By Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
In 2003, the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, through Resolution 58/4 adopted December 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day, IACD making that day officially one of the United Nations observances. The essence was to help spotlight and amplify corruption among over 100 member states. Today, the United Nations Convention against Corruption, UNCAC has seven broad-based thematic focus areas of advocacy ranging from Prevention, Criminalisation and Law Enforcement, then International Cooperation, to Asset Recovery and the like, through which nations today try to mainstream corrupt practices in public, private and international sectors; work together, collaborate and assist in repatriation of stolen funds and money launderers.
Nigeria, upon 1999 return to democracy, established two major anti-corruption agencies – first, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, ICPC (2000), and later the Economic Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC (2003). But it is alarming that Nigeria does not rank among countries with low incidences of corruption yet. This is sad, to say the least.
Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD a pro-democracy and environmental rights advocacy group today surveys the anti-corruption trajectory of Nigeria since 1999 focusing more on the last seven years. In January, 2022, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC working with Transparency International, TI released a worrying country report on Nigeria wherein the nation placed 154th out of 180 countries, having scored a paltry 24 out of a total of 100. Based on this corruption perception index (CPI), the journey is still long for Nigeria, but a thing or two can be done and leveraged to change the story, FENRAD believes.
Today’s International Anti-Corruption Day slogan says “Uniting the World Against Corruption,” a call on nations of the world to unite and fight corruption through collaborative efforts and efficiency. Nigeria too is not left out on this call. At the regional level, Nigeria is a signatory to AU’s Convention on Fighting and Combating Corruption. Even in 2018, President Buhari was appointed AU’s Anti-Corruption Champion while recently Umar Yakubu, a Nigerian, was appointed to represent Africa at the UN Convention against Corruption, UNCAC level, yet the war against corruption is far from won.
One would have thought that at domestic level, Nigeria would have closed the gap, edged closer to countries perceived “clean” in the Transparency International corruption perception index, CPI. Sadly the nation is still ranked 154th, better only than 25 or 26 out of 180 countries. One of the three-pronged areas of President Buhari’s campaign in 2014/15 was “campaign against corruption.” Sadly, FENRAD regrets that under the same adminstration, issues like oil theft, subsidy scam, vote buying, budget padding, trading in influence and sundry corrupt practices bedevil Nigeria and Nigerians. Many are still asking what use the so-called “Abacha loot” has been put to. Both public sector and private sector corruption increased in an unheard-of scale in the last seven years, FENRAD says. Animals like: rodents, reptiles and primates were reported to have swallowed monies conveniently stashed in official vaults. Perceived corrupt officials being questioned by lawmakers slump, are rushed to hospitals and cases close or are discontinued, and what is more, the president pardoned convicted former governors, even extending such clemency to terrorists!
From ”we are fighting corruption,” Nigerians were told that “corruption is fighting back,” and later that change begins with them. Lack of clear and articulate anti-corruption policy draws the nation back in her march towards ending corruption.
At subnational level, nothing is different. Recently, President Buhari and his minister of finance (for state) accused governors of causing poverty among local dwellers, 70% of who fell within the “63% multidimensionally poor Nigerians!” The governors had countered the president, saying he was responsible for endemic poverty among the locals for failing to protect poor farmers, whose farms have been taken over by bandits.
The truth, FENRAD maintains, is that both governments are guilty of what they accused each other. The sufferers are the poor masses. Many states are not signatory to Open Government Partnership Intiative, OGP. Financial disclosures are not made regarding public spending, attention is often focuses on the centre while governors build mansions abroad and choose to proceed on sabbatical to the National Assembly – the senate for the most part.
FENRAD calls on state and non-state actors to exhibit a great deal of willpower to steer the country away from corruption. The weak justice system, FENRAD says must be empowered. Laws have to be created and were inadequate elaborated to strengthen weak institutions. So should punishments for some crimes be reviewed. Appointment to sensitive positions should be based on merit, not on tribe, religion or region which characterised appointments in the last seven years. All intending and aspiring politicians must commit to financial discipline and disclosure, detailing their assets, those belonging to their children below the age of 18 as stipulated in the 5th schedule of the 1999 constitution. FENRAD calls for local government autonomy and for a review of the sharing formula in revenue where the federal government, being a single entity takes over 52%, the 36 states a little over 26% and the local councils with 774 co-equal governments a little over 20%.
There must be a national value and programme that spearheads the crusade of anti-corruption. Else all may be in vain. May all, FENRAD says, not be in vain, and may Nigeria join the rest of the world to fend off corruption.
▪︎ Comrade Nwafor is the Executive Director, Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) Nigeria