• EFCC, Malami, PDP, others disagree on graft index
• Nation behind South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday rose in defence of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, condemning a Transparency International (TI) report, which claimed Nigeria has become more corrupt.
The yearly Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by TI released in Berlin ranked Nigeria 146th of the 180 countries. The country however was 144th in 2018, indicating a two-point plunge.
Buhari had made fighting corruption a focus of his All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, with anti-graft agencies such as the EFCC proclaiming daily feats in reining in the monster. He is also currently recognised by the African Union (AU) as the continent’s anti-corruption champion.
Nigeria’s score of 26 out of 100 points is below the global average of 43. In Africa, countries such as Niger (32), Sierra Leone (33), Cape Verde (60), Rwanda (53), Namibia (52), Senegal (45), South Africa (44) and Tunisia (43) met the average.
Benin (41) Ghana (41), Morocco (41), Burkina Faso (40), Lesotho (40), Ethiopia (37), Tanzania (37), Algeria and Egypt (35), Zambia (34), Botswana (61), Malawi (31), Djibouti (30) and Guinea (29) are better ranked than Nigeria.
Nigeria however ranks higher than Zimbabwe (24), Cameroon (25), CAR (25), Comoros (25), Madagascar (24), Eritrea (23), Chad (20), Equatorial Guinea (16), Guinea Bissau (18) and Somalia, the worst country in the world, with a score of 8 and ranking at 180th.
In a statement by its acting head of media, Tony Orilade, the EFCC said: “We insist that the rating is a far cry from the evident strides and achievements so far accomplished by the anti-graft agency in the fight against corruption, particularly under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The claim and inference by TI that Nigeria ranks the fourth most corrupt country in West Africa is totally unacceptable, as it is evidently not supported by any empirical data, especially when placed side-by-side with the remarkable achievements of the commission in the past years.
“Moreover, it is quite ironic that the report by TI posits that the index does not show real incidences of corruption, yet it claims that the report is a reliable indication of the perception of the Nigerian public and the international community about the state of corruption in the country.
“Suffice to state that in 2019 – the year under review by TI was particularly a remarkable one for the EFCC as the commission secured unprecedented record of 1,268 convictions, including that of a former state governor and a serving senator who was convicted for defrauding his state to the tune of N7.65billion. It was a landmark in the fight against corruption never achieved across the West African region, indeed, Africa at large. This is among several high-profile cases, which were successfully prosecuted during the year with many of them currently serving various jail terms.”
The EFCC said further: “Over the past years, billions of naira, millions of dollars and other foreign currencies were recovered from corrupt persons in the country, including securing the forfeiture of assets of their illegal and fraudulent activities. So far, the EFCC has evidently altered the narrative that there are some persons that are untouchables in the country.
“It is on record that three former state governors are currently serving different jail terms in prison for defrauding their states and stealing from the treasury to enrich themselves and their cronies.
“The EFCC has also spearheaded the Nigerian angle of prosecuting those involved in the Malabu oil fraud, and in partnership with the INTERPOL, was able to secure the repatriation of a former attorney general of the federation and minister of justice implicated in the fraud, who has been on the run.
The anti-graft agency added: “Charges have already been filed against him at a Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court and he has just been arraigned today. The commission has also not given up on its unrelenting efforts to ensure that a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, is made to answer for the various malfeasances perpetrated under her, in spite of the obvious reluctance of the United Kingdom to repatriate her to Nigeria.
“The onslaught against perpetrators of Internet fraud, infamously known as yahoo-yahoo, has also intensified with several of them now serving jail terms.
“It is obvious that TI seems to have decidedly decided to look the other way, overlooking all these achievements all of which are not hidden. It is unfortunate that the body has never acknowledged the achievements of the EFCC. It is obvious that the body has its own hidden agenda.
“The commission will, however not be distracted by a body that has been consistent in its biased rating of Nigeria, and will continue in its mandate of fighting corruption.”
Similarly, Attorney General Abubakar Malami, was quoted as saying: “In terms of the fight against corruption, we have been doing more. We have done more and we will continue to do more out of inherent conviction and desire on our part to fight against corruption devoid of any extraneous considerations relating to the rating by Transparency International.”
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday said the TI report had further validated its position that corruption worsened under Buhari and the APC.
The party said it is “a national embarrassment that under an administration by the same leader who wears the medal as ‘African Union (AU) Anti-Corruption Champion’, and whose government boasts of zero-tolerance for corruption, our nation now ranks as fourth most corrupt country in West African and one of the leading most corrupt countries of the world.”
In a statement released by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP stated: “The TI report, which shows our country dropping to a malodorous 26, from the already disapproving 27 points it maintained since 2017, had further exposed the Buhari administration and the APC as merely posturing as saints and hounding innocent Nigerians with fake anti-corruption war, while engaged in unprecedented looting of our national resources.
“It indeed speaks volume that the Buhari administration and the APC that came into power in 2015 on an anti-corruption mantra have ended up becoming the most corrupt in the history of our dear nation. Moreover, the fact that the APC and its government, with their numerous megaphones, have remained silent over the report is also very revealing.”
The PDP declared: “By this TI report, Nigerians are no longer in doubt as to why our nation has been plagued with worsening economic hardship, poverty and hunger, dilapidated infrastructure and devastating retrogression in critical sectors such as health, power, education, transport, agriculture among others in the last four years, while APC leaders, their families and cronies, gloat in affluence to the chagrin of Nigerians.
