The Nigerian government on Friday said the low ranking of the country on the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index is out of tune with concrete and verifiable achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari's administration achievements in the anti graft war since it came into office in May 2015.
The Global anti-corruption watchdog ranked ranked Nigeria low in its 2017 Corruption Perception Perception Index (CPI) released on Wednesday.
Nigeria was ranked 148th position out of 180, the lowest score of the country on the index in recent years and a figure lower than the average in the Sub-Sharan region.
"The government is still wondering the criteria or facts used by the anti-corruption watchdog to arrive at its very misleading and unfair conclusions in its assessment of the federal government’s efforts in this anti-corruption crusade," the Nigerian presidency said in a statement in which it described the ranking as misleading.
In the statement signed by Mr. Shehu Garba, Senior Special Assistant to the President on media and publicity, the presidency also listed various initiatives of the Buhari government to disprove the TI rating.
Indeed, the presidency not only disagreed with the ranking of Nigeria, it also insinuated that some patrons of TI in the country may be the brains behind the low rating to distract the President.
"In the end, this whole episode may turn out to be just a political distraction, given the strong views some of TI’s patrons have expressed against the Buhari Administration," it noted.
The two Nigerians associated with TI are former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is a member of Advisory Council of the Berlin based anti corruption watchdog and former minister and co-convener of Bring Back Our Girls Advocacy group, Dr Oby Ezekwesili.
Ezekwesili was co-founder of TI and served as one of the pioneers directors of the organisation.
Ezekwesili and Obasanjo have been outspoken in their criticisms of the Buhari administration in the past few months.
In an open letter last month, Obasanjo asked the President not to contest the 2019 election to seek for a second tenure of office as he alleged that his government has already ruined the Nigerian economy, performed poorly in its anti- corruption war among other failings in its about three years in power.
In the same vein, Ezekwesili has been outspoken about the various failings of the Buhari administration, especially lack of will by the government to act on allegations of corruption against members of the cabinet.
But the insinuations that Obasanjo and Ezekwesili may hàve influenced the TI rating aside, the presidency noted in the statement that on assumption of office, Buhari demonstrated the will to fight corruption with 'extra ordinary courage" by going after high profile looters, including former military service chiefs and Judges who were formerly believed to be untouchable.
"It was once unthinkable to touch or prosecute the ‘‘big men’’ for corruption in Nigeria but President Buhari has ended impunity for corruption," the presidency.
"Today, the Buhari administration has made accountability the bedrock of governance and corruption is no longer fashionable because it attracts consequences," the presidency noted.
The presidency also regretted that AI failed to acknowledge efforts of the Buhari administration in blocking siphoning of public funds through the rigid enforcement of the Treasury Single Account.
The presidency added that the sucess of the Buhari's administration fight against corruption can also be seen in the amount of funds recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for being proceeds of corrupt practices in the past two years.
"Figures published by the EFCC, the anti-corruption agency, reveal that N738.9 billion was recovered in just two years of the Buhari administration and this impressive and unprecedented record is worthy of mention and acknowledgement by anybody genuinely looking at the larger picture of the country’s progress in the war against corruption.
"During the 7th session of the Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in Vienna, Austria, the Chairman of the Agency, Ibrahim Magu, noted that the figure represents $2.9 billion dollars," the presidency said even as it also noted that EFCC has recorded more than 140 successful prosecutions.
In addition, the presidency noted that the federal government has signed international agreements to recover the proceeds of corruption and to block the laundering of stolen assets abroad by public officials as a further demonstration of its determination to fight graft.
"Anybody who knows where Nigeria was coming from would not believe that corruption is worse under the Buhari administration.
"We wonder where they got their facts from. At a time, they are alleging increase in the incidence of corruption under this government, the whole of Africa is applauding by choosing President Buhari as the continental Champion to lead the fight against it.
"Nothing can be more eloquent than this.
"This notwithstanding, facts are facts, and those facts won’t cease to be facts even if you don’t care to pay attention to them," the presidency concluded in the statement.