TI Scores Buhari’s Anti-corruption War Low

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Muhammadu Buhari

Chineme Okafor, Kasim Sumaina and Udora Orizu in Abuja

Citing over-bloated contract costs, abuse of security votes, and the recalcitrance of the federal government to try certain persons found culpable in corruption-related charges, among other sundry pitfalls, the global anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), has declared that efforts by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to checkmate corruption in Nigeria have yielded no improvement so far.

Nigeria occupies the 144th position out of 180 countries polled in the latest (2018) global Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released yesterday.

In 2017, the world anti-corruption watchdog ranked Nigeria 148.

TI linked the country’s unenviable rating to over-bloated contract costs, abuse of security votes, and the recalcitrance of the government to try certain persons found culpable in corruption-related charges, among others.

The report noted that in spite of a number of positive steps by the administration in the past three years, including the establishment of a presidential advisory committee against corruption, improvement of the anti-corruption legal and policy framework in areas like public procurement and asset declaration, and the development of a national anti-corruption strategy, among others, these efforts have clearly not yet yielded the desired results.

TI’s CPI stated that although Buhari campaigned in 2015 to tackle corrupt practices in government’s businesses, and won the presidential election by defeating an incumbent president for the first time in Nigeria’s political history, his subsequent anti-corruption policies and strategies have clearly not yielded any results.

In the newly-released CPI published in Nigeria exclusively by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), TI revealed that Nigeria scored 27 out of 100 points in 2018, maintaining the same score as in 2017.

In the new report, TI said Nigeria was one of the five African countries under its close watch with regards to political developments in them.

Others on the watchlist are South Africa, Angola, Botswana and Kenya.

“With a score of 27, Nigeria remained unchanged on the CPI since 2017. Corruption was one of the biggest topics leading up to the 2015 election and it is expected to remain high on the agenda as the country prepares for this year’s presidential election taking place in February.

“Nigeria’s Buhari administration took a number of positive steps in the past three years, including the establishment of a presidential advisory committee against corruption, the improvement of the anti-corruption legal and policy framework in areas like public procurement and asset declaration, and the development of a national anti-corruption strategy, among others. However, these efforts have clearly not yielded the desired results. At least, not yet,” said the TI report.

It added: “Angola, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa and Kenya are all important countries to watch, given some promising political developments. The real test will be whether these new administrations will follow through on their anti-corruption commitments moving forward.”

Generally, TI, explained that the 2018 CPI presented a largely gloomy picture for Africa with only eight of 49 countries assessed, scoring more than 43 out of 100 on the index.

It noted that the poor result was despite commitments from African leaders in declaring 2018 as the African Year of Anti-Corruption. This, it explained, has yet to translate into concrete progress.

In specifics, Seychelles, it noted, scored 66 out of 100, to put it at the top of the region, followed by Botswana and Cape Verde, with scores of 61 and 57 respectively.

At the very bottom of the index for the seventh year in a row, it said Somalia scored 10 points, followed by South Sudan (13) to round out the lowest scores in the region.

“With an average score of just 32, sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest scoring region on the index, followed closely by Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with an average score of 35.

“Sub-Saharan Africa remains a region of stark political and socio-economic contrasts and many longstanding challenges. While a large number of countries have adopted democratic principles of governance, several are still governed by authoritarian and semi-authoritarian leaders.

“Autocratic regimes, civil strife, weak institutions and unresponsive political systems continue to undermine anti-corruption efforts,” the report noted.

Notwithstanding sub-Saharan Africa’s overall poor performance, the CPI said there were a few countries that pushed back against corruption, and recorded notable progress.

It said: “Two countries – Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal – are, for the second year in a row, among the significant improvers on the CPI. In the last six years, Côte d’Ivoire moved from 27 points in 2013 to 35 points in 2018, while Senegal moved from 36 points in 2012 to 45 points in 2018.

“These gains may be attributed to the positive consequences of legal, policy and institutional reforms undertaken in both countries as well as political will in the fight against corruption demonstrated by their respective leaders.”

According to it, in the last few years, several countries experienced sharp declines in their CPI scores, including Burundi, Congo, Mozambique, Liberia and Ghana.

“In the last seven years, Mozambique dropped 8 points, moving from 31 in 2012 to 23 in 2018. An increase in abductions and attacks on political analysts and investigative journalists creates a culture of fear, which is detrimental to fighting corruption.

“Home to one of Africa’s biggest corruption scandals, Mozambique recently faced indictments of several of its former government officials by US officials. Former finance minister and Credit Suisse banker, Manuel Chang, is charged with concealing more than US$2 billion dollars of hidden loans and bribes.

“Many low performing countries have several commonalities, including few political rights, limited press freedoms and a weak rule of law. In these countries, laws often go unenforced and institutions are poorly resourced with little ability to handle corruption complaints. In addition, internal conflict and unstable governance structures contribute to high rates of corruption,” the CPI report further stated.

The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, who presented the 2018 CPI in Abuja Tuesday, said: “The public image of the anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria is tarnished domestically and internationally with extremely slow progress to move on numerous anti-corruption commitments made by the government.

“With the inability of the present administration to stop political boycott of key appointments and pass the much needed legislation such as the proceeds of crime bill and to implement the recommendations given at thelaunch of the CPI 2017, it is not wonder that Nigeria’s score in 2018 is no different from 2017.

“Lack of progress in the fight against corruption as testified by this year’s edition of the CPI is a direct consequence of unaccounted funds siphoned under the guise of security votes by highly placed public officials, including lip service in initiating charges against those already implicated in corruption related offences,” he said.

He also faulted the Whistleblower policy of the federal government which does not guarantee immunity for persons with privileged information, in addition to failure to inaugurate the National Procurement Council (NPC) as provided in the Public Procurement Act.

He explained that further research analysis shows a disturbing link between corruption and the health of democracies.

“Government feigning ignorance to money-laundering crimes and tax evasion, most of which should have been stringently investigated and prosecuted by competent agencies in line with financial action task force standards”

“Despite some indisputable evidence, many corrupt politicians and businessmen and women seem to be above the law and out of reach of law enforcement. Recent corruption scandals, including the GandujeGate, ShemaGate, DasukiGate, IkoyiGate, among others, have not seen diligent investigations, prosecutions and convictions of these cases and other Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs). The authorities need to understand that these acts deepen a sense of hopelessness among well-meaning Nigerians,” Rafsanjani added

The group advised on the need to strengthen the institutions responsible for maintaining checks and balances over political power and ensuring their ability to operate without intimidation.

“Closing the implementation gap between anti-corruption legislation, practice and enforcement, supporting a free and independent media, ensuring safety of journalists and supporting civil society organizations which enhance political engagements will help stop corruption.” He noted that more was required in the fight against corruption in Nigeria, noting that although the ranking shows that Nigeria moved up four places, it only indicated that four other countries scored worse in 2018, while Nigeria stagnated.

According to him, Nigeria has neither improved nor progressed in the perception of corruption in public administration in 2018.