Like Jonathan, Corruption Thrives under Buhari

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· Nigeria records 26.5 average points under Buhari
· Buhari’s anti-graft war has failed, say CSOs

Gboyega Akinsanmi

Corrupt practices flourish in Nigeria under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari just like it did under the government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Corruption Perception Indexes (CPIs) of Transparency International (TI) have revealed.

While Nigeria scored 25.5 out of 100 points on the average under Jonathan’s administration, the country only garnered 26.5 points between 2015 and 2020 under Buhari despite making the fight against corruption one of the pillars of his administration.

In a comparative analysis of corruption perception indexes between 2010 and 2020 by THISDAY, TI’s reports reveal that there is no significant improvement in the fight against corruption under the two administrations.

TI, a global movement working to end corruption, released its 2020 CPI penultimate Thursday in which it rated Nigeria 149th out of the 180 countries surveyed worldwide, scoring 25 out of 100 points.

With the latest corruption rating, according to the 2020 CPI, Nigeria is currently the second most corrupt country in West Africa behind Guinea-Bissau, the most corrupt in the sub-region.

But in a statement by the Minister for Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the federal government disputed the CPI report, which it claimed, was not a true reflection of the country’s anti-graft war and that the organisation failed to identify areas the federal government performed well.

The statement noted that the federal government’s war against corruption was still on course and that the progress made against graft in the past two years was not included in the assessment of the country.

Analysing Nigeria’s graft ratings under the Buhari administration especially between 2015 and 2020, the CPIs showed that the country marginally improved by two points, moving upward from 26 points in 2015 to 28 points in 2016, a development that the presidency then celebrated.

In subsequent years, however, the CPIs revealed that out of 100 points, Nigeria relapsed to 27 in 2017 from 28 in 2016; 27 in 2018; 26 in 2019 and 25 in 2020, indicating that the country only recorded marginal improvement by two points in 2016, a year after Buhari resumed office.

Also, out of 168 countries surveyed globally in 2015, the CPIs showed that Nigeria was ranked 136th; also 136th among 176 countries in 2016; 148th out of 180 countries in 2017; 144th out of 180 countries in 2018; 146th out of 180 countries in 2019 and 149 among 180 countries in 2020.

For the period between 2015 and 2020, as shown in THISDAY analysis of the CPIs, the average score of Nigeria under Buhari stood at 26.5 out of 100 points, which largely revealed a far cry from the pass mark.

Like Buhari’s government, the CPIs showed that under Jonathan, Nigeria’s graft rating was 24 out of 100 points in 2010, the year he became substantive president after the death of his predecessor, former President Umaru Yar’Adua and retained the same score in 2011, the year he won presidential election.

In 2012, the CPIs showed that Jonathan recorded major improvement by three points, which then brought Nigeria’s graft rating to 27 points.

However, the CPIs revealed, the rating dropped by two points to 25 in 2013; rose again to 27 points in 2014 and finally crashed by one point to 26 in 2015, the year the former president lost reelection to Buhari.

On the global scale, as indicated in the CPIs, Nigeria was ranked 143rd out of 178 countries in 2010; 143rd out of 183 countries in 2011; 139th out of 176 countries in 2012; 144th out of 177 countries in 2013; 136th out of 175 countries in 2014 and 136th out of 168 countries in 2015.

Under Jonathan, by implication, Nigeria marginally recorded an average score of 25.5 out of 100 points, just one point behind the country’s graft rating under Buhari, also a disappointing corruption perception rating.

Contrary to the federal government’s position that the latest rating was not a true reflection of Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign, Center for Public Policy & Research (CPPR) and Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) agreed with TI’s rating that there was retrogression in the fight against corruption.

CPPR’s Director, Dr. Sam Amadi, in a response to THISDAY inquiries, observed that there was no significant improvement in the impact of anti corruption fights under the present government.

Amadi, a former Chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), said the recent TI rating of Nigeria “is representative of the failure of the anti corruption war. Perception is important in understanding corruption as a pandemic in Nigeria.”

Since 2015, Amadi observed that Nigeria “has not seen any reform of government, we have not seen any change in procurement policy, process of policymaking; we are not seeing any improvement in accountability of state institutions.

“The government has not activated and authorised the freedom of information law and in spite of signing up to the Open Government program it continues to manage the public sector without rule based accountability.

“Fighting corruption is not jailing opposition even without due process. It is beyond legal prosecution. It is more about deepening democracy. It is about changing the incentive structure of governance. It is about ensuring merit, openness and efficiency in public sector management. The government has not done these much,” he said.

Also responding to THISDAY inquiries yesterday, the Executive Director OF CITAD, Dr. Yunusa Yau allied with Amadi’s position that there was no significant improvement in the anti-graft war under Buhari.

CITAD’s executive director rhetorically asked: “When the head of the body entrusted to be the arrow head of the anti-corruption fight of the government is itself enmeshed in the corruption crisis, who is there to lead the fight against corruption?

“We have moved from the position in which there was a body that was seen to be fighting corruption to one in which it is also a lover of the loot of corruption. That is a substantive backwards movement.

“Government has not denied that there is corruption in the EFCC and that its head, whether framed or not, is under investigation. Such a body then lacks the moral standing to prosecute anyone for corruption.

“This government has lost it. It is no longer fighting corruption. It is merely fighting for survival. It has lost it because the president does not understand what corruption is and because he has no clear understanding of corruption, he could not have clear strategies to fight it,” he said.

While Amadi said the problem of corruption in Nigeria “is not about Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or All Progressives Congress (APC),” Yau doubted if Buhari’s administration “is interested in improving its fight against corruption.”

Describing corruption as cultural and systemic, Amadi argued that to solve it would undoubtedly require deep-rooted institutional and cultural changes.

He said fighting corruption should start with a meritocratic public service that has held accountability through rules and processes that are open to citizens. We cannot fight corruption and encourage a system of public governance based on prerogatives, nepotism and discretionary application of rules.

“We have to cleanse politics and ensure that political leaders are accountable to the electorates. Without an electoral system that is credible and accountable you cannot effectively fight endemic corruption,” he said.

Yau emphasised the need for Buhari “to first admit that his fight against corruption has failed and open up to suggestions as to how corruption can be fought in the country.”

“Again, unfortunately, because the president does not understand corruption, he is surrounded by an extremely corrupt set of people who have blocked his capacity to understand corruption and fight it better.

“There is no redemption in its failure to deliver in one of its cardinal promises which is that it is a regime elected primarily on the basis of its promise to fight corruption. Many of the government agencies are mired in corruption, how can this be if the government is serious about fighting corruption?”

Yau noted that many key government officials had been accused of corrupt acts at different times, though Buhari’s government had done nothing about it.

He said: “If the government wants to improve its fight against corruption, in addition to making a declaration of acceptance of its current failure, it should disengage all officials suspected of corruption and ensure they are investigated and anyone found wanting, be prosecuted.”

He, also, emphasised the need for the president “to realise and accept that fighting corruption is that of all Nigerians and not just of the government alone.”

He challenged the government “to be opened to ideas from different sources. It should establish a multi-stakeholder committee to fashion out an immediate and long-term agenda and strategy for the fight against corruption in Nigeria.”

He, finally, urged the federal government “to dispassionately and without delay, study the CPI of Transparency International (TI) and see the areas that have made Nigeria to go down in the rating and take immediate steps to address them.

“These are in themselves not substantive but they are steps necessary to win back the confidence of Nigerians that the regime is interested in fight corruption and be supported to succeed,” CITAD’s executive director said.