Global watchdog, Transparency International (TI), yesterday in its 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) said Nigeria was still perceived as highly corrupt despite the ongoing anti-graft crusade of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
According to the organisation, the CPI aggregates data from a number of different sources, including business communities and experts, that assess the level of corruption in the public sector. In the latest report, Nigeria moved from 144th to 148th, while the United States dropped four notches out of the top 20 countries in the world.
The most populous black nation, however, made the leap without improving its score of 27 out of a possible 100 it achieved in 2017.She tied with Kenya, Comoros, Guatemala and Mauritania but ranked better than Cameroun put at 152nd.
Botswana remains Africa’s most transparent country on 34th position, followed by Namibia, Mauritius and Senegal. The United States slid to 22nd in the world from 18th last year, dropping out of the top 20 countries for the first time since 2011, Transparency International said in the document that cited growing threats to democracy worldwide.
The group said its latest report on business leaders’ perceptions of corruption put the United States at 71, down from 75, on a scale of 0-100. “That sounds a wake-up call about the need to tackle conflicts of interest, undue influence of the private sector and widening gaps between rich and poor,” said Zoe Reiter, the watchdog’s acting representative to the United States.
Denmark and New Zealand had the best scores on the CPI again in 2018, scoring 88 and 87, while Somalia, Syria and South Sudan remained at the bottom, with scores of 10, 13 and 13. Overall, more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50, while the average was 43.
TI said only 20 countries had significantly improved their scores since 2012, including Argentina and Cote D’ Ivoire. Sixteen others, comprising Australia, Chile and Malta, declined significantly in the same period under review.
The organisation said its analysis showed a clear link between having a healthy democracy and fighting public sector corruption, and cited declining scores for Turkey and Hungary, in connection with challenges to the rule of law and press freedom.
Hungary’s score dropped by eight points to 46 over the past five years amid troubling developments, including the forced departure of the Open Society Foundation and Central European University, founded by philanthropist George Soros, it noted.
Turkey’s tally dipped by nine points to 41 during the period, as the country was downgraded to ‘not free’ on a democracy ranking, “Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and … where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, who chairs the global civil society group.
Addressing a press briefing yesterday in Abuja on the development, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Transparency International Chapter in Nigeria, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, noted that recommendations were made at the launch of the CPI in 2017, one of which was the immediate appointment and prompt inauguration of the National Procurement Council (NPC) as captured in the Public Procurement Act.He urged government to strengthen the institutions responsible for maintaining checks and balances on political power brokers, and ensure their operation without intimidation, while closing the implementation gap between anti-corruption legislations, practice and enforcement.
The CISLAC official regretted that despite corruption in procurement, which is responsible for around 70 per cent of the aggregated menace in public administration, the NPC has still not been inaugurated. Musa added that the public image of the anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria was tarnished domestically and internationally by the “extremely slow progress” to match words with commitments made by the government.
He said: “Nigeria is thus still perceived as highly corrupt, and although the ranking shows that Nigeria moved up four places, it only means that four other countries have scored worse while Nigeria stagnated.
“CISLAC notes that lack of progress in the fight against corruption as testified by this year’s edition of the CPI is a consequence of partial or non-implementation of recommendations issued by corruption experts and activists.”
He maintained that despite some indisputable evidence, many corrupt politicians and businessmen as well as women seemed to be above the law and out of reach of law enforcement agents, stressing that most corruption scandals involving politically exposed persons (PEPs) had not witnessed diligent investigations, prosecutions and convictions.
“If Nigerian democracy and governance are to be preserved, the origins of huge assets of Nigerian real owners need to be disclosed and, in case of PEPs, military and non-military personnel, religious leaders and other public figures, diligently explained to Nigerians,” he added.