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Nigeria’s Failing War Against Corruption

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What you can never take away from President Muhammadu Buhari is his
commitment to ridding the country of corruption. That is one of the
reasons why Nigerians overwhelmingly voted for him in 2015 to defeat
the government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The people
trusted that Buhari as president would tackle corruption head on.
Buhari has largely lived up to the billing.
No administration since 1999 has fought corruption frontally like as he has!
Even though the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related
Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission (EFCC) were set up by the Obasanjo PDP administration, it
is the Buhari administration
that has effectively used these anti-graft agencies to recover
unprecedented amounts of money stolen by present and past officials!
It is under this administration that three former state governors was
convicted of
corruption, even though one of the former governors is enjoying
temporary reprieve following the decision of the Supreme Court that
his trial should be done afresh due to some technicalities.
Buhari’s commitment to the war against corruption in Nigeria did not
go unnoticed by the international community. The African Union (AU)
based on his anti-corruption record appointed him the champion of the
war against corruption in the continent. African leaders at the 29th
African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, unanimously endorsed
President Muhammadu Buhari to champion the AU’s theme for 2018. The
theme for the 2018 annual summit of the organisation was “Winning the
Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s
Transformation.” The decision is in recognition of the Buhari
administration’s commitment to fighting corruption in Nigeria and
globally.
Recently President Muhammadu Buhari in his capacity as the champion of
the war against corruption in the continent urged African leaders to
ensure the immediate actualization of the Common African Position on
Assets Recovery (CAPAR), as the continent celebrates Anti-Corruption
Day, July 11, 2020. In a letter
to South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairman of African
Union, the Nigerian leader asked for a re-commitment to the anti-corruption war by leaders on the continent to engender an
“integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven  by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international
arena.” The President lamented that the “massive corruption being
perpetrated across our national government has created a huge
governance deficit that has in turn
created negative consequences that have worsened the socio-economic
and political situation in Africa.”
President Buhari’s commitment to the war against corruption cannot be
doubted. But not the same zeal or commitment is being shown by quite a
few of his appointees! It is saddening anytime those entrusted with
positions by President Buhari are found wanting in the discharge of
their responsibilities.
The successes previously recorded at the inception of his administration
is today being eroded by some of his appointees to the extent that
even those saddled with the responsibility of fighting corruption are
now struggling to disentangle themselves from allegations of corruption. There are now growing allegations that positions in civil service and all manners of
appointments in the country are sold to the highest bidder.
While the President may not be aware of this, but this is rampant in
the country and thus calls for more scrutiny by the President whenever
a list of potential appointees are submitted to him for approval. The
President should also be mindful of the kinds of people that are
appointed, as some of their antecedents are at cross-purposes with his
anti-corruption crusade.
The President may be doing his best in the war against corruption, but
the public perception is a different ball game entirely. Ordinary
Nigerians who seek for jobs in government ministries, agencies, and
departments and drivers who drive through check points have different
perceptions. Little wonder that Nigeria’s corruption perception index
by Transparency International (TI) is still high.
Despite Nigeria’s anti-corruption campaign, the country dropped from
144 in 2018 to 146 in 2019 on the annual corruption perception index
published by Transparency International. The report revealed that
Nigeria ranks 146 out of the 180 countries considered, behind Botswana
(34), Rwanda (51) and Mauritius (56) among other African nations. The
TI report which is based on corruption perception by ordinary
Nigerians is an indication that the country needs to do a lot more to
address the hydra headed monster that has crippled the country
economically and in all indices of development.
According to Transparency International, the 2019 Corruption
Perceptions Index (CPI) shows corruption is more pervasive in
countries where big money can flow freely into electoral campaigns and
where governments listen only to the voices of wealthy or well-connected individuals. Who will disagree with TI that corruption
is pervasive in our country where political positions are bought and
sold, whille  merit and capacity is treated with disdain?
Until we stop appointing people to positions based solely on their
financial contributions to the party and not due to their capacity and
integrity, we will continue to have challenges in ridding the country
of corruption.
What can the country do to extricate itself from the stranglehold of
corruption? Many countries have made significant progress in curbing
corruption, however practitioners are always on the lookout for
solutions and evidence of impact. There are ways that citizens and
governments can make progress in the fight against corruption.
Effective law enforcement is essential to ensure the corrupt are
punished and thus break the cycle of impunity. Successful enforcement
approaches are supported by a strong legal framework, law enforcement
and an independent and effective court system.
Reforms focusing on improving financial management and strengthening
the role of auditing agencies have in many countries achieved greater
impact than public sector reforms on curbing corruption. One such
reform is the disclosure of budget information, which prevents waste
and misappropriation of resources. Countries successful at curbing
corruption have a long tradition of government openness, freedom of
the press, transparency and access to information. Access to
information increases the responsiveness of government bodies, while simultaneously having a positive effect on the levels of public participation in a country.
Strengthening citizens’ demand for anti-corruption and empowering them
to hold government accountable is a sustainable approach that helps to
build mutual trust between citizens and government. For example,
community monitoring initiatives have in some cases contributed to the
detection of corruption, reduced leakages of funds, and improved the
quantity and quality of public services.
The bottom-line however is that it is not President Muhammadu Buhari
that will end corruption, he can only provide leadership, it is we the
ordinary people.
Therefore we must own the war against corruption. If we see something,
let us say something.
Aluta Continua!
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