By Angela Atabo
#TRackNigeria: The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC),a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) on Tuesday urged Federal Government to strengthen anti-graft agencies and provide protection for whistle blowers to deepen its fight against corruption.
Executive Director, CISLAC, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani while briefing newsmen on Nigeria’s perception as a corrupt nation said the action would go a long way in helping the country fight corruption and change the negative perception about it.
Rafsanjani said latest figures by Transparency International revealed that Nigeria scored only 27 out of 100 points in 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) maintaining its scores in the 2017 rating.
He said in the rating Nigeria ranked 144th out of 180 countries, as compared to its 148th position in 2017.
Rafsanjani said although the ranking showed that Nigeria moved up four places, it only meant that four other countries have scored worse while Nigeria stagnated.
He said public participation and active reporting of corruption cases is seriously being hindered by absence of Whistle blower Protection Act that would ensure protection of Whistle blowers from dismissal, suspension, harassment, discrimination or intimidation.
He said no country can make progress without insider reportage on corruption abuses.
“CISLAC notes that lack of progress in the fight against corruption as indicated in the 2018 edition of the CPI is a consequence of partial or non-implementation of recommendations issued by corruption experts and activists.
“There were recommendations that accompanied the launch of the CPI in 2017, one of which was the immediate appointment and prompt inauguration of the National Procurement Council (NPC) as provided in the Public Procurement Act.
“In 2018, the Permanent Secretary, at the Open Government Week 2018, responded to questions of when the NPC will be inaugurated by stating that the council has in fact been constituted and its inauguration will be done very soon.
“Regrettably, CISLAC in spite of noticeable corruption in procurement which is responsible for around 70 per cent of the aggregated corruption in public administration, the NPC has still not been inaugurated,’’ he said.
Rafsanjani said another recommendation urged the federal government and the legislature to strengthen anti-corruption institutions and provide adequate protection and encouragement for whistle blowers.
He said the confirmation of 60 nominees for leadership positions across institutions vital to fighting corruption continued to suffer delay, which he said had continued to undermine governance and complicate the anti corruption fight.
He said 14 commitments were made as part of the Open Government Partnership effort adding that while progress had been made in some cases, majority of the 14 commitments were unfulfilled.
Rafsanjani said the introduction of beneficial ownership of companies is needed to know the extent of suspected ownership by politicians and civil servants of oil and gas companies, construction businesses and other public contracts.
He added that money-laundering crimes and tax evasion needed to be more stringently investigated and prosecuted by competent agencies in line with Financial Action Task Force Standards.
He said frivolous and fraudulent tax wavers to multinational and Nigerian companies, especially in high net revenue sectors such as oil and gas, communications and construction needed to be stopped.
“If Nigerian democracy and governance is to be preserved, the origin of huge assets of Nigerian real owners need be disclosed and, in case of PEPs, military and non-military personnel, religious leaders and other public figures, diligently explained to Nigerians.
“Many low anti-corruption performing countries have several commonalities, including weak political rights, limited press freedoms and a weak rule of law.
“In these countries, laws often go unenforced and institutions are poorly resourced with little ability to handle corruption complaints, In addition, internal conflict and unstable governance structures contribute to high rates of corruption, ’’he said.
Rafsanjani recommended the strengthening of institutions responsible for maintaining checks and balances over political power, and ensuring their ability to operate without intimidation.
He said there was need to close the implementation gap between anti-corruption legislation, practice and enforcement.
He also called for support from civil society organisations to enhance political engagement and public oversight over government’s spending, particularly at states and local levels.
He called for support for a free and independent media, ensuring safety of journalists and their ability to work without intimidation or harassment.
He further urged political parties and their candidates to resist misuse of CPI results for advancing individual or party agenda.(NAN)
By Angela Atabo