By Obike Ukoh
Since the release of the 2020 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceived Index (CPI), in which Nigeria was placed 149 out of 180 countries, there had been mixed reactions on the correctness or otherwise of the rating.
Denmark is first in the transparency index table as the most transparent and least corrupt country, while Sudan ranked 180, as the most corrupt country.
Expectedly, the government challenged the rating as the country dropped from the 2019 rating, while other commentators expressed divergent views, but advised that the rating should be critically analysed.
Leading the pack, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, said the CPI did not reflect the great strides the country has recorded in the fight against corruption.
He said the implementation of the various reforms, especially in the Ease of Doing Business was expected to yield positive outcomes in the country’s corruption perception and other relevant assessments in the next 12 to 24 months.
“For instance, following the release of the 2019 TI-Corruption Perception Index, the government initiated reforms to improve on Nigeria’s Ease of Doing Business indices.
“This is because we found that up to 40 per cent of the country’s corruption perception survey indices relate to business processes and general public service delivery processes.
“Government’s swift action has led to major reforms in the processes at our ports and business process points,” he said.
Mohammed said in addition to placing more emphasis on corruption prevention measures and building of integrity systems, high profile corruption cases were currently under investigation and prosecution.
He said the emphasis on preventive mechanisms was in response to various local and international reviews and evaluation that Nigeria had gone through, including those from the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and even from the TI-CPI.
The information minister said that having analysed the 2020 TI-CPI rating for Nigeria, the Federal Government was interrogating a number of issues and discrepancies that had been observed in the rating processes.
“These included some data sources in which Nigeria’s scores have remained flat over the past 10 years, reflecting no improvement, decline or fluctuation.
“This is very improbable given the nature of behaviour of variables which are normally influenced by a variety of factors (which is the reason they are called ‘variables’).
“In this case, the corruption scores would have been affected by changes in the size and structure of the public sector over the past 10 years.
“Changes in policies and personnel and systems over the period, including for instance, process automation, etc.
“There is therefore, the need to verify that there is no transposition of figures from year to year due to absence of current data,” the minister said.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on his part, said the report was a reflection of corruption by Nigerians and not by the Buhari administration.
“ I will tell you that this one is a judgment on Nigerians because if you look at the indices they used at arriving at these conclusions; they used eight indices, six of which showed Nigeria as being more or less Nigeria in the same position.
“The two that they dwelled on, that caused this backslide, are essentially Nigerian problems. They’re talking about the political culture of this country, vote-buying, thuggery. Is it Buhari that is a thug? We’re not doing thuggery.
“And when they talked about the justice sector, they are talking about perceived corruption in the judiciary.
“These perceptions are essentially not correct. Yes, there are issues in that sector, but so many changes are going on in that sector, it would have been nice if they acknowledged it so that you encourage those judicial officers that are upright.”
The Director-General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Salihu Lukman, said the TI 2020 CPI was designed to influence electoral outcomes ahead of the 2023 general elections.
He described the 2020 CPI on Nigeria as a poor attempt at politicising the fight against corruption.
Lukman tasked TI to go beyond perception and expose actual corruption.
“It is a poor attempt to politicise the fight against corruption largely because it completely ignores all the empirical cases that should have provided objective indicators for the performance of the Nigerian government.
Beyond politics is also the funding reality, which has made Nigerian civil society groups to be very aggressive in legitimising the CPI 2020 report in Nigeria.
“The challenge to Nigerian civil society groups and patriots is really to rise above cheap smear campaigns based on perceptions and sentiments.
“ Corruption is not a theoretical issue. It is a very practical challenge. It is beyond the perception of anyone. Where perception is to be our guide, we should be able to confirm it with evidence of reality.
“If TI can conveniently rely on perception, any serious Nigerian organisation should be able to corroborate perception with empirical cases of corruption.
“If one is to interpret the Nigeria CPI 2020 report, the conclusion is that the current government of APC under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has lost the fight against corruption.
“ For us to be able to fight corruption, based on the ‘perception by Nigerian businesses and country experts’, there has to be a change of government.
“This is the underlying narrative in the CPI report. It is basically more of a political campaign, if you like for 2023. Nigerians, including local leaders of civil society groups and their international partners are free to make their political choices and decisions.
“But they should be transparent about it. It mustn’t be a case of shadowboxing Nigerian citizens and forcing them to kowtow political choices fraudulently contrived because Nigerian citizens are committed to the fight against corruption!”
Lukman said that the claim of lack of adequate anti-corruption legal frameworks was outrightly false in today’s Nigeria.
“It will appear that this is most likely reproduced from old reports of CPI before all the anti-corruption laws that led to emergence of EFCC, ICPC, etc.”
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), an NGO, on its part, called on the Federal Government and other stakeholders to constructively scrutinise the 2020 CPI.
Mr Auwal Musa-Rafsanjani, the Executive Director of CISLAC, also cautioned against playing politics with the report.
He echoed what Garba Shehu said that the report was a reflection of corruption by Nigerians and not by the Buhari administration.
Musa-Rafsanjani said that it was ironic to witness statements by opposition political parties referencing the 2020 CPI as evidence of corruption in the current government and politically and egoistically misusing the national failure to address corruption.
“No single political party is responsible for the miserable state of affairs today.
“It is a collective responsibility of the political establishment and leadership that transcends all political parties and indeed the Nigerian elite.’’
Musa-Rafsanjani stressed that it would be politically dangerous to dismiss the results without reflecting constructively on the drivers behind ranking.
According to him, many multinational companies consider the CPI ranking when deciding where to invest.
“Governments around the globe include the CPI results in their political-economy analysis when deciding how to engage a particular country in terms of investments, development cooperation or diplomatic ties,’’ the CISLAC boss said.
He suggested an analytical approach to problem solving in specific governance areas.
In the same vein, some lecturers at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), expressed divergent views on the rating.
Prof. Jonah Onuoha, the Head, Department of Political Science, who spoke on the issue, said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had done a lot to tackle corruption since he assumed office in 2015.
“If corruption is the only factor transparency used in its assessment and ranking, the present government has done well in the fight against corruption since Buhari assumed office in 2015.
“It will be unfair to list Nigeria among the most corrupt nations of the world,” he said.
Prof. Aloysius Okolie, also of the Department of Political Science, on his part, urged the government to put serious structure on ground to fight corruption.
He said the fight against corruption should not be used as guise to clamp-down on opposition political parties.
Okolie noted that the level of poverty and unemployment in the country had made people to do all sort of things in order to survive.
“In the fight against corruption, adequate structures must be put in place and anybody found corrupt should be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
Dr Ifeanyichukwu Abada, immediate past Head of Department of Political Science, who also spoke on the issue, attributed the low rating, to poor framework in the fight against corruption.
“The ease of doing business in the country is expensive coupled with high level of insecurity, this has scared many local and foreign investors from investing in Nigeria.’’
He said that Nigeria would join the league of least corrupt nations if our leaders “should have zero tolerance for corruption, impunity, nepotism, as well as abuse of fundamental human rights of citizens”.
Unarguably, the TI 2020 CPI rating is a human document. As canvassed by stakeholders, it should be constructively scrutinised, as no particular organisation, political party is to be blamed for the inherent failings pointed out in the report. (NANFeatures)