Greater Commitment to Implement Anti-Corruption Laws, TI Urges Nigeria

  • Support us in fighting corruption, FG implores agency

Abimbola Akosile in Lagos and Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The Federal Government has been urged to show greater commitment to the implementation of the laws passed to boost the country’s fight against corruption.

This, according to Transparency International, a global anti-corruption watchdog, would enable the country regain her trust, confidence and reputation in the avowed fight against corruption, which is one of the priorities of the current administration.

The advice was given by the Chair of Transparency International, Ms. Delia Rubio, in an exclusive interview with THISDAY on the sidelines of a high-level workshop to ‘share international anti-corruption best practices to address emerging issues’.

Rubio also appealed to government ensure more transparency and efficiency in service delivery while doing a lot to fight corruption.

The workshop, held at the Transcorp Hilton hotel in Abuja recently, was organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (focal point and head of the local TI chapter in Nigeria), headed by Auwal Musa Ibrahim aka Rafsanjani, with support from the Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation.

In the Corruption Perception Index 2017, which was published by TI, Nigeria scored 27 marks out of a possible 100 and was ranked 148 out of the 180 countries surveyed by the global organisation. The country slid down 12 places from the 2016 CPI where it was ranked 136 out of the countries surveyed and scored 28 marks out of 100; where 100 marks portray a highly transparent country and zero mark showcases a highly-corrupt country.

The Federal Government had protested at the latest CPI ranking, with the Presidency asserting that the outcome does not showcase the current administration’s efforts to curb official corruption; a fight which has been identified as one of government’s main priorities to deliver good governance to the nation’s 180 million citizens.

Reacting to this reporter’s question on her take on Nigeria’s latest ranking of 148th position on the 2017 CPI, Rubio said, “My personal opinion is that you have to look at the relation of the scores that the country has been getting through the years because that depends on the country’s activities. The ranking may be influenced by the position of the performance of other countries in the neighbourhood of the ranking. So you can go up or down depending on the quantity of countries in each of the CPI each year or the relative performance of that country. But in order to assess how a country is doing, now we can compare the scores one year after one year.

“And many people have told me, okay, we have passed the laws, we have created the agencies, in fact we have lots of agencies here in Nigeria and it has not been reflected in the Index. Number one, the index has not an immediate reflection of this kind of things because it is a perception index. So in order to regain trust and regain confidence and reputation, you have to have the rules passed and the agencies approved or created but you have to have the time to show the world that they are implemented, that they are effective and that they have made a difference from before. So probably it takes more than just one year or more in order to have the change in the score of the country.

“But nevertheless it is not enough to create rules or pass laws or to create agencies, or to appoint persons in certain responsibilities. What is important is ‘what is the impact of that in the corruption situation in the country?”.

In her response on whether Nigeria’s protest against the latest TI Index results was justified, the lawyer from Argentina said, “It is the protest that I receive in many countries; where they think they are doing the right thing and they are not being reflected so strongly in the Index. It’s the same protest that my President in Argentina formulated to me regarding the CPI. We have done a lot of things and instead of the 36 we got last year, this year we had 39. In Argentina, to pass one grade in the school, you have to get four, so we are not passing grade; that is my metaphor. But the government has done many things, they have passed the Access to Information law and created some open contracting systems in order to make procurement transparent in the country and it is probably the same situation here. But that’s not enough in order to change the perception that the world has in relation to that.”

According to her, “Nigeria’s reaction is not peculiar. No, not at all. It is common. For instance, new president that was elected asked me, ‘Delia, I want to better the position of my country in the CPI, what can I do? And I say, ‘Don’t talk to me, do your work and they will be seen that you are doing it. I cannot change anything.”

Meanwhile, the federal government has urged TI to empathise and join forces with it in the administration’s fight against corruption.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made these pleas when he received a TI delegation, led by Rubio, in Abuja weekend.

In a statement he issued yesterday, Mohammed urged the anti-corruption body to back government in the area of advocacy and capacity building, rather than condemn the Buhari administration’s fight against corruption.

“Nigeria has never had a more transparent, more accountable government than the Buhari administration,” the minister said.

Mohammed emphasised that as a policy the administration is the most committed to fighting corruption. He lamented that TI and the civil society organisations affiliated to it have not offered any support to the administration, as they are always influenced by the “actions of an aberrant few to condemn the government.”

The minister said when government published the list of looters and said that just 55 people stole N1.34 trillion between 2006 and 2013, a section of the civil society rubbished the allegations as one-sided.

He berated the civil society for acting apparently in response to a challenge from the opposition, instead of seeing reason with government.

Mohammed urged TI and its affiliates to grapple with the sociological complexities of fighting corruption in Nigeria, where the central government exercises no control over the actions of the federating states under a federal system of government.

He said the Buhari administration was not just fighting corruption with laws and prosecution, but also with education and inclusiveness in government, citing the government’s ‘Change Begins With Me’ programme as an example of efforts made to achieve attitudinal change among the citizenry.

The minister said the fight against corruption was bearing fruit as it was being led by a President whose integrity is beyond reproach and widely acclaimed by his worst critics.

He accused corrupt persons of using looted funds to mount a virulent campaign against the administration in the social media, out of fear that Buhari’s re-election would spell doom for them.

Rubio insisted that TI was not an opposition but an NGO present in over 100 countries of the world, adding: “We are not enemies. We are here to help.” She said the visit was her maiden trip to Africa, adding Nigeria can set the tone for the continent in the fight against corruption.

She said TI has the mandate to offer support through civil society organisations and the private sector to foster the fight against corruption.