A recent report published by Transparency International (TI), a global corruption watchdog, shows that corruption worsened in Nigeria in 2017. According to the 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Nigeria which scored 27 ranked 148 out of the 180 countries assessed in 2017; meaning that it was only better than 32 out of the 180 countries. In 2016, Nigeria comparatively ranked better when it scored 28 and took 136th position among the 176 countries evaluated for that year; meaning that Nigeria was in 2016 better than 40 other nations. The one-point reduction in Nigeria’s score slipped the country down by 12 positions; from 136th in 2016 to 148th in 2017.
CPI ranking relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as experienced by business people and analysts; using a scale that ranges between 0 (highly corrupt) and 100 (very clean). CPI is one of the most respected international measurements for corruption trends across all continents. It was established in 1995 as a composite indicator used for measuring perceptions of corruption in the public sector in different countries around the world. CPI is computed by the TI Secretariat in Germany and is published in Nigeria by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
For the year 2017, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50; with an average of 43. New Zealand and Denmark ranked highest; scoring 89 and 88 respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia ranked lowest; scoring 14, 12 and 9 respectively. On the African continent, while Botswana led with a score of 61and came 34th, Nigeria’s place is 32 out of the 52 African countries assessed in 2017. In the West African sub-region, Nigeria is the second worst country out of the 17 West African countries assessed; better only than Guinea Bisau, which took 171th position with a score of 17. Nigeria’s neighbours including Niger and Gabon ranked better as they came 112th with 33 points and 117th with 32 points respectively.
Nigeria has consistently maintained low ranking on the CPI due to its persistent poor performance since it was first ranked in 1996. The country for example, scored 26, 27, 25 and 27 respectively in 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2912. This set of statistics only confirms that the incidence of corruption never went down significantly under any regime in the past including the years succeeding the creation of the ICPC and the EFCC in 2000 and 2003 respectively.
Further analysis of the 2017 report indicates that countries with the least protection for press and non-governmental organization (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rate of corruption. The analysis which incorporates data from the Committee to Protect Journalists shows that in the last six years, 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that scored 45 or less on the index.
Reacting to TI’s report, the presidency in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President Malam Garba Shehu, said the assessment which reveals that corruption is getting worse under President Muhammadu Buhari “would be incredible to anyone who knew where Nigeria was coming from”; describing the report as “very misleading’ in its appraisal of the federal government’s anti-corruption crusade. On his part, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who spoke through the Deputy Chief of Staff Ade Ipaye, welcomed the report as a catalyst for Nigeria to do better in its fight against corruption.
Vice President’s standpoint is a more apt position. Rather than dismiss the report, government has a responsibility to study details of the report and use it to identify its own operational weaknesses with a view to improving upon them. Government should be concerned not only about its citizens’ perception of corruption but also about other peoples’ perception of corruption in Nigeria.
To play a leading role in the African Union (AU)’s initiative which recently declared 2018 at its 30 Assembly of Heads of States and Government as the “African Anti-Corruption Year”, Nigeria needs to re-examine its approach to the fight against corruption. Specifically, the EFCC must improve upon its investigative and prosecution skills in order to secure as many convictions as possible.
The media must be recognized as vital to combatting corruption. Government is therefore encouraged to promote laws that focus on access to information. This access would essentially help to enhance transparency and accountability while at the same time reducing opportunities for corruption.