Corruption and Its Damning Consequence for Nigeria

0

Corruption and its consequence for Nigeria was the focus of the recently released 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International. In analysing the damning report, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre touched on six weaknesses that made Nigeria to rank 154 out of 180 countries – five places down compared to the 2020 CPI results. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that the recommendations made were targeted at

collectively improving Nigeria’s fight against corruption

Transparency International (TI) on Tuesday released the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Released exclusively in Nigeria by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the National Chapter of TI, the index reveals that Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points in the 2021 CPI, falling back one point compared to the 2020 CPI.

In the country comparison for this year, Nigeria ranks 154 out of 180 countries – five places down compared to the 2020 CPI results.

Indices

To come up with the indices, CPI aggregated data from eight different sources that provide perceptions by country experts and business people on the level of corruption in the public sector.

While the index did not show specific incidences of corruption in the country, it indicated the perception of corruption in Nigeria. According to TI, the index was “completely impartial, objective and globally acknowledged as the most widely used cross-country parameter for measuring corruption.

“This CPI result comes at a point when the Nigeria as a country is battling with rising nation-wide insecurity, high unemployment rate and damning revelations around public finance management by the auditor general and investigative journalists, amongst others.”

According to Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), Executive Director CISLAC, while the data used for the CPI is not collected by CISLAC/TI-Nigeria or any of their partners, the data collection was done by independent and reputable organisations with sound methodologies.

“It is important to stress that this is not an assessment of Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies who are making commendable efforts in reducing (in the fight against) corruption in Nigeria despite the political interference they face. Rather, the CPI goes beyond the anti-graft agencies.

“In October last year, we received the report of the committee set up by the government in March 2021 to review Nigeria’s rating on the 2020 CPI shortly after CISLAC/TI- Nigeria released the 2020 CPI.

“CISLAC/TI-Nigeria sees this move as a good step and would like to call on the government to further examine the weaknesses listed below and consider actions which will tackle systemic corruption and salvage Nigeria’s deteriorating image when it comes to corruption.”

Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in MDAs

Accordingly, CISLAC/TI-Nigeria have listed key weaknesses to explain ” why Nigeria may not have improved in the fight against corruption. We feel that these areas require immediate improvement for the sake of the well-being of ordinary Nigerians and the economy”.

Citing the first weakness, he said: “The Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs)” report for 2019 published by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation in November 2021, have left Nigerians in awe.

“The level of financial recklessness, abuse of budgetary processes, and failure of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in following the due process of appropriation is disturbing. For example, The Auditor General revealed that the sum of N49bn was spent by nine MDAs without appropriation by the National Assembly. This is in gross violation of section 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended).

“Recent revelations made on the 17th of January 2022 by BudgIT on the duplication of projects in the 2022 budget do less to palliate the pandemic corruption currently experienced despite a rising unemployment rate of 33 per cent.”

Security Sector Corruption

For Musa, the systemic corruption in the Nigeria Police Force has sadly continued unabated and with the police at the frontline of Nigeria’s criminal justice system with enormous powers to investigate and prosecute crimes.

“This weakness” he said, “puts the country in bad light”, adding that “as a matter of fact, the police was indicted by the Auditor General’s report on the “Non- Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) published in November 2021” and Nigerians are still struggling to understand how 178,459 arms and ammunition were missing from the armoury of the Nigeria Police without trace.

Of this figure, 88, 078 were AK 47 assault rifles and 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols. For context, these arms are enough to arm a force equivalent to about 25 per cent of the current strength of the Nigeria Police at 370,000 which gives an explanation on the level of insecurity in the country.

Findings from TheCable Index and the Council of Foreign Relations show that 5,067 Nigerians were killed owing to insecurity in 2021, and an average of 14 Nigerians were killed daily. According to these findings, this shows a 52.3 per cent rise in reported killings when compared to 2020.

In addition to the above, the Auditor General’s report showed that over 17,000 police officers had future dates of employment with hundreds employed before their date of birth.

Failure to Investigate High Profile Corruption Cases, Prevent Illicit Financial Flows

Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies have made commendable progress in their efforts to combat corruption in 2021 with an increase in convictions. However, high profile convictions of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) across political, regional and any other form of divide has fallen short of public expectations. While we commend the arrest of cyber criminals and call on the anti-graft agencies to do more, there is a need to investigate high profile political cases including those of individuals who have switched political affiliations. A case in point is the Pandora Papers revelations which is one of the biggest ever corruption leaks led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and over 600 journalists from 117 countries, including Journalists from Nigeria’s Premium Times. A close look at the Pandora Papers published in 2021 reveals that Nigeria tops the African continent when looking at the number of those exposed. Following the pattern of two previous leaks (i.e., the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers, which were released in 2016 and 2017, respectively), the Pandora Papers exposes systems and secrecy jurisdictions that enable and abate crime, corruption, and illicit dealings by politicians, billionaires, influential individuals, and their enablers globally.

Since its release on October 3, 2021, Nigerians are yet to see any action or get answers from anti-graft agencies whose work has been made easier by the diligent reporters from Premium Times which highlighted stolen or suspiciously acquired assets to be investigated. With the elections fast approaching, and the response so far, political corruption is expected to be on the rise and anti-graft agencies need to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.

