Nigeria’s Phenomenal Corruption Advancements

February 3, 2022
Phenomenal Corruption

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

At the run-up to the general elections in March 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari campaigned on the platform of addressing the challenges of security, the economy, power, and infrastructure and fighting corruption, Nigerians on their part, concluded but hastily that the coming of President Buhari would sincerely announce the arrival of a brand new great nation where peace, love security and development shall reign supreme.

Nigerians were particularly happy when Mr President underlined that, removing the cancer of corruption from the system is the key not only to restoring the moral health of the nation but also to freeing our enormous resources for urgent socio-economic development.

However, looking at the present instinct in the country, particularly the recent report by the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), a flagship research product which measures the glimpse of perceived corruption in the public sector of surveyed countries, which ranked Nigeria 154 out of the 180 countries in its latest CPI report for the year 2021, it is not only a monument betrayal of trust of millions of Nigerians who defied all odds to vote him into power and disappointment on the part of President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government.

Rather, the situation explains two things; first, it exposed Mr President consistent lack of political will to fight corruption in the country, Secondly, it more than anything else, explains why the country’s economy manifests incurable inability to sustain any kind of meaningful growth that promotes the social welfare of the people.

Indeed, while Nigerians groan under this present reality, some commentators with peripheral mind-set argue that corruption has been a human problem that existed in some forms that predate the present administration. Particularly as its fights in Nigeria evidently dates back to colonial governments as they (Colonial Overlords) sufficiently legislated against it in the first criminal code ordinance of 1916(No15 of 1916) which elaborately made provisions prohibiting official bribery and corruption by persons in the public service and in the judiciary. Also at independence on October 1, 1960, the criminal code against corruption and abuse of office in Nigeria was in sections 98 to 116 and 404 of the code, they concluded.

The above claim looks good in theory but may not hold water in the present circumstance looking at the statement that accompanied the Transparency International report.

In fact, going by the report, it is obvious that if corruption that took place in Nigeria under past administrations were a challenge, what is happening under the present administration is in my view, not only systematic and sustained but has morphed from bad to worse.

Let’s follow the logic as Transparency International’s reports reveal something shocking, new and different.

It says; out of the 180 countries that were surveyed worldwide in 2019, the result saw Nigeria slip from 144th to 146th on the pecking order fell by 26 points, a minus of one when compared to its score in 2018 and ranked 32 out of 49 countries in the sub-region. The report shows that its score of 26 is way below the global average of 43 and the 2019 average score of 32 for the sub-Saharan Africa region.

Comparatively, in the latest report released, TI acknowledged ’that Nigeria has dropped five places in the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) index, according to Transparency International (TI). Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points in the 2021 index. Nigeria’s current 154 ranking out of 180 countries in the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index is a drop of 149 in the 2020 index.

According to TI, two-thirds of countries score below 50, indicating that they have serious corruption problems, while 27 countries are at their lowest score ever. ‘Of the poor performing countries, Nigeria featured prominently scoring 24 out of a possible 100 points and ranking an abysmal 154 out of the 180 countries ranked-a score that has been described as a historic low.

The report added that while countries like Kenya which was in the same bracket score with Nigeria in 2016 have progressively improved in its CPI index raking, Nigeria has progressively declined. While Kenya scored 26 points in 2016, it has currently moved up to 30 points in 2021, Nigeria on the other hand has moved from 28 points in 2016 to 24 in 2021. Compared to Ghana which has remained relatively stable at 43 points, Nigeria has continued to lag behind on the CPI and found company among countries such as Myanmar, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan and Guatemala,’ TI report stated.

Personally, this report aside from presenting the President as one that started off with high moral standards, strong conviction and determination to beat down corruption but has neither lived up to that good intention nor dealt with all transgressors without exception, it is now crystal clear that corruption has become even more entrenched as scandal upon scandal has completely laid bare the anti-corruption stance of this administration and those who were initially deceived by the present government’s alleged fight against corruption has come to the conclusion that nothing has changed.

This situation is even made worse when one remembers that the list of actions not taken by this administration to confront corruption which has made Nigerians face actual and potential difficulties remains lengthy and worrisome. Chiefly among these is Mr President’s failure to objectively make corruption fight a personal priority for him or those who report directly to him.

Without any shadow of the doubt, this has fittingly presented the President as one that started off with high moral standards, strong conviction and determination to beat down corruption but has neither lived up to that good intention nor dealt with all transgressors without exception.

To change this narrative, this time is auspicious for Nigerians to cease heaping blame on Transparency International (TI) for their report. Rather, Mr President must be ready to come up with frameworks that will ensure every naira in revenue will be properly accounted for and would reach the beneficiaries at the grassroots. To achieve this, special attention must be given to the areas where discretionary powers have been exploited for personal gain and sharpened the instrument that could prevent, detect, or deter such practices.

The second important action expected of the government if the nation is to make appreciable progress in curbing corruption is to rework the nation’s electoral system which is considered brazenly expensive. We must not forget that internationally, a precondition for an honest government is that candidate must not need large sums to get elected, or it must trigger off the circle of corruption. Having spent a lot of money to get elected, winners must recover their costs and possibly accumulate funds for the next election as the system is self-perpetuating.

The government at all levels must recognize, and position Nigeria to be a society of equal citizens where opportunities are equal and personal contribution is recognized and rewarded on merit regardless of language, culture, religion or political affiliations.

Above all, to completely stamp out corruption on our political shores, Nigeria and Nigerians must continue to view the scourge from AL-Gore’s, a former Vice President of the United States perspective.

A phenomenon he says that destroys and breaks that trust which is absolutely essential for the delicate alchemy at the heart of representative democracy. In its contemporary form, corruption almost always involves an incestuous coupling of power and money and describes the exchange of money for the misuse of public power.

It matters not whether the exchange is initiated by the person with the money or the person with the power; it is the exchange itself that is the essence of the corruption. It matters not if the private enrichment is with cash or with its equivalent in influence, prestige, status, or power; the harm is done by the fraudulent substitution of wealth for reason in the determination of how the power is used.  It matters not if the purchase of power is seen as beneficial by some or even by many; it is the dishonesty of the transaction that carries the poison”.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374.

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