Nigeria has been ranked the second most corrupt country in West Africa, according to the latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI).
The country follows Guinea-Bissau, which was ranked 168 on the perception index.
In the 2019 CPI released yesterday by the global anti-corruption watchdog, Nigeria moved from 144 in 2018 to 146 in 2019, thereby indicating a two-place drop.
However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared that the report is a far cry from the achievements so far accomplished by the anti-graft agency.
Also, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), a pro-government support group, has faulted TI on its latest report, saying the rating of Nigeria did not reflect the real situation in the country.
In percentage rating, therefore, Nigeria scored 26 per cent out of 100 in 2019, as against the 27 point in 2018.
According to TI, the rating was based on countries’ perceived level of public sector corruption, as mirrored by experts and business people.
It said its standard practice has been the use of scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
This was as it added that more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 on the 2019 CPI, with an average score of 43.
Like previous years, TI said the data relied upon indicated that despite some progress, a majority of countries “are still failing to tackle public sector corruption effectively.”
Arguably, the latest report casts a slur on the anti-corruption claims by the Federal Government, more so that TI disclosed in its report, that majority of the countries profiled, had shown little or no improvement in tackling corruption.
In its report, however, TI has claimed that corrupt practices were pervasive in countries and territories where electioneering periods were easily influenced by slush funds, and where decisions of governments were influenced by the wealthy people.
Nigeria had her general election in early 2019.
“Our analysis also 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,” TI said.
The report, signed by TI’s chair, Delia Ferreira Rubio, read: “The Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 reveals a staggering number of countries are showing little to no improvement in tackling corruption.
“Our analysis also suggests that reducing big money in politics and promoting inclusive political decision-making are essential to curb corruption.
“From fraud that occurs at the highest levels of government to petty bribery that blocks access to basic public services like healthcare and education, citizens are fed up with corrupt leaders and institutions.
“This frustration fuels a growing lack of trust in government and further erodes public confidence in political leaders, elected officials and democracy.”
It was further stated in the report that: “In the last eight years, only 22 countries significantly improved their CPI scores, including Greece, Guyana and Estonia.
“In the same period, 21 countries significantly decreased their scores, including Canada, Australia and Nicaragua. In the remaining 137 countries, the levels of corruption show little to no change.”
The latest CPI lists New Zealand and Denmark, with scores of 87 each, followed by Finland (86), Singapore (85), Sweden (85) and Switzerland (85), as the top countries.
In the same vein, it listed the bottom countries as follows: Somalia, South Sudan and Syria with scores of 9, 12 and 13, respectively.
The aforementioned countries, it added, were closely followed by Yemen (15), Venezuela (16), Sudan (16), Equatorial Guinea (16) and Afghanistan (16).
As part of measures towards checking public sector corruption, TI has urged governments to address the undue influence of money on politics.
“Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.
“Keeping big money out of politics is essential to ensuring political decision-making serves the public interest and curbing opportunities for corrupt deals. Countries that perform well on the CPI have strong enforcement of campaign finance regulations,” it said.
In its estimation, countries that performed well on the CPI had broader consultation in policy decisions.
“To have any chance of ending corruption and improving people’s lives, we must tackle the relationship between politics and big money. All citizens must be represented in decision-making,” it added.
However, the EFCC has rejected the TI’s latest ranking of Nigeria.
A statement by the Acting Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Tony Orilade, read: “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.”
It further stated: “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.
“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. Charges have already been filed against him at a Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court and he has just been arraigned today (yesterday).
“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 malfeasance perpetrated under her, in spite of the obvious reluctance of the United Kingdom to repatriate her to Nigeria.”
The EFCC added that 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,” Orilade said.
Meanwhile, Buhari’s supporters described Nigeria’s rating in the Corruption Perception Index 2019 as opaque and based strictly on the authors’ definition of perception.
In a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, BMO said it is uncharitable for TI to conclude that the anti-graft war in Nigeria has not delivered the results.
According to BMO, it was rather contradictory for TI to acknowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari has introduced what they described as important reforms that have saved billions of naira since 2015 and also rate Nigeria poorly in the same report.
The support group took exception to the poor rating of Nigeria even below Ghana that was recently adjudged as the second most corrupt country in Africa by an international body.
“We wonder how the so-called experts concluded that the anti-corruption war is not delivering results when TI’s Nigeria representative, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani himself admitted in his opening remark that the current administration has, since 2015, blocked leakages in MDAs.
“Is it not strange that TI claimed that backlash against media and civil society damaged Nigeria’s anti-corruption effort?
“We have seen how the anti-corruption agencies have stepped up the war in recent years with more high profile convictions being recorded. We know that the Buhari administration still has more to do to eliminate corruption in some sectors of the country, but it’s not enough to be dismissive of this particular government’s efforts,” BMO said.