The authorities must do more to instil transparency and accountability in government

On a day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about how corruption subverts good governance, it is important for critical stakeholders to ponder on the serious effect of the social malaise on our country. With the 2022 International Anti- Corruption Day, the last to be marked under the current administration, it may also be time for President Muhammadu Buhari to take stock on how he has fared on one of the three cardinal promises that brought him to power. If we must tell the president, the conclusion of many Nigerians is that officials of his administration have difficulty determining the boundary between right and wrong. More unfortunate still is that the president seems not interested or incapable of restoring integrity to his government.  

 That the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI) continues to rank Nigeria low on anti-corruption is a sad reminder of what has been left undone in terms of judicious allocation of resources for the benefit of the populace. In the past seven years, the joke in Abuja has been that the broom, symbol of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was designed to sweep corruption under the carpet, especially for friends and supporters of the administration. Indeed, there is hardly any difference between President Goodluck Jonathan’s weakness in dealing with some corrupt elements in his government and President Buhari’s total inertia in similar circumstances. 

 The theme of International Anti-Corruption Day 2022 is “Your right, your role: say no to corruption,” and there have been efforts in our country to deal with the emblem of shame. In November 2017, the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, set up the Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) to find a lasting solution to why graft cases take forever to resolve. In its interim report submitted to the National Judicial Council (NJC), the committee blamed such delays on a combination of factors, but chiefly on poor prosecution by the anti-corruption agencies. 

 The Justice Suleiman Galadima-led panel, according to a statement from the NJC, identified the absence of counsels in court, reliance on irrelevant documentary evidence, multiplicity of charges and non-adherence to court rules as obstacles to speedy dispensation of justice. “Offenders are charged to court before proper investigations of the charges are done, and afterwards, expecting the court to detain such alleged offenders till conclusion of their investigations,” the committee had stated. In addition, the committee said prosecution agencies lacked experienced and capable personnel to prosecute corruption cases “which invariably leads to poor handling of such cases.” Not much has changed. 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, has lately been doing some chest-beating on the number of criminal convictions the agency has secured. “Some of you will recall that at the end of 2021, the commission announced that it recorded a total of 2,220 convictions,” Bawa recently told reporters. “I am pleased to inform you that we are poised to improve on that figure.” 

While the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) may have secured some convictions, the way presidential pardons are granted to prominent politically exposed persons is both unconscionable and dispiriting. There is hardly any convicted prominent Nigerian who has served their complete jail term before being released and pardoned. A few of them are contesting elections seeking return to public offices which makes a total mockery of anticorruption efforts. On a day such as this, therefore, the president and stakeholders in the judicial sector as well as in the anti-corruption agencies must recommit themselves to the efforts for instilling transparency and accountability in the Nigerian public space. 

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