Absence of Asset Recovery, Protection of Whistle-blowers, and Other Key Anti-corruption Legal Frameworks

On this weakness, Musa said: “When it comes to asset recovery, Nigerian anti-graft agencies have made progress in recoveries, specifically those that have been finally forfeited. Sadly, the repeated failure to enact the Proceeds of Crime Act as a legal framework for the management and utilisation of recovered assets in Nigeria which is one of the key pillars of this administration’s anti-corruption strategy is inexplicable!

“While Nigerians read about these recoveries by the numerous agencies with mandates to recover assets, Nigerians are in the dark as to the status of these recoveries. Yet, Nigeria is expected to incur a deficit of about N6 trillion on its 2022 budget. Quick wins like the establishment of a central data base for asset recovery accessible to all citizens is yet to materialise.

“While the government claims to have an asset recovery database, citizens and representatives from the media do not have access to this data base to confirm its content. This data is thus impossible to verify.

“The continuous absence of a Whistle Blower Protection Legislation leaves Nigerian anti-corruption agencies deprived of key insider intelligence.

“Formerly known as the Audit Ordinance, the 1956 Audit Act which was enacted before Nigeria’s Independence limits the powers of the Auditor General’s office. Revelations from the Auditor General underscores that Nigeria urgently needs a new audit law more than ever. This law must have the best interest of Nigerians.”

Judicial Challenges

Harping on the weakness of the judiciary he said there is a need for the Nigerian judiciary to speed up its delivery of judgement.

“The delay in treating high profile cases of corruption dampens the morale of anti-graft agencies. It is also important for the National Judicial Council (NJC) to ensure that judicial officers appointed are competent and qualified. The NJC should shun nepotism in its appointment of judges and also when it undertakes disciplinary actions against judges.”

Corruption in the COVID-19 Response

Another weakness he tackled was the COVID-19 Response. Rafsanjani said: “There have been reports of diversion of funds earmarked for Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, Nigerians are yet to see any high-profile convictions. Individuals have been alleged to use the pandemic response as a conduit to divert funds. This needs to be addressed.”

Twitter Ban, Shrinking Civic Space and Intimidation Of Human Rights Defenders

On the final weakness which is very important, he said it relates to the shrinking Civic Space and clampdown on freedom of speech. “The theme of the 2021 CPI by TI beams the searchlight on human rights and democracy under attack.

“The arbitrary and illogical decision of the Nigerian government to ban Twitter on the 5th of June 2021 for about seven months stands condemned. While this ban has been lifted just recently, Nigeria is still suffering from the consequences of the ban.

” According to the CIVICUS monitor, Nigeria’s civic space is repressed. On the Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2021 report, Nigeria recorded a decline with a score of 45 out of 100 from a score of 47 in 2020 and 50 in 2019 (with 0 being not free and 100 being very free).

“The tale is further gloomy when one considers the World Press Freedom Index released in 2021 by Reporters Without Borders which describes Nigeria as “one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists,”. On this Index, Nigeria also ranked worse at 120 out of 180 as against a rank of 115 in the previous index.

“The intimidation of human rights defenders stands to be strongly condemned. We hold that corruption enables human rights abuses and corruption thrives when human right defenders are silenced. Hence, the Nigerian government must retrace its step from this dangerous decline and infringement on the fundamental human rights of citizens as enshrined by the Constitution,” he said.

Recommendations

Having itemised the key weaknesses that resulted in Nigeria’s decline from the 2020 CPI, the CISLAC ED noted that “we need to understand that as patriotic citizens it is our duty to criticise constructively. To this effect, we would like to advice the government to implement these recommendations: The relevant anti-graft agencies should investigate allegations of corruption by Politically Exposed Persons irrespective of political party affiliation;

” The National Assembly should speed up deliberations and passage of relevant anti-corruption related laws or amendments to strengthen anti- corruption efforts in the interest of Nigerians. The president should assent to these laws once they are passed while taking into consideration the best interest of citizens;

“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Anti-graft agencies, Ministries of Justice, and Foreign Affairs should work in synergy and engage their international counterparts to ensure that global enablers/middlemen like lawyers, notaries, accountants who help facilitate money laundering and tax evasion are blacklisted, deregistered, or held to account under the several national laws, policies and international frameworks to which Nigeria is a signatory;

“The Nigeria Police Force should urgently investigate the unexplained disappearance of arms and ammunition as with a view to close the gaps;

“The Nigerian police should strengthen its existing complaints channels by reinforcing the Complaints Response Unit (CRU) of the Police to handle and investigate complaints of misconduct by police officers across the country as provided for in the Police Act 2020;

“The government must ensure democratic and free civic space for engagement with citizenry and the media. The decline in freedom of expression and lack of respect for human rights should be stopped; and

“There is also a need to operationalise the anti-corruption strategy to ensure that anti-corruption efforts are not concentrated at the federal level alone. Also, other arms of government need to be involved in the fight against corruption. It should not be left to the executive arm alone.”

Reiterating their desire for a corruption-free society, he added that “in line with our vision and mission, we are willing to work with state and non-state actors on how to collectively improve Nigeria’s fight against corruption as we have always done in the past.

“It would be of immense benefit to public institutions, the government, and Nigerian citizens if these recommendations are implemented accordingly.”

Quote

“The level of financial recklessness, abuse of budgetary processes, and failure of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in following the due process of appropriation is disturbing. For example, The Auditor General revealed that the sum of N49bn was spent by nine MDAs without appropriation by the National Assembly. This is in gross violation of section 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended)”