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Nigeria’s worsening ranking on corruption

Nigeria’s worsening ranking on Transparency International’s corruption perception index is not entirely surprising. In the global corruption watchdog’s ranking released last week, Nigeria scored  28/100 and ranked 148 out of 180 countries surveyed – twelve places lower than it was ranked the previews year. 

But it is not surprising because grand corruption, favouritism, nepotism and selective prosecution or persecution of opponents have been the order of the day in the last three years of this administration. It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari’s main selling point in the run up to the 2015 election was his trumpeted integrity, incorruptibility and anti-corruption credentials.

Of course, in the first weeks of the administration, the right noises were made and the message reverberated even outside the country. There was a general feeling that there was a new Sheriff in town and the President’s ‘body language’ as it was called then, prompted the anti-corruption agencies – the Economic and Financials Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to wake up from their deep and long slumber. Subsequently, the EFCC especially went on a rampage, arresting indiscriminately, engaging in media trials and obtaining so-called confessional statements under duress and splashing them generously on the pages of the newspaper but with few and largely unsuccessful arraignments, prosecutions and convictions.

It was not long before the war on corruption went the way of others before it – prosecution of only opposition politicians and people who disagree with the President, protection of corrupt associates and cronies, politicisation and cherry picking of those to prosecute and those not to, and hypocrisy in the war against corruption. The truth remains that despite the moral outrage and righteous indignation often expressed by Nigerian leaders, there is no credible commitment to tackling corruption.

Sadly, the same president who is so zealous in fighting his corrupt opponents appears to lose his nerve anytime a member of his kitchen cabinet or ‘nepotic court’ is accused of corruption even with concrete evidence.  Right from the early days of his administration, weighty allegations of corruption were brought against key members of his kitchen cabinet – General Tukur Burutai, Chief of Army Staff, General Abdulrahman Dambazau, Minister of Interior and former Chief of Army Staff, Abba Kyari, and Chief of Staff to the President, Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) – and without even investigating those allegations, the president absolved them of any crime. It was an embarrassed presidency that was forced to suspend the SGF for the same offences even after the President rejected the Senate’s indictment of the SGF. 

Then there is the famous letter written to the President by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu in which the minister accused the GMD of the NNPC (a northerner) of disrespect and humiliation and above all, circumventing extant procurement regulations in awarding a series of contracts worth more than $25 billion. Surprisingly, the minister stated that he would have wanted to discuss the matter personally with the president but was unable to secure an appointment despite very many attempts.

The president not only backed the GMD of the NNPC, but ensured the matter was hushed-up and nothing more was said about it again. Then came the scandalous reinstatement, promotion and posting of Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Pension Reform, an alleged criminal and fugitive from the law, to the Ministry of Interior. Despite the many denials by the government, it was confirmed that all senior government officials, beginning from the president, to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, were all involved in the saga. That matter has also been hushed-up and allowed to die down.

Perhaps the most brazen act of corruption by the presidency has to do with the recall of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Usman Yusuf, by president Buhari. Yusuf, appointed to the position in 2016, was suspended by the Minister of Health in July 2017 following allegations of corruption and abuse of office. Specifically, Yusuf was alleged to have misappropriated the sum of N919 million, being part of contributions by subscribers of the scheme.

Following extant rules, the minister of health suspended Yusuf and set up an administrative panel to investigate him.  The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, also stepped into the matter and were investigating Yusuf.

However, without taking action on the report of the panel or allowing the EFCC and ICPC conclude their investigation, the president via a letter from his chief of staff to the minister, reinstated Yusuf to his position and only “admonished to work harmoniously with the minister.”

Before his reinstatement, Yusuf kept insulting the minister of health and boasting of his connections in the presidency that will see to his reinstatement. And that was exactly what happened.

We are forced to agree with an analyst who described Buhari’s so-called anti-corruption fight as the most invidiously selective, the least transparent, the most brazenly unjust… in the history of the country. What goes as anti-corruption war in Nigeria currently is the witch-hunting and smearing of in the media, while the president himself tell falsifiable lies to defend, deflect, minimise, and excuse the corruption of  members of his ‘nepotic court’. Senator Shehu Sani famously described the war on corruption of the administration as using insecticide to treat corruption cases against the opposition but deodorant to treat those of his nepotic court.

The result is now manifest in Nigeria’s plummeting ranking on Transparency International’s CPI. Rather than denying the obvious fact and trying to rubbish TI’s time-tested methodology, the government must look at itself thoroughly in the mirror!

The post Nigeria’s worsening ranking on corruption appeared first on BusinessDay : News you can trust.

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