The Federal Government on Thursday took exception to Transparency International’s (TI’s) ranking of Nigeria as the 146th of the 180 analysed on the organisation’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
Criticising the low rating by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Federal Government said the exercise was baseless and appalling.
It said the bogus and ambiguous criteria used by TI to arrive at its perception index can best be described as a “jaundiced and illogical rating”.
On the latest CPI, Nigeria dropped two places, scoring 26 out of 100 points. According to the report, the country dropped from the 27 points it has maintained since 2017.
In the 2018 index, Nigeria rose by four places from 148 to 144.
TI’s head in Nigeria, told reporters in Abuja, Auwal Rafsanjani, listed selective adherence to the rule of law and corruption in political parties as some of the reasons for the poor ranking.
The Corruption Index ranked 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption in the opinion of experts and business people, using a scale of 0 to 100, where zero means “highly corrupt” and 100 means very clean.
Rafsanjani said: “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.”
The Sub-Saharan Africa region was classified as the lowest-performing region while Western Europe was the highest-scoring region.
Of the 19 countries in the West African region, Nigeria was ranked the fourth most corrupt country.
Transparency international’s chair, Delia Ferreira Rubio urged the government to urgently address what she called “the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on political systems”.
But the EFCC described as regrettable that TI has never acknowledged its efforts and achievements.
The anti-graft agency, however, said it will not be distracted in the pursuit of its mandate of fighting corruption.
In a statement by its Acting Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Tony Orilade, the EFCC said the ranking of Nigeria as 146 did not reflect the nation’s anti-graft success.
The statement reads: “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, including that of a former state governor and a serving senator who was convicted for defrauding his state to the tune of N7.65 billion.
“It was a landmark in the fight against corruption never achieved across the West African region, indeed, Africa at large. This is among several high profile cases, which were successfully prosecuted during the year with many of them currently serving various jail terms.
“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.
“It is on record that three former state governors are currently serving different jail terms in prison for defrauding their states and stealing from the treasury to enrich themselves and their cronies.
“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.
“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 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. It is obvious that the body has its own hidden agenda.
“The commission will, however not be distracted by a body that has been consistent in its biased rating of Nigeria, and will continue in its mandate of fighting corruption.”
Toeing the EFCC position, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) said the TI report on the state of Nigeria’s anti-corruption war “is opaque and not a reflection of the reality on ground”.
According to the group, the TI rating “is strictly the authors’ definition of perception”.
In a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, the BMO said it was uncharitable for the anti-corruption body to have concluded that the anti-graft war in Nigeria was not yielding results.
The group said: “Here is a group that went to some length to acknowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari has since 2015 introduced what it described as important reforms that have saved billions of naira. It also argued, in its own words, that the introduction of the Single Treasury Account (TