…What should be done to improve it
The 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released globally by Transparency International (TI) recently has shown that Nigeria yet again, records a decline in the CPI in 2020.
In the report published exclusively in Nigeria by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the National Chapter of TI, the index reveals that Nigeria scored 25 out of 100 points in the 2020 CPI, falling back by one point compared to last year. In the country comparison for this year, Nigeria ranks 149 out of 183 countries -three places down compared to 2019 results.
The CPI aggregates data from 8 (eight) different sources that provide perceptions by Nigeria’s business community and country experts on the level of corruption in the public sector. While the index does not show specific incidences of corruption, it is an indication of the perception of the Nigerian public about the state of corruption in the country. The index is completely impartial, objective and globally well respected.
This result is coming at the heels of numerous challenges facing the country ranging from the Covid-19 pandemic, insecurity, high unemployment and a sharp increase in government borrowing amongst others.
While releasing its report on “Rising to the Challenge: Nigeria’s COVID Response” in December 2020 the World Bank warned that “In the next three years, an average Nigerian could see a reversal of decades of economic growth and the country could enter its deepest recession since the 1980s.” According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) which is an independent think tank organization, Nigeria witnessed a total of 2,860 kidnappings in 2020 which was up from 1,386 in 2019. The picture is further gloomy when taking into consideration the Unemployment Data for the second quarter of 2020 released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This survey by the NBS which is the government’s statistical agency shows that one in two Nigerian is either unemployed (27.1%) or underemployed (28.6%). Each of these challenges can be linked to corruption and mismanagement of public resources, which further exacerbates the economic and health impact of the terrible global pandemic.
Nigeria’s CPI score is just another reminder of the need for a fast, transparent, and robust response to the challenges posed by corruption to Nigeria. It is worrying that despite the numerous efforts by state actors on the war against corruption, Nigeria is still perceived by citizens and members of the international community as being corrupt. CISLAC/TI is forced to ask why the results do not commensurate with the efforts?
Although CISLAC and Nigerian partners do not collect the CPI data as this is done by independent, reputable organizations, we and other well-meaning citizens have experienced push-back from various governments and their supporters when the CPI results and other indices turn unfavorable. Some of these pushbacks include labelling us “unpatriotic citizens”. In some instances, physical attacks were experienced.
Going forward, we use this medium to call on the government and her supporters to examine the drivers behind Nigeria’s deteriorating anti-corruption image and consider actions, which will tackle systemic corruption. We guarantee that the perception will improve in the short term. As law-abiding citizens, CISLAC/TI and other partner organizations are willing to work with state and non-state actors on how to collectively improve Nigeria’s fight against corruption as we have always done in the past.
CISLAC/TI and partners suspect a list of key weaknesses to explain why Nigeria may not have improved in the fight against corruption. Although there is a various extent of the below-mentioned factors on the unfavourable ranking this year, we feel that these areas require immediate improvement for the sake of the well-being of ordinary Nigerians:
Weakness 1: Absence of transparency in the COVID-19 pandemic response
With the COVID-19 pandemic out of Nigeria’s responsibility, there has been a lack of transparency in the emergency response of the government. Coupled with the gap in coordination, the process has been fraught by the incessant flouting of procurement guidelines, hoarding of relief materials and diversion of these materials which are then used as personal souvenirs presented to political party loyalists and close associates. We find it disturbing that in some cases, supplies donated by a group of well-meaning Nigerian business persons, corporate entities, development partners and others under the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) were left inexplicably undistributed, and in some cases rotten, by the federal and state governments. While these occurrences are not specific to Nigeria, citizens are yet to see concrete action by the anti-graft agencies on these issues.
Weakness 2: Nepotism in public service appointments and promotions
In the past year, we witnessed nepotism and favouritism in the appointment and promotion of some public officers. For example, all Nigerians remember the controversy which trailed the decision of the National Judicial Council (NJC) when at least 8 (eight) of the 33 judges recommended for appointment by the NJC were either children or relatives of current or retired Justices of the Supreme or Appeal Courts. The Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in itself is not an exception with allegations of individuals promoted based on their relationship and other affiliations as against merit and other criteria stated in the rule books. Reports around the commercialization of employment into various institutions including admission into various tertiary educational institutions put the nation in a bad light. The extortion for the acquisition of services like healthcare, passports renewal and obtaining of visas creates a negative perception of corruption in Nigeria.
Weakness 3: Lack of adequate anti-corruption legal frameworks and interference by politicians in the operation of law enforcement agencies.
CISLAC/TI is not oblivious of some successes recorded by the Nigerian government such as the Transparency portal managed and implemented by the Office of the Auditor-General. These activities have the potential to bring corruption and wastefulness of the government agencies at all levels to the end. We fully support this initiative.
Important anti-corruption legislation such as the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA, 2020) and the Police Act 2020 undeniably signal move in the right direction. However, more needs to be done to enact legislation and implement it.
The repeated failure to enact the Proceeds of Crime Act as a legal framework for the management and utilization of recovered assets in Nigeria which is one of the key pillars of this administration’s anti-corruption strategy is inexplicable! There is still a lack of accountability in some quarters of government, especially in terms of beneficial owners of lucrative government contracts. Out of millions of corrupt transactions experienced annually, only a few hundreds of offenders are investigated, let alone convicted on corruption charges.
