Critical Conversations

Nigeria’s Corruption Index Ranking: Between Perception and Reality

The current rating of Nigeria following the 2020 Corruption Perception Index has begun to raise dust and questions about the present administration’s war against corruption. The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/Transparency International (TI) recently released its 2020 Corruption Perception Index. According to the index, Nigeria experienced a striking decline, regarded as the worst the country has seen since 2015. Transparency International’s CPI revealed that Nigeria scored 25 out of 100 points. This reveals a significant drop to 149 out of the 180 countries surveyed, taking the nation three steps down from the 146 scored in 2019.

The CPI predicated Nigeria’s decline in its corruption fight on factors related to certain events that unfolded last year. They include absence of transparency in the COVID-19 pandemic, prevalence of bribery and corruption in the Nigerian Police following the EndSARS protest, and lack of adequate anti-corruption legal frameworks and interference by politicians in the operation of law enforcement agencies. Others include nepotism in public service appointments following the controversial National Judicial Council (NJC) appointments and security sector corruption given the host of complex security challenges the country faces.

But as the name denotes, the published CPI is all a matter of perception and like popular explorer, Leif Ericsson opines, appearance and reality are polar opposites. There is a huge difference between perception/pseudo-reality (what people feel or appears to be) and reality (what is obtainable in objectivity reality as actual fact).

It is important to mention that the Corruption Perception Index aggregates data from eight different sources that provide perceptions by Nigeria’s business community and country experts on the level of corruption in the public sector, and for what we care, the perceptions or views may be informed by certain biases and sentiments, particularly for events as the EndSARS protest and the misconceptions that trailed the COVID-19 palliatives. As regards these highlighted events, the facts present themselves.

The EndSARS protest proved beyond doubts that the Nigerian government was steadily bringing to an end the corruption in the Nigerian Police. Because Nigerians were aware that the government was receptive and attentive to the voice of her citizens, coupled with the general consciousness that it was dedicated to fighting corruption in the public and civil sectors, they took to the streets to signal their grievances against the defunct SARS.

When the campaign against the corrupt and extrajudicial activities of SARS took center stage, with the protesters presenting a five- point demand, one of which was to to scrap the police unit, the Federal Government acceded. SARS was immediately scrapped and other demands such as setting up a judicial panel to investigate the allegations against ex-SARS officials were executed in no time.

Unfortunately, the protest was hijacked by arsonists, hoodlums, individuals and organization with interest to plunge the country into anarchy and further disintegration. This led to the destruction of private and public owned properties, as well as the disruption of economic activities, when the country was still struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic on her economy.

All of these precipitated the events that led to what is now generally conceived as the Lekki Massacre where soldiers of the Nigerian Army were wrongly accused of killing innocent protesters. Once again the facts presented themselves with those who were alleged to have been killed by protesters coming out to debunk the allegations. The Nollywood star, Eniola Badmus is a living witness, amongst other innocent Nigerians who were roped into the false allegations. In spite of all the claims on social media and footages from international media houses like CNN, it leaves one to see for themselves the reality of the situation as no single person has come out to say they lost their loved ones till date.

The subsequent events which trailed the COVID-19 palliatives is one that has been clarified. Unfortunately, some people still choose what they want to believe and it shouldn’t leave anyone in doubt that it has informed the perception of the Nigerian business community and country experts on the level of corruption in the country.

In light of the public outrage that precipitated the looting, the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) explained that the sheer scale of the nationwide food programme and the timing of the orders and deliveries, which coincided with the lockdowns and reduced movement across the country, compelled CACOVID to roll out distribution in a staggered manner. CACOVID noted that “The very large size of the order and the production cycle required to meet the demands caused delays in delivering the food items to the states in an expeditious manner, hence, the resultant delay in delivery of the palliatives by the state governors.”

The governors of the different states under the aegis of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum also clarified the erroneous impression, while describing it as inaccurate, entirely erroneous and untrue, and mischievous to say the very least. The NGF clarified that as at the time the looting gained ground, up to ten states had not participated in the flag-off ceremonies for the distribution of palliatives in their states. This was because the items meant for distribution in these states had not been completely received from CACOVID where its operations are mainly domiciled in Lagos (the headquarters of most of the public-spirited organizations, corporate bodies, and individuals that came together to form CACOVID).

