Worried by Nigeria’s low rating on the corruption perception index, representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and CLEEN Foundation, want President Muhammadu Buhari to review his administration’s tactics and style of fighting corruption.
They spoke during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, on Wednesday in Abuja, the groups while reacting to Transparency International (TI) latest ranking of Nigeria as the second most corrupt nation in West Africa. The country was ranked 154 out of the 180 countries in its latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report for 2021.
Reacting to the development, the Programme Officer Anti-Corruption at CISLAC, Samuel Asimi, said President Buhari’s government could only advance the fight against corruption by urgently strengthening legal frameworks on whistleblowing, proceeds of crime, audit; as well as fortifying anti-graft agencies.
Asimi, however, backed Nigeria’s current CPI rating, saying it was fair given the prevalence of corruption in the public sector, while harping on the need for members of the National Assembly to adequately play their constitutional role in tackling corruption in Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government.
According to him, “we need legal frameworks… the government needs to beef up a legal framework that should focus on whistleblower, proceeds of crime.
“Secondly, financial institutions and the anti-graft agencies should work together in terms of the ‘Know Your Customer Policy, customer due diligence policies and the rest.
“Looking at the audit reports, NASS should work on the audit report; MDAs that have not been submitting in their audit reports should do well to comply, and those who have disregarded regulations as prescribed by the constitution should also work on that, and we need coordination among anti-graft agencies.
“It’s also important for the government to recognize the freedom and rights of anti-corruption and human rights defenders, attempts to shrink the civic space should be discouraged, and freedom of individuals should be upheld,” Asimi stated.
He called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-graft agencies to focus on low and high-profile corruption cases, while urging government to give the anti-graft agencies free hand to operate.
“The general independence of the anti-graft agencies should be ensured: political interference should be out, we don’t want cases where individuals switch political affiliations and all of a sudden, charges against them are dropped,” Asimi stated.
According to Asimi, factors responsible for Nigeria’s latest poor corruption ranking include “public sector corruption, bribery, nepotism, the criminal justice system, state capture, excessive red tapes, effective justice system, and lots of other corruption-related issues.
On her part, Media and Communications Officer at CLEEN Foundation, Anna White-Agbo, noted that the anti-corruption strategies of the current administration were not working, stressing that the corruption ranking enjoyed by Nigeria was a true reflection of the state of corruption. She, also task government to employ a different approach to fighting corruption or risk worse corruption perception ranking in future.
On the need to strengthen anti-graft agencies to fight corruption, White-Agbo called for the absolute independence of anti-graft agencies from political influence.
“The anti-graft agencies are supposed to be independent of the politics or politicking in Nigeria; I feel like there is a lot of influence coming from all of these angles from people in power, from politicians, and the rest of them. They need to be left alone to do the work,” she stressed.
White-Agbo expressed doubts over the ability of the government to fight corruption adequately, calling on citizens to look inward and play their part in the anti-corruption fight.
“This government came in heavy on corruption, but I do not believe that whatever strategies they have employed are working, the reason being that we have so many issues of accountability and transparency.”
According to the Programme Manager of PRIMORG, Adaobi Obiabunmuo, all efforts to get Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Public Affairs, Ajuri Ngelale, to join the radio programme proved abortive.
The group in a statement noted that, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, and Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had earlier rejected Nigeria’s low rating on the corruption perception index, arguing that it does not reflect the strides of the administration in the fight against corruption.