Nigeria’s Failing War Against Corruption

July 14, 2020
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What you can never take away from President Muhammadu Buhari is his

commitment to ridding the country of corruption. That is one of the

reasons why Nigerians overwhelmingly voted for him in 2015 to defeat

the government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The people

trusted that Buhari as president would tackle corruption head on.

Buhari has largely lived up to the billing.

No administration since 1999 has fought corruption frontally like as he has!

Even though the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related

Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes

Commission (EFCC) were set up by the Obasanjo PDP administration, it

is the Buhari administration

that has effectively used these anti-graft agencies to recover

unprecedented amounts of money stolen by present and past officials!

It is under this administration that three former state governors was

convicted of

corruption, even though one of the former governors is enjoying

temporary reprieve following the decision of the Supreme Court that

his trial should be done afresh due to some technicalities.

Buhari’s commitment to the war against corruption in Nigeria did not

go unnoticed by the international community. The African Union (AU)

based on his anti-corruption record appointed him the champion of the

war against corruption in the continent. African leaders at the 29th

African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, unanimously endorsed

President Muhammadu Buhari to champion the AU’s theme for 2018. The

theme for the 2018 annual summit of the organisation was “Winning the

Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s

Transformation.” The decision is in recognition of the Buhari

administration’s commitment to fighting corruption in Nigeria and

globally.

Recently President Muhammadu Buhari in his capacity as the champion of

the war against corruption in the continent urged African leaders to

ensure the immediate actualization of the Common African Position on

Assets Recovery (CAPAR), as the continent celebrates Anti-Corruption

Day, July 11, 2020. In a letter

to South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairman of African

Union, the Nigerian leader asked for a re-commitment to the anti-corruption war by leaders on the continent to engender an

“integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven  by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international

arena.” The President lamented that the “massive corruption being

perpetrated across our national government has created a huge

governance deficit that has in turn

created negative consequences that have worsened the socio-economic

and political situation in Africa.”

President Buhari’s commitment to the war against corruption cannot be

doubted. But not the same zeal or commitment is being shown by quite a

few of his appointees! It is saddening anytime those entrusted with

positions by President Buhari are found wanting in the discharge of

their responsibilities.

The successes previously recorded at the inception of his administration

is today being eroded by some of his appointees to the extent that

even those saddled with the responsibility of fighting corruption are

now struggling to disentangle themselves from allegations of corruption. There are now growing allegations that positions in civil service and all manners of

appointments in the country are sold to the highest bidder.

While the President may not be aware of this, but this is rampant in

the country and thus calls for more scrutiny by the President whenever

a list of potential appointees are submitted to him for approval. The

President should also be mindful of the kinds of people that are

appointed, as some of their antecedents are at cross-purposes with his

anti-corruption crusade.

The President may be doing his best in the war against corruption, but

the public perception is a different ball game entirely. Ordinary

Nigerians who seek for jobs in government ministries, agencies, and

departments and drivers who drive through check points have different

perceptions. Little wonder that Nigeria’s corruption perception index

by Transparency International (TI) is still high.

Despite Nigeria’s anti-corruption campaign, the country dropped from

144 in 2018 to 146 in 2019 on the annual corruption perception index

published by Transparency International. The report revealed that

Nigeria ranks 146 out of the 180 countries considered, behind Botswana

(34), Rwanda (51) and Mauritius (56) among other African nations. The

TI report which is based on corruption perception by ordinary

Nigerians is an indication that the country needs to do a lot more to

address the hydra headed monster that has crippled the country

economically and in all indices of development.

According to Transparency International, the 2019 Corruption

Perceptions Index (CPI) shows corruption is more pervasive in

countries where big money can flow freely into electoral campaigns and

where governments listen only to the voices of wealthy or well-connected individuals. Who will disagree with TI that corruption

is pervasive in our country where political positions are bought and

sold, whille  merit and capacity is treated with disdain?

Until we stop appointing people to positions based solely on their

financial contributions to the party and not due to their capacity and

integrity, we will continue to have challenges in ridding the country

of corruption.

What can the country do to extricate itself from the stranglehold of

corruption? Many countries have made significant progress in curbing

corruption, however practitioners are always on the lookout for

solutions and evidence of impact. There are ways that citizens and

governments can make progress in the fight against corruption.

Effective law enforcement is essential to ensure the corrupt are

punished and thus break the cycle of impunity. Successful enforcement

approaches are supported by a strong legal framework, law enforcement

and an independent and effective court system.

Reforms focusing on improving financial management and strengthening

the role of auditing agencies have in many countries achieved greater

impact than public sector reforms on curbing corruption. One such

reform is the disclosure of budget information, which prevents waste

and misappropriation of resources. Countries successful at curbing

corruption have a long tradition of government openness, freedom of

the press, transparency and access to information. Access to

information increases the responsiveness of government bodies, while simultaneously having a positive effect on the levels of public participation in a country.

Strengthening citizens’ demand for anti-corruption and empowering them

to hold government accountable is a sustainable approach that helps to

build mutual trust between citizens and government. For example,

community monitoring initiatives have in some cases contributed to the

detection of corruption, reduced leakages of funds, and improved the

quantity and quality of public services.

The bottom-line however is that it is not President Muhammadu Buhari

that will end corruption, he can only provide leadership, it is we the

ordinary people.

Therefore we must own the war against corruption. If we see something,

let us say something.

Aluta Continua!

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