By Cosmas Omegoh and Henry Okonkwo
Transparency International’s (TI) recent poor ranking of Nigeria on its corruption index has continued to generate ripples.
Some stakeholders have maintained that the report is “credible, factual and true,” despite Federal Government’s spirited effort to discredit it.
A cross-section of stakeholders have continued to reflect on the Germany-based TI’s rating of Nigeria in its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2020 which the presidency has rejected.
TI returned a recent verdict that Nigeria now occupies the 149th position among the 180 countries it surveyed, scoring 25 over 100 points.
TI added that Nigeria is the second most corrupt country in West Africa, after Guinea-Bissau, descending three rungs after the last rating.
In TI’s 2019 report, for instance, Nigeria was placed on the 146th position out of the 180 countries on the log, returning with 26 over 100 points.
The CPI scale ranges from zero (0) to 100; zero means “Highly Corrupt,” while 100 stands for “Very Clean.”
Nigeria had maintained a steady slide down the ladder over the past four years in TI’s raking.
With the current ranking, Nigeria has continued to perform worse than she did in 2018 when she polled 27 points to place 144th among 180 countries surveyed.
Only 12 countries in Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Chad, Eritrea, Burundi, Congo, Guinea Bissau, and South Sudan, were rated worse than Nigeria in the recent report.
But the Nigerian government will have none of that.
President’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, railed at the report, branding those behind it as enemies of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
In his official Twitter handle, he said: “We are also not unaware of the characters behind the TI in Nigeria whose opposition to the Buhari administration is not hidden.”
In another instance, he added that the Buhari administration deserves credit for diminishing corruption in Nigeria, adding while speaking on Channels TV that “I’ll tell you that this one by TI is not a judgment on Buhari or his administration or its war against corruption.
“I‘ll tell you that this one is judgment on Nigerians because if you look at the indices they used at arriving at those conclusions, they used eight indices, six of which showed Nigeria as being more or less in the same position.”
Expectedly, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, hauled his hat into the ring, contending that “following the release of 2019 TI-Corruption Perception Index, the government initiated reforms to improve on Nigeria’s Ease of Doing Business indices. This is because we found that up to 40 per cent of the country’s corruption perception survey indices relate to business processes and general public service delivery processes.
“Government’s swift action has led to major reforms in the processes at our ports and business process points.”
Then he added: “This is very improbable given the nature of (the) behaviour of variables, which are normally influenced by a variety of factors.
“In this case, the corruption scores would have been affected by changes in the size and structure of the public sector over the past 10 years, changes in policies and personnel and systems over the period including, for instance, process automation, etc. There is, therefore, a need to verify that there is no transposition of figures from year to year due to (the) absence of current data.”
Despite this spirited defence put up by government machinery, the reality on the ground overwhelmingly suggest to the contrary, a view held by a legal expert, Yusuf Alli (SAN); Mr Okechukwu Nwanguma, executive director of Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), and Mr Raheem Oluwafunminiyi, a doctoral student at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State.
Their views about the rating
Hear Alli: “What I make out of the recent rating of Nigeria by Transparency International is the position I have always held that nothing has changed in our country with regard to this hydra-headed monster called corruption. “As I have always admonished, we will be playing the ostrich if we just dismiss rating as nothing. Bodies like TI and the rest that do all the rating, touch on Ease of Doing Business, corruption and so; they use empirical data to reach their conclusion. So, we will be playing the Ostrich if we dismiss the rating as nothing. And when we do that, some people will begin to clap, rejoicing that Nigeria is doing well.
“But I’m not surprised at all because we all live in this society. And we know what is going on unless someone wants to play the Ostrich.”
Commenting on the matter, Mr Nwanguma said: “As far as I’m concerned, that report is credible, factual and true.
“The average Nigerian knows this truth – that without TI’s assessment and rating, the PMB government is not fighting corruption.
“So, clearly what that report did was simply to highlight what is already known by most people. Nigerians know that this government is not fighting corruption. It is just like any group coming to say that this government has failed in the area of security, and the government would begin to contest it.”
Mr Oluwafunminiyi, writer and researcher, equally agreed with the rating, saying: “TI has remained a consistent watchdog on issues of this nature and I can say that its recent report on Nigeria’s global corruption index is absolutely correct. “Some of the indictments by TI are: lack of transparency, nepotism, lack of better anti-corruption legal framework and the way bribery and extortion exist in the Nigeria Police.
“So, are these a true reflection of the realities on the ground?
“The government’s defence against the report is laughable because there are several high-profile corruption cases and politically- exposed persons who continue to walk free without prosecution.
