By Chimezie Godfrey
The 2020 Corruption Perception Index(CPI) has revealed that Nigeria scored 25 out of 100 points falling back by one point compared to compared to 2019.
This was disclosed by the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Head Transparency International (TI), Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani during the launch of the 2020 CPI on Thursday in Abuja.
Rafsanjani said,”The 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released globally by Transparency International (TI) today shows that Nigeria yet again, records a decline in the CPI in 2020.
“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.”
Rasanjani stressed that the 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?
“Despite the fact that CISLAC and Nigerian partners do not collect the CPI data as this is done by independent, reputable organisations, we and other well-meaning citizens have experienced push-back from various governments and their supporters when the CPI results and other indices turn unfavourable.
“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,” he said.
Speaking during the event, a representative of BudgIT, Mr Tolutope Agunloye said that CISLAC/TI and partners suspected a list of key weaknesses to explain why Nigeria may not have improved in the fight against corruption.
He noted that 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 well-being of ordinary Nigerians.”
He mentioned that the weakness include, absence of transparency in the COVID-19 pandemic response, nepotism in the public service appointments and promotions, lack of adequate anti corruption legal framework and interference by politicians in the operations of law enforcement agencies, security sector corruption and prevalence of bribery and extortion in the Nigerian police.
“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 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,” he said.
Agunloye who said important anti-corruption legislations such as the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA, 2020) and the Police Act 2020 undeniably signal move in the right direction, however, stressed that more needs to be done to enact legislation and implementation.
Also speaking, The Program Manager, CISLAC, Salaudeen Hashim, stressed that 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 their duty to criticize constructively.
He said,”To this effect, we will like to advice the government to implement these recommendations:
“Transparency in the utilization of covid-19 relief funds by state and non-state actors must be ensured.
“TheNational 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 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 to 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 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 citizenry and the media.”
They called 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.
They stressed that there also a need to operationalize the anti-corruption strategy to ensure that anti-corruption efforts are not concentrated at the federal level alone.
The CSOs stressed that other arms of government need to be involved in the fight against corruption, adding that It shouldn’t be left alone to the executive alone.