The recently released 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International has expectedly sparked renewed debates on the successes and shortcomings of Nigeria’s fight against corruption. While President Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress were voted into office on the promise of fighting the endemic scourge of corruption, there have been concerns that it is not committed to doing so.
According to the Transparency International, Nigeria now ranks 148th (together with Comoros and Guinea) among 180 countries surveyed. Previous ranking for 2016 placed Nigeria at the 136th position with a score of 28% over 100%. The 2017 report indicates that corruption has gotten worse in the last 12 months. Rather than descending, Nigeria has climbed a few rungs upward on the ladder of corruption, scoring 27%.
More disheartening than the worsening corruption perception score is the response of the federal government. According to a statement released by the Presidency in response to Transparency International, the criteria and methodology used in arriving at the ranking is questioned; the government goes ahead to describe the ranking as fictional and unfortunate.
The response from the Presidency is regrettable. While the government happily celebrates international rankings which seem to favour it on the one hand, it condemns those that are critical of its performance on the other. A recent example is the report by Amnesty International on human rights in Nigeria which was heavily criticized by the Nigerian government for detailing the atrocities of Nigeria’s security forces, versus the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report which was celebrated for indicating key improvements in the Nigerian business climate. In that instance, the methodology or criteria used was not questioned.
The Centre for Social Studies and Development - We the People is worried that the manner the Nigerian government has responded to the rankings may make it impossible for the country to utilize the new reality in addressing the persistence of corruption. For instance, Transparency International notes the correlation between the shrinking civil space and corruption. With attempts and threats to regulate Civil Society Organizations, restrict social media and curtail freedom of speech under the guise of checking ‘hate speech’, it is evident that Nigeria is fast falling into the category of a repressive state.
Similarly, the fight against corruption in the last two and half years has failed to produce any high profile conviction of any politically exposed person. Indeed, the majority of Nigerians perceive that while making a show of prosecuting cases of corruption involving members of the opposition political parties, the government is shielding members of its own party from prosecution even when there are widespread complaints about corruption involving officials as high up as the Presidency.
Perhaps nothing demonstrates the failure of the government in its fight against corruption than the fact that it is still unable to curb endemic corruption in the Police force. Despite the many promises of the government, it has been utterly powerless in sanitizing the police force of corruption, or bringing corrupt officers to justice. The frustrations of Nigerians recently manifested in a series of actions under the banner #endsars aimed at forcing reforms of the Nigerian Police. As is typical with this government, that citizens’ campaign was dismissed as ‘politically motivated’.
We strongly recommend that the federal government takes a closer look at the indicators used in arriving at the Corruption Perceptions Index and examine ways it can fix the gaps that so urgently need fixing. This effort must necessarily involve measures that will take the fight against corruption away from campaign rostrums and the pages of newspaper; to arrests and prosecutions. Continuing to deny the failure of the government’s current anti-corruption strategy amounts to denying the truth.
Executive Director, We the People (Centre for Social Studies and Development)