“Nigerians can recall that our party has since been challenging the Buhari presidency and the APC to come clean, account for the over N14 trillion allegedly stolen by APC leaders from government coffers in the last four years.
“This includes the stolen N9 trillion detailed in the NNPC leaked memo; the N1.1 trillion worth of crude allegedly stolen by certain APC leaders using 18 unregistered vessels; the over N1.4 trillion stolen from shady oil subsidy deals as well as monies stolen from sensitive government agencies including the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).”
It noted that the Buhari administration and the APC “have not only failed in their boasts to tackle corruption and insecurity but have ended up economically despoiling our nation and worsening our security challenges.
“The fact remains that the Buhari presidency and the APC cannot controvert these damning facts. The only thing left for them is to apologise to Nigerians and get ready for their place in the dustbin of history as the worst government and political party ever in the history of our nation.”
On its part, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said Nigeria’s score on the index did not come as a surprise.
In a statement by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said the report suggests that the fight against corruption in the country has not improved, and in fact remains at the level of the 2015 ranking in which Nigeria also scored 26.
“The authorities should not simply dismiss the ranking. Going forward, Nigerian authorities must embrace the recommendations by TI and set some benchmarks for anti-corruption improvements in the coming years. The authorities should take the CPI to heart and initiate and actively ensure full enforcement of all court judgments and respect for the rule of law, including at least five judgments obtained by it.”
Many of these judgments, SERAP said, give the government the legal and judicial backing to push the fight against corruption and avoid accusations of selectivity or bias.
It called for the publication of all reports of investigation in the electricity and other sectors as well as greater respect for the Freedom of Information requests.
“The authorities should ensure that essential reforms to anti-corruption legislation are made including the Whistle-blower and Asset Recovery bills; that President Muhammadu Buhari’s and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s asset declarations are published and widely circulated and encourage ministers and others to also publish their own asset declarations.”
It said: “President Buhari’s government should raise his game to fight grand corruption and improve the ability of anti-corruption agencies to more effectively and efficiently discharge their mandates.”
While noting that the CPI may not be perfect and may not show actual evidence of corruption in the country, the group said perceptions are commonly a good indicator of the real level of corruption.
“In any case, the devastating effects of corruption in virtually all sectors providing essential public services are too glaring for Nigerians to ignore.
“While the government may have blocked some leakages in the system and reduced the level of impunity witnessed under previous administrations, it has not done enough to address long-standing cases of corruption and the appearance of selectivity in the prosecution of corruption allegations especially when such cases involve those close to the seat of power.
“The best measure of a country’s progress toward transparency and accountability is a total obedience to the rule of law. The law ought to command the highest levels of respect by, for example, the government immediately obeying orders and judgments of competent courts.
“Democracy works only if the people have faith in those who govern, and that faith is bound to be shattered when high officials and their appointees engage in activities which arouse suspicions of malfeasance and corruption.”
Speaking on the situation at a press conference in Abuja Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, blamed the perception on abuse of the rule of law, saying fighting corruption is about ensuring policies and framework are adequately implemented.
Backlash against the media and civil society organisations equally daunted the perception of corruption in Nigeria, he said, noting that impunity has been on the rise in the country.
Rafsanjani said attacks on journalists and civil society organisations to prevent the demand for accountability, transparency and other initiatives on addressing corruption made mockery of the intention of government to fight corruption.
He noted that the institutionalisation of corruption in political parties, witnessed in vote buying and unexplained bribery at party primaries and others, continue to discourage people from participating in politics and rubbish the desire to project Nigeria glowingly before the international community.
“Nobody knows anything about the recovered assets from the fight against corruption. Freedom of Information request on the information is also turned down,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria’s rule of law is selective, as the rich and powerful do not play by the rules. “The authorities lack consistency and understanding on what corruption actually is. Corruption thrives with incompetency and lack of technical understanding in sectoral areas,” he explained.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) also issued a statement by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, saying: “If the chief law officer of the federation is now denying the obvious and empirical evidence of high corruption as severally claimed by his appointing authority and the president, it means he is disloyal to the principal mandate of his master.
If he is a loyal and faithful cabinet level minister under a government that prioritises anti-corruption far and above security of life and property of the citizenry, then he has no reason remaining in the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, which claims that Nigeria is so corrupt to a level that what matters most to the government is to wage war against corruption and here is he denying what his pay master claims to be self-evident.
“The EFCC’s acting chairman only yesterday told the world that, this year, many looters hiding in Europe would be brought back. Why is the justice minister denying the obvious? Is there no corruption when a serving general officer commanding a military location in Sokoto was caught over the disappearance of millions of naira whose source is unknown and indeed the EFCC recently secured a court order to forfeit over N180 million belonging to an army general?
“Is Nigeria not corrupt when the son of a serving director general of a federal agency was reportedly arrested in Dubai with $5 million cash? Is Nigeria not corrupt when nearly $50 million was found in a flat kept by one of the top security chiefs who has now been declared wanted by EFCC because he reportedly left Nigeria with his wife?
“Is Nigeria not corrupt when the auditor general of the federation has for over three years now indicted many ministers and institutions for breach of transparency and accountability laws? Is Nigeria not corrupt when EFCC and ICPC have successfully recovered stolen assets hidden by serving civil servants by way of real estates in Abuja? This justice minister must be operating from the moon for him to even debate the accurate statistical claim made by Transparency International about the level of lack of transparency and accountability at all levels of government.”