According to the NGF, some other states that still had palliatives in their warehouses chose to keep a strategic reserve ahead of a projected second wave of COVID-19 that is now official. The forum further noted that as of October 2020, a sizable portion of the items had been delivered but yet to be distributed to the governors. The Lagos State Government also elucidated on the whole events insisting that the distribution in the state had to be halted in view of the EndSARS protest. Some even accused Buhari of not doling out palliatives. When the fact presented itself, they shifted the blame to the different states and the question we are asking is what sense does it make that a government will dole out palliatives and still hoard it for no just reason?

On the question of lack of adequate anti-corruption legal frameworks and interference by politicians in the operation of law enforcement agencies, this is a fight we have seen the Buhari-led administration give its best shot. It has appointed candidates of public and civil service based on merit and refused to bow to the pressure of ethnic and religious politics in the choice of particular candidates. Politicians and political bigwigs have made several attempts to hijack the country’s security apparatus which the FG is not giving in to.

Just recently, reacting to the president’s appointment of new service chiefs, Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly Worldwide, OGA, was lobbying for an Igbo candidate for the of Inspector General of Police. The group was asking President Muhammadu Buhari to consider appointing an Igbo as the next IGP.

According to the group’s statement signed by its President General, Onuorah Onyeachonam, “As the Inspector General of Police is due for retirement and fast getting ready to exit the police apex position, we call on the APC-led Federal Government to consider an Igbo man for the position of the Inspector General of Police. If there is no Igbo man or woman qualified for the job of the IGP, promote the Igbo next in line in the Police Force to fit in.”

With such statements for an important sector like security, Nigerians are asking since when did the appointments of officers into public and civil become a matter of ethnicity as opposed to meritocracy? How and why should the FG promote an officer who is not qualified to fit in for an important role as IGP? These kind of statements from groups like Ohanaeze smacks of the corrupt practice of cronyism which the present administration has committed itself to fighting.

References have also been made to the indictment of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) acting managing director, Daniel Pondei, who fainted during probe into his case of mismanagement of funds. It is important to mention the president’s statements on that development:

“…I have made it clear to the National Assembly and our investigative and law enforcement agencies to pursue better coordination in their work, so that the shared goal of ensuring sanity, transparency and accountability of dedicated funds can be achieved.

“All investigating agencies and auditing firms currently working collaboratively with National Assembly Committees to audit and reposition the NDDC must act with urgency and a sense of purpose, and ensure that I am kept informed of any and all actions being taken.”

Former Pension boss, Abdulrasheed Maina, arraigned for N2bn money laundering fraud is a similar case for point. The fact that President Muhammadu Buhari asked that a panel be set up to probe Ibrahim Magu, while suspending the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) because of “serious allegations” against the anti-graft agency, is another upside of the Buhari-led administration which the CPI made reference to.

On the matter, the president said though there is corruption at many levels of government, and nearly every stratum of our society, “the stark reality of widespread corruption becomes poignant when allegations of corruption touches on the leadership of an institution set up by law to coordinate and enforce all economic and financial crimes”.

“It is an abomination that strikes at the root, and undermines the government’s anti-corruption programme,” he said.

”As a government, and in furtherance of our anti-corruption programme, we have since inception engaged in many reforms in removing corruption including but not limited to the enforcement of Treasury Single Account (TSA), strict implementation of the Bank Verification Number Policy and signing unto the Open Government Partnership. A lot of efforts have gone into building and development of our anti-corruption institutions.

”We have so far kept faith with our promise and shall remain committed until Nigeria triumphs over the evil of corruption, attain a prosperous economic status and surmounts her security challenges.”

But this in fact is what the CPI intends to show. Most Nigerians do not understand that Corruption Perception Index doesn’t measure the actual corruption in the country. It only measures the public opinion on corruption and more corrupt cases have been exposed so people naturally assume that the country is getting worse when it is in fact the opposite case.

They do not realize that the index is in many respects giving kudos to the government in fighting and exposing corruption.

Read Also: Corruption in Nigeria: Profile of a Political Economy

The corruption index is an indication that corrupt activities are making the headlines much more than before owing to more exposure engendered by the current administration that is committed to extracting this public menace from the fabrics of the Nigerian society. The number of corruption cases with the EFCC and in the courts is unprecedented in the history of this country. The number of EFCC prosecutions and convictions is also unprecedented in Nigeria’s political history.

By Peters Abodunrin

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