Transparency International and corruption in Nigeria The Sun

It is saddening that Nigeria again performed very poorly in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The country scored 26 out of 100 points to emerge 146 out of 180 countries ranked. This is two places down from what it scored in 2019. Coming at a time we thought we have gained some grounds in the fight against corruption, it is a wake-up call on Nigerian leaders to adopt better strategies to win the war against graft.
As expected, the Federal Government was not happy with the report. Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, questioned the ranking process, saying Nigeria’s score was not a true reflection of the country’s anti-corruption agenda. According to him, the government placed more emphasis on corruption prevention measures. Some high profile corruption cases, he added, were under investigation and prosecution; and that a number of significant policies had been instituted to enhance transparency and accountability as well as prevent corruption. “Even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of key transparency and accountability policies were developed and are currently being implemented,” he noted.
It has become fashionable for Nigerian government officials to tackle Transparency International (TI) any year the result is not favourable to the country. After a similar poor ranking in the 2019 CPI, for instance, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Presidency and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, dismissed the report, describing it variously as baseless, appalling, unfair and untenable. Malami said then that the country had done more in terms of legislation, enforcement, recovery of looted assets, and political goodwill.
Nevertheless, corruption perception index goes beyond our own parameters. It is a global report which takes a critical look at the perception of corruption in different parts of the world. It is about how Nigerians perceive our law enforcement agencies, different arms of government as well as the ease of doing business, getting employment and admission.
Part of what informed the current TI’s report is the illegal checkpoints and the associated atrocities committed by the Nigeria Police. The defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police is particularly culpable. When Nigerian youths could no longer bear it, they rose in spontaneous reaction, culminating in the massive #EndSARS protests that rocked the country last year.
The police are not the only culprits. Customs, Immigration and other law enforcement officers are fond of extorting money from travellers. The international agencies are not blind to what is happening in the country. They go through our airports and witness acts of corruption in different aspects of our national life.
Besides, the implementation of Nigeria’s rule of law is selective. According to the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Transparency International Chapter in Nigeria, “All useful reforms in Nigeria are limited to those who cannot afford to ignore them. The pre-election period witnessed mind-blowing scandals, which stayed without consequences. Politicians stashing millions of dollars in kickbacks or having corruption charges upon them just need to switch political parties or stay loyal and charges are dropped against them. Despite evidence brought by brave media and civil society, prominent personalities in politics and business are untouchable by the Nigerian law enforcement and the executive.”
No doubt, this global body is aware of the nepotistic appointments of senior government officials in the country. It knows that the way we have managed our confiscated assets is questionable. It is aware that security votes are not used for exactly what they are meant for; that billions of naira corruptly spent on them annually is more than the annual budget of the Nigerian Army, Air Force and the Navy combined.
This is not to talk about corruption in our political parties, how they buy votes, rig elections and visit tribunals to stamp their questionable victories. Nor do we need to talk about the lamentations by the soldiers in the warfront concerning outdated weapons and poor welfare even when defence budget is huge.  Also, there are serious violations of the Public Procurement Act such as inflating of contract sums. And there are controversies trailing the sharing of COVID-19 palliatives last year.
We must admit that the fight against corruption is feeble. Rather than antagonise TI, we should reflect on the serious harm the monster has done to the country. One, it discourages investment, as no investor wants to invest in an economy where transparency is a scarce commodity; where he has to pay bribes to access basic facilities and official contacts that will aid his business.
Moreover, the poor state of our hospitals, schools and other public institutions is as a result of corruption. Every year, millions of naira is budgeted for these institutions. Yet, their conditions keep going from bad to worse.
The situation requires comprehensive ethical re-orientation and strengthening of our institutions. Government should be willing to accept criticisms and international ratings. Let it take the CPI report seriously and stop defending the indefensible. Propaganda and grandstanding have their limits. We must go back to the drawing board, look inward and do our home work. More importantly, government must strengthen the anti-corruption agencies and compel them to do their jobs.

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