From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government on Wednesday blamed the opaqueness in doing business in the country for the low rating by Transparency International (TI) corruption perception index.
It argued that the issue of TI low corruption perception of the country is not necessary about stealing of public funds., noting that the group’s rating of Nigeria has not correctly reflected the government’s effort to curb corruption in the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said this while fielding questions at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the presidential villa Abuja.
In January, Nigeria dropped three places in the 2020 corruption ranking released by Transparency International (TI), and scored lower in number of points than in its previous year’s record, leading to the perception that corruption worsened in the country within the last one year.
On Tuesday Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and the national contact of Transparency International in Nigeria had accused the President Muhammadu Buhari-lead administration of lack of transparency in the recovery of stolen assets.
Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani had while addressing a press conference noted that although Buhari promised Nigerians to fight corruption, he has however not shown much commitment to deliver on his promises.
Rafsanjani claimed that money recovered by the current administration was being looted by politicians under his nose.
But the minister of information explained that the Buhari’s administration had, consequently, initiated reforms to make it easier and more transparent to do business especially in the port sector.
He noted the inconsistencies in the scores by TI over the years due to inadequate data, saying that government is taking necessary measures to communicate relevant data on all sectors.
Mohammed affirmed that by the time the reform put in place start to yield result, the country’s corruption perception will improve.
The minister said: “Yes, I think that I’m aware of that particular rating which was not quite flattering to Nigeria, but our position, which I’ve declared before is that that rating does not truly reflect the great strides that the administration has made in the area of fighting corruption.
“The government has put in place various reforms in fighting corruption, but some of these reforms will take time to yield the desired results because the matrix used by TI is not just about grafts alone. It includes how transparent or how opaque the services are and you’ll find out that when we scored in the 2018, 2019 transparency reports, we realised that we scored very low in the area of ease of doing business in particular.
“That is why the federal government embarked on reforms, especially at the seaports, because that is one area where we scored very low and you’ll see that in recent times, we’ve embarked on numerous reforms at our seaports so that our rating will improve.
“For instance, we realised that following the release of 2019 TI corruption perception index, we initiated reforms to improve on ease of doing business indices. This is because we found that up to 40% of the country’s corruption perception survey indices related to business, process and general public service delivery. So, that is why we are concentrating on the ease of doing business, making sure that people can get to the ports, clear the goods in good time and by the time some of these forms start yielding fruits, I’m sure that perception will improve.”
Mohammed also said government is putting in place mechanisms that will help prevent the menace and improve transparency in all sectors.
“In addition, we are putting more emphasis on the preventive mechanism of corruption rather than prosecution. We believe that it’s more important to put in place preventive mechanism rather than prosecution and this preventive mechanism that we’ve put in place include the programme launched by the ICPC, which is what they called the National Ethics Policy, which addresses integrity issues in all sectors of the polity and is directly linked to the pillar of national anti-corruption strategy.
“Also, the Code of Conduct Bureau has put in place some preventive measures, especially in the area of energising the code of conduct for public officers. The Council for Ease of Doing Business recently launched the Nigerian Ports Process manual which is a kind of manual to help people going to the port to make it easy for them to process goods.
“In addition, we actually also analysed the process that the TI used in the rating that was used recently and we found quite a few discrepancies in the rating process, including some data sources in which Nigeria’s course has remained flat over the past 10 years.
“What we said is that we take these ratings seriously, so we actually went and analysed the ratings and we found that there’ve been some gaps. It’s either we’ve not flooded enough data or they have not revised all data because we found it strange that the country’s rating in certain areas has remained the same for a period of 10 years and we are taking the media measures so that they can get this data in respect of these sectors because we believe that it’s not possible for you not to improve, for you not to lose points for 10 years. So, there’s a bit of discrepancy there.
“So, the federal government, through its Presidential Council on Ease of Doing Business, has embarked on certain reforms at the ports, at the Corporate Affairs Commission, that will make it easier to do business. We saw the rating, but it does not reflect correctly the efforts of this government in trying to curb corruption,” he emphasized.