Corruption: TI’s rating of Nigeria
THE recently released report by Transparency International (TI) on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) placed Nigeria in the 136th position out of the 175 countries and territories covered in the report. TI carries out surveys that culminate in this report annually and ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. By TI’s verdict on Nigeria, the country has remained on the same spot for two years running. Indeed, Nigeria has remained stuck within the same range since 2012 without appreciable progress. It would appear that the malaise is so embedded in the psyche of many Nigerians that it may never leave Nigeria or yield ground to fidelity.It is rather agonising that corruption is so pervasive that virtually everyone in all facets of the Nigerian life is involved. However, the fact that TI’s report reflects the perception of corruption in the public sector alone is a serious indictment on the current political leadership’s anti-corruption campaign which is evidently more pronounced in the public sector. The implication is that despite the cacophony around the anti-graft war and the attendant media hype, nothing has been achieved in real terms, at least in the eyes of the international community. This is by no means a good scorecard for the President Muhammadu Buhari administration which fought and won election to pursue three broad agenda: corruption, security and economy. That Nigeria scored 26 points out of the 100 points obtainable suggests that the government’s anti-corruption strategy is inadequate or defective and needs to be retooled. The government really needs to brace up to the onerous challenge and work harder towards reducing corruption in the land.
Admittedly, more countries of the world actually declined on the CPI this year. This development partly reflects the economic hardship in many countries and more importantly the heightened and obscene inequalities in the distribution of resources across the regions of the world and within social classes in sovereign states. For instance, a UK-based charity, Oxfam, revealed recently that the eight richest men in the world are as wealthy as the poorest half of humanity! There is a sense in which corruption and inequality feed off each other. Nonetheless, if much smaller economies like Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe improved within the same period, there can be no tenable excuse for Nigeria not to improve, especially when anti-corruption war is a cardinal programme of the government.
Nigeria’s dismal placement on the CPI table is embarrassing but not really surprising because it reflects the reality that many Nigerians are conversant with. For instance, the brazen manner in which policemen extort money from motorists on the streets and on the highways has yet to change and the story is hardly different in other government agencies. Even the private sector is no better, though TI’s report focused on the public sector. Many operators in the private sector are as dishonest as their counterparts in the public sector. For example, many artisans and even some professionals engage in a myriad of dishonest acts to cheat their employers: they inflate quotations, use substandard materials in place of premium items in their quotations, and deliver shoddy jobs but expect to be paid the fees for premium services. This is the sordid reality that has made corruption a way of life in Nigeria.
Sadly, there is pervasive moral decadence and the value system has changed very rapidly under all kinds of influences. The character assets of hard work, integrity and honesty have virtually disappeared. Thus, overnight millionaires, who used to be treated with apathy and isolation in the past, are today enthusiastically embraced with open arms and feted in the society. There must be deliberate efforts at moral re-armament and a paradigm shift in the value system to yield ground to decency and honest living.
The Buhari administration must work hard to improve on Nigeria’s CPI. Investigating, arresting and bringing suspected looters of public assets to justice should be intensified without brooking sacred cows. In this connection, the Presidency is urged to handle with more tact, the allegations of corruption involving Ibrahim Magu, the acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Babachir Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Rather than dismissing the allegations on the altar of alleged procedural breaches and technicalities, a thorough and independent investigation should be launched to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the allegations.
More importantly, in addition to encouraging whistle-blowers and instituting a reward system for them, more energy and resources, including technology, should be deployed to fine-tune the procedures, processes and systems that will make it virtually impossible for civil and public servants to tamper with public assets. Just like other challenges of life, preventing corruption from happening will be cheaper and more effective than applying postmortem therapeutic measures that have yet to help the country’s CPI substantially.