Nigeria’s worsening corruption index
The ranking by the global anti-corruption coalition, Transparency International (TI) of Nigeria as a country in which corruption phenomenon is worsening should not present a surprise to keen watchers and followers of events in the country.
The high economic and social instability pervading the polity surely are patent proofs that all is not well, as most of the situations bloom from corrupt practices.
Indeed, the persistent refusal of governments at all levels to prune spending, avoid wasteful expenditure and focus only on projects of value to the greatest number have been attributed to corruption. The result is the very poor state of the country in all ramifications.
In its 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released recently, Nigeria is ranked as the second most corrupt nation in West Africa. The country dropped five places and scored 24 out of 100 points in the index. Her current 154 ranking in 180 countries is a drop from 149 in the 2020 index. This country’s second consecutive year of a downward spiral on the CPI ranking is most unwholesome. Nigeria’s score dropped from 26 in 2019 to 25 in 2020 and further downwards to 24 in 2021. This is coming after President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed fight against graft as the lodestar of his administration.
The CPI is TI’s tool for measuring corruption levels in countries around the world. Zero is the measure of the worst country while 100 is for the best-ranked country. The organisation’s representative in Nigeria said, during the presentation of the report, that Nigeria’s decline made corruption the greatest contributor to underdevelopment in Nigeria. Despite the boasts by the Nigerian government on fighting corruption, many public service endeavours are still filled with corrupt tendencies as officials in charge still demand kickbacks while rendering their services.
Rising insecurity, ethnic cleansing and unemployment are still blamed on corruption. Moreover, systemic failure in healthcare delivery during this pandemic and leadership failure has been found to be engendered by corrupt practice. The CPI is widely known to be impartial, scientifically objective and recognised as the most accepted parameter for measuring corruption.
Clearly, the report shows corruption is still a major challenge in Nigeria. Corruption is hindering the country’s development, economic prosperity and it is responsible for deepening poverty in Nigeria. Corruption is destroying the country; insecurity persists because of corruption. Nepotism, a phenomenon that has gained greater traction in this Buhari era, is corruption. It is noteworthy that Buhari doesn’t see nepotism as corruption too. This is a grave error of the country’s value system.
The practice of alienating other ethnic groups from key leadership positions in the police, the military and the civil service amounts to a failure to observe federal character in the recruitment of personnel in the public service of the federation. Failure to appropriately remit revenue gathered by ministries, departments and agencies to the federation account is also corruption. Failure to punish corrupt officials or subject them to judicial prosecution is also corruption; just as duplication and padding of budgets by public servants are acts of corruption.
Apparently too, the anti-corruption campaign has been politicised such that it is seen as selective, against only those considered to be in opposition. People indicted for corruption, who joined the ruling party seemingly had their prosecution stalled. Moreover, some suspected corruption cases are covered up by slow and inefficient justice machinery. For instance, the prosecution of Buhari’s first Secretary to the Government of the Federation has been going on for more than three years now. The case of corruption against Jonathan’s National Security Adviser is still pending in court six years after. Many other cases are being investigated for eternity. Government’s failure to punish avowed culprits is an act of corruption.
How to stop corruption should be a key question for Buhari’s successor, given the present administration’s low score on the issue. When governors see state money in their care as their money, it becomes difficult to check corruption. That is why the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has become a haven for corruption. The same goes for the NNPC; behind the clamour for and against the removal of petroleum, the subsidy is corruption. It is corruption that has kept the refineries with the government despite their lack of functionality. The Federal Government has no business keeping refineries. It would seem the refineries are only being used to siphon the government’s funds into private pockets.
It is a sad commentary about a country called the giant of Africa. Corruption appears in many forms. It has been identified as bribery, extortion, illegal use of the public property for private use. Over and under-invoicing, payment to ghost workers and pensioners; payment for goods not supplied or services not rendered, underpayments of exports and imports have been categorised as corruption. Other forms of corruption are purchase of goods at inflated prices, fraud and embezzlement; misappropriation of funds and assets; court decisions awarding damages in excess of injury suffered.
In Nigeria today, corruption is retarding long-term growth, as well as foreign and domestic investment. It contributes to capital flight, promotes runaway inflation and the depreciation of the national currency. Since government has made corruption endemic, only a visionary leader can stem it. President Muhammadu Buhari should strive to improve his government’s record of corruption if he wants to be seen as visionary. Corruption makes Nigeria vulnerable to secession and disintegration. The earlier government tames it the more stable will the country be.
All anti-graft agencies should investigate allegations of corruption levelled against politicians, public office holders and civil servants thoroughly and conscientiously, so as to leave no loophole for escape during prosecution. Justice delayed is justice denied. The National Assembly should also fast track the passage of relevant laws-amending statutes to strengthen the anti-graft agencies.