By ‘Dotun Akintomide
Popularly elected on a promissory note to wipe out corruption in Africa’s most populous nation, President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the poll seemed like the sudden appearance of a beacon, with millions of Nigerians relishing that the cankerwoms which had ensured dividends of governance do not percolate downwards would be axed out for probity to reign supreme.
Fast forwarded to 2018 — almost 3-year after Buhari set out — the recent report by global anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI) ranked Nigeria low –148th out of 180 countries — in its 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) after scoring 28 out of 100, a figure lower than the average in the Sub-Saharan region.
In the 2016 rankings, Nigeria scored 28. In 2015, it scored 26. The year before that, it scored 25. In 2014, the country scored 27 and 25 in 2013. In 2012, the country’s score was 27 out of the obtainable 100 points.
Following these abysmal showings, many Nigerians are baffled that despite the ongoing onslaught against graft, the developments witnessed so far might only amount to a drop in the ocean, forcing some anti-corruption advocates to tag it ‘an all action no movement’ affair.
But beyond political will, the disconnection between anti-corruption efforts and citizen’s participation; perceived lopsidedness on the part of the incumbent administration; failure to put in place a well coordinated machinery; and deliberate sabotage by corrupt aristocrats in promoting wrong narratives about the entire campaign have ended up in blighting the perceptions many had initially considered a well thought-out move by the Buhari-led government.
This much, summed up submissions expressed by various participants drawn from civil societies and the media at the ‘citizen’s dialogue on trending corruption issues in Nigeria’ targeted at implementing the SCRAP-C project of the Department for International Development (DfID) Anti-Corruption in Nigeria, with ActionAid Nigeria being its lead partner.
“Corruption in Nigeria has gone beyond perception index to clear evidence,” says Tunde Aremu of ActionAid, noting that despite the evidence that abounds, the inability of the entire anti-corruption framework to implement an holistic and inclusive approach that promotes citizens participation and engagement has led to the fight not living up to its true billing.
“Unlike the days of Gani Fawehinmi when lots government’s ill-fated actions were challenged at the court, the case is entirely different now and citizens are not willing to take on government again as part of their civic responsibilities.” According to Aremu, “Nigerians must take the bull by the horn for the fight to succeed.”
In his contribution, Project Manager SCRAP-C, Newton Otsemaye observed that while the current administration is busy rolling out drums on its achievements on corruption fight, there are still allegations of corruption among public officials with some of them being appointees of the Buhari’s government.
“How do you describe the 5bn NEMA fraud? The Maina’s case and the recent development where N414 million was alleged to have been collected in clearing N400 million worth of rice by customs at the Port. We have seen different officials accused of pertaking in corrupt practices under this administration.” He lamented.
Convener, Say No Campaign Nigeria, Ezenwa Nwagwu believes that “in allowing the narratives of the corrupt aristocrats about the campaign to gain ascendancy,” the fight keeps losing its steam, tasking the media and civil societies to stop reinforcing the narratives of the corrupt individuals who might have lost so much to the anti-corruption war.
“We must promote the right narratives.” Nwagwu stressed.
On Monday, during his visit to the oval office, President Buhari, had said Nigeria and U.S. are collaborating “in ensuring the return to Nigeria of over $500m looted funds stashed away in banks around the world.” Also, President Donald Trump at a joint press conference alongside Buhari acknowledged that “Nigeria has a reputation for very massive corruption,” saying “the President has been able to cut that down very substantially,” in a statement that has continued to divide opinions with social media awashed with barrage of reactions. While many saw Trump’s appraisal of the anti-corruption war as a true assessment of what is going on, others believed he naively passed the comment, worrying that the fight has been smeared with lopsidedness and political vendetta.
However, among other risk factors, Aremu further highlighted threats to the anti-graft war to include: inadequate legal framework to ensure speedy prosecution and conviction of suspected offenders alongside the drowsing asset recovery mechanism; Poor renumeration for the police, agencies and judicial officials fighting corruption; coupled with the seeming lack of interest displayed by members of the National Assembly.
He also described the introduction of the Civil Organization bill by federal lawmakers as an attempt to stifle anti-corruption advocacy by Civil Society Organizations in the country.
In a chat with The New Diplomat, Senior Program Officer, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA Africa), Ibrahim Faruk, enjoined young people to throw their support behind credible political aspirants who can tactically take the anti-graft war to another level, promoting the right values with vigour.
“For us as a movement we’re not going to be neutral when it comes to youth participation in politics. So for the young people who will be contesting in the election, we’re going to make them sign up to some great values to ensure there’s accountability and transparency so that when a young person wins an office he can be accountable to the constituency he represents ultimately.
“With that we’re going to avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made in the past by supporting candidates with the right values this time.” Faruk said.