The current scenario where different institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Code of Conduct Bureau, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency the Nigerian Police and other agencies overlap with mandates and lack synergy is not sustainable and have proven to be leeway to corruption. The infighting and politicizing of the anti-corruption agenda may be evident by the way of suspending the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mr. Ibrahim Magu. The accusation that he failed to give a proper account of assets recovered by his agency is questionably provided no clear legal and policy asset recovery framework exists. CISLAC/TI will like to point out that the theatric handling of the suspension of Mr Magu could have been done better and this greatly contributes to the negative image of Nigeria’s anti-corruption campaign. The absence of a Whistle Blower Protection Legislation leaves Nigerian anti-corruption agencies deprived of key insider intelligence without which an anti-corruption crusade is a mission impossible.
Weakness 4: Prevalence of bribery and extortion in the Nigerian Police
The year 2020 witnessed the #EndSARS protests which saw young people across the nation demanding an end to police brutality and corruption. A factor that led to this protest was widespread bribery and extortion by law enforcement officials especially the police. The first and second national corruption surveys conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with the government’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and released in 2017 and 2019 both showed the Nigerian Police is the institution with the highest prevalence of bribery amongst the institutions measured. While there have been commendable efforts by the Police Complaints Response Unit (CRU) in reducing police abuses, there is a need to scale up the efforts of the unit to meet the demands of citizens as contained in the Police Act 2020.
Weakness 5: Security sector corruption
From violent extremism and insurgency to piracy, kidnapping for ransom, attacks on oil infrastructure, drug trafficking, and organized crime, Nigeria faces a host of complex security challenges. These threats typically involve irregular forces and are largely societally based. They are most prevalent and persistent in marginalized areas where communities feel high levels of distrust toward the government—often built up over many years. At their root, these security challenges are symptoms of larger failures in governance.
As many of Nigeria’s security threats are domestic in nature, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is often the primary security interface with the public. However, low levels of public trust in the police inhibit the cooperation needed to be effective against these societally based threats.
Nigeria’s security system is also perceived to be politicized. Leaders are often appointed based on their political allegiances rather than on their experience or capabilities in law enforcement. As a result, the quality of leadership at the helm of affairs suffers. Appointees under such circumstances feel loyalty to their political patron rather than to their institutions or citizens. How and to whom the law is applied is not consistent. Norms of professionalism and ethics are weakened.
The problem of non-meritocratic leadership is exacerbated by a command-and-control structure that is opaque, centralized, and often chaotic. security leaders who have not earned their position lose the respect of their colleagues, who are then more likely to abandon a unit when facing an armed threat. Insufficient understanding or commitment to effectiveness among a force’s leadership often results in the neglect of training. Problems of police engagement with communities are thus perpetuated.
The continuous opaqueness in the utilization of security votes contributes to corruption perception in the country and this process must be reformed especially when we have security agencies living and working in very poor conditions. Multiple reports of police officers protesting non-payment of allowances for election duties are now seen. The result of this is the widespread kidnappings, banditry and terrorism ravaging different parts of the country.
Having itemized the key weaknesses that resulted in Nigeria’s decline of the CPI 2020, members of CISLAC/TI and other civil society organisations of like minds understand that as patriotic citizens it is our duty to criticize constructively.
To this effect, we will like to advise the government to implement these recommendations:
- Transparency in the utilization of covid-19 relief funds by state and non-state actors must be ensured. The National Assembly and relevant anti-graft agencies must follow up cases of corruption in the covid-19 response process and reports from the Auditor General’s office. The office of the Auditor-General should also be strengthened to carry out an audit of the COVID-19 relief process.
- Public servants should be appointed, appraised and promoted on merit to reduce the level of nepotism and favouritism. Lop-sidedness in appointments increases the perception of corruption of the due process.
- The National Assembly should speed up the deliberation and passage of relevant anti-corruption related laws or amendments to strengthen the anti-corruption efforts in the interest of Nigerians. The presidency should assent these laws once they are passed while taking into consideration the best interest of citizens.
- The government should commit to police reform by ensuring the full implementation of the Police Act 2020, support the ongoing judicial panels of enquiries and prioritize the welfare of the personnel of the Nigerian Police.
- The government should put in place a transparent monitoring framework for Security votes. The government should also ensure that these funds are channelled to security and defence agencies.
- The Federal Government should urgently constitute the National Council on Public Procurement (NCPP) to actively coordinate the activities of the Bureau of Public Procurement and give full effect to the Public Procurement Act 2007.
- The government must ensure democratic and free civic space for engagement with the citizenry and the media.
- We call on revenue-generating agencies like the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the National Ports Authority, and the Nigerian Customs Service to ensure that they improve efforts to curb extortion and bribery among their officials.
- There is also a need to operationalize the anti-corruption strategy to ensure that anti-corruption efforts are not concentrated at the federal level alone. Also, other arms of government need to be involved in the fight against corruption. It shouldn’t be left alone to the executive alone.
Source: The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/ Transparency International Nigeria.
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)