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FG’s Unrewarding Fight against Corruption

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Following the low score of Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight by Transparency International, which released its report recently, Chineme Okafor reviews the content of the report and weighs the implications of the yet-to-be-successful effort of the current administration to rid the country of corrupt practices

Citing over-bloated contract costs, abuse of security votes, and the recalcitrance of the federal government to take certain persons found culpable in corruption-related charges to court, among other sundry pitfalls, the global anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), recently declared that Nigeria is still falling behind in its fight against corrupt practices especially within its public service.

TI, in its 2018, global Corruption Perception Index (CPI), said efforts by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to checkmate corruption in Nigeria had yielded no improvement so far. It added that Nigeria currently occupies the 144th position out of 180 countries polled in the latest CPI.

In 2017, the world anti-corruption watchdog ranked Nigeria 148, and in 2018, it linked the country’s unenviable rating to over-bloated contract costs, abuse of security votes, and the recalcitrance of the government to try certain persons found culpable in corruption-related charges.

The report noted that in spite of a number of positive steps by the administration in the past three years, including the establishment of a presidential advisory committee against corruption, improvement of the anti-corruption legal and policy framework in areas like public procurement and asset declaration, and the development of a national anti-corruption strategy, among others, these efforts have clearly not yet yielded the desired results.

TI’s CPI stated that although Buhari campaigned in 2015 to tackle corrupt practices in government’s businesses, and won the presidential election by defeating an incumbent president for the first time in Nigeria’s political history, his subsequent anti-corruption policies and strategies had clearly not yielded any results.

“With a score of 27, Nigeria remained unchanged on the CPI since 2017. Corruption was one of the biggest topics leading up to the 2015 election and it is expected to remain high on the agenda as the country prepares for this year’s presidential election taking place in February.

“Nigeria’s Buhari administration took a number of positive steps in the past three years, including the establishment of a presidential advisory committee against corruption, the improvement of the anti-corruption legal and policy framework in areas like public procurement and asset declaration, and the development of a national anti-corruption strategy, among others. However, these efforts have clearly not yielded the desired results. At least, not yet,” said the TI report.

It added: “Angola, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa and Kenya are all important countries to watch, given some promising political developments. The real test will be whether these new administrations will follow through on their anti-corruption commitments moving forward.”

Generally, TI, explained that the 2018 CPI presented a largely gloomy picture for Africa with only eight of 49 countries assessed, scoring more than 43 out of 100 on the index.

It noted that the poor result was despite commitments from African leaders in declaring 2018 as the African Year of Anti-Corruption. This, it explained, has yet to translate into concrete progress.

Specifically, it noted Seychelles scored 66 out of 100, to put it at the top of the region, followed by Botswana and Cape Verde, with scores of 61 and 57 respectively.

At the very bottom of the index for the seventh year in a row, it said Somalia scored 10 points, followed by South Sudan (13) to round out the lowest scores in the region.

“With an average score of just 32, sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest scoring region on the index, followed closely by Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with an average score of 35.

“Sub-Saharan Africa remains a region of stark political and socio-economic contrasts and many longstanding challenges. While a large number of countries have adopted democratic principles of governance, several are still governed by authoritarian and semi-authoritarian leaders,” the report added.

What this Mean to Nigeria

Because economic growth and development are often buoyed by the positive consequences of legal, policy and institutional reforms often undertaken during fight against corrupt practices, the verdict of TI on Nigeria indicate that even the country’s economy has not been insulated from the impact of corruption.

For instance, citing mismanagement of public contacts, wherein reportedly, costs are usually marked up beyond original costs, the report inferred that such acts are capable of stirring and sustaining underhand dealings in contracting cycles for public goods.

And, this according to the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, who presented the 2018 CPI in Abuja, meant that Nigeria’s posture before local and international audiences would be questionable.

Rafsanjani, buttressed this with the fact that the government failed to inaugurate the National Procurement Council (NPC) as provided in the Public Procurement Act, to guarantee transparency in contracting for public goods.

“The public image of the anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria is tarnished domestically and internationally with extremely slow progress to move on numerous anti-corruption commitments made by the government.

“With the inability of the present administration to stop political boycott of key appointments and pass the much needed legislation such as the proceeds of crime bill and to implement the recommendations given at the launch of the CPI 2017, it is not wonder that Nigeria’s score in 2018 is no different from 2017,” said Rafsanjani.

He further explained: “Lack of progress in the fight against corruption as testified by this year’s edition of the CPI is a direct consequence of unaccounted funds siphoned under the guise of security votes by highly placed public officials, including lip service in initiating charges against those already implicated in corruption related offences.”

Similarly, in a report – Impacts of Corruption on Nigeria’s Economy, which the PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Nigeria, published, it stated that corrupt practices within the country could cost her up to 37 per cent of her national Gross Domestic Products (GDP) by 2030.

The PwC report stated that the cost is equated to around $1,000 per person in 2014 and nearly $2,000 per person by 2030.

“Corruption is a pressing issue in Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari launched an anti-corruption drive after taking office in May, 2015. Corruption affects public finances, business investment as well as standard of living.

“Recent corruption scandals have highlighted the large sums that have been stolen and or misappropriated. But little has been done to explore the dynamic effects of corruption that affect the long run capacity of the country to achieve its potential,” said an aspect of the report.

According to it the channels through which this may occur include lower governance effectiveness, especially through smaller tax base and inefficient government expenditure.

“PwC studies estimate Nigeria’s tax revenues at 8per cent of GDP, which is the lowest for comparison countries. Weak investment, especially FDI, as it’s harder to predict and do business

“Lower human capital as fewer people, especially the poor, are unable to access healthcare and education. In this report, we formulate the ways in which corruption impacts the Nigerian economy over time and estimate the impact of corruption on Nigerian GDP, using empirical literature and PwC analysis.

“We estimate the ‘foregone output’ in Nigeria since the onset of democracy in 1999 and the ‘output opportunity’ to be gained by 2030, from reducing corruption to comparison countries that are also rich in natural resources.

“The countries we have used for comparison are Ghana, Colombia and Malaysia. Our results show that corruption in Nigeria could cost up to 37 per cent of GDP by 2030 if it’s not dealt with immediately.

“This cost is equated to around $1,000 per person in 2014 and nearly $2,000 per person by 2030,” the PwC report explained.

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