“Where are the Ibrahim Magu and SSG’s reports? Why is Abdulrashid Maina still being treated like a king? What of former Governor Yari of Zamfara State?
“The ICPC and EFCC are so toothless that we do not hear about their work again except to strangulate Yahoo boys. Are our agencies not filled with nepotism? Look at the appointments made so far; do they not reek of nepotism? Have the Nigeria Police done better in tackling bribery and extortion? These are the issues.”
Meaning of rate for Nigeria
Alli told our correspondent: “For me, the recent rating is a call for self-examination, self-introspection.
“Are we doing all that we need to do to combat the monster called corruption? If we are, why is it defying solution? If it is so, why not re-engineer our approach to the fight against corruption?”
Nwanguma said that instead of the government throwing up denials, it should come out and present contrary facts to contradict the TI’s ranking.
“The people behind the rating are not unserious people. If you read the report you’ll see the methodology and indices they used to arrive at the ratings.
“The rating should be a wake-up call to this government.
“But again, no serious-minded person in Nigeria would expect anything better from this government, because they have reached their wits’ end. They don’t even have the intention to do better. We just have to be patient till their time expires in 2023 and hope we have a better government.”
Oluwafunminiyi while lamenting that “the implications of such ratings might be taken quite seriously by investors and the national government,” adding that “it deepens the distrust foreign partners and allies have for the country.”
He is unhappy that on account of the poor performance, “some of the donor countries may either withdraw their aids or impose serious requirements before such aids are ever granted.”
What Buhari must know about corruption
“If I were meeting President Buhari, I will just tell him sir, let’s look at all these things properly.
“I will ask him to perish the thought that when someone says you are doing badly, he must be biased; he must be investigated, or he is paid.
“I will tell him that corruption is not all about stealing money. Nepotism is part of corruption. Tribalism is corruption. Name dropping is corruption. We should not describe corruption from the narrow prism of taking money. Nepotism is the worst kind of corruption
“I will tell him that this top-to-bottle-approach to fighting corruption does not work anywhere and is not going to work here. You just single out a few individuals and go after them.
“The average Nigerian does not see anything bad about corruption as long as it benefits him – his ethnic people or religion. Until the average Nigerian sees evil in corruption, we will be dancing around in a circle.
“Nigerians don’t separate the message from the messenger. We use all the mundane things that divide as a basis instead of addressing the substance.
“I will let the president understand that the bigger the crisis and complex around service delivery in this country, the more we make corruption endemic. You want to obtain your C of O, you have to depend on people in government circle who make things difficult knowing full well that Nigerians are always desperate to get things done. Take for example, why would anyone make Nigerians go through the trouble of registering for NIN at a critical time like this? Once you create such bottlenecks, people will be desperate. They will go to every length including bribing officials.
“I cannot see any aspect of our national life that is not tainted by corruption even religion.
“Therefore, if the government says TI is using wrong statistics to rate Nigeria, I ask: should they be using spiritual data then?
“I did a book which I called ‘Anatomy of Corruption in Nigeria: Issues, Challenges and Solutions.’ If our policymakers can take their time to look at that book and the solutions proffered – not that there are , all in all, it will go a long way in addressing many of the country’s challenges,” Alli said.
Value change urgently needed
To Alli, every Nigerian must be tutored about corruption.
“We must go back to the basics in terms of internalisation of genuine moral values.
“We must stop worshipping at the altar of materialism
“We must have the political will to name and shame corrupt people.
“For those of us who were born in the 1950s and grew up in the 1960s, we saw how the country was then.
“In those days, newspaper vendors were never at their stands, but everyone knew how much a newspaper was sold. People always picked newspapers and dropped their money. Nobody stole their money; the vendors would return to pick their money. What was the value that gave us that kind of behaviours which we don’t have now?
“We should stop glorifying people whose only access to wealth is through taking part in government. People who only yesterday were fuel attendants, who became commissioners and just within four months, they begin to own houses in the GRAs and everywhere across the country.
“In the good old days, if you went to school and returned with a new pencil or pen, your parents would deal with you. Now, if students come back home with Ipads, their parent won’t care. Some parents even partake in buying examination papers for their kids. Parents encourage syndicates to write examinations for their children.
“Truly, our society has gone South. It does not see anything wrong in someone taking bribe anymore. This is sad.”
Corruption a collective guilt
Alli said that all have to be blamed for birthing the monster called corruption.
“I don’t blame the leaders alone. I have always held this view that the followers are worse. Nigerians corrupt their leaders. If today, I‘m made a minister, people will come and begin to make various demands on me – friends and relations. Demands they know I will not be able to meet with the legitimate salary I earn; they expect me to meet such demands. That’s the basis of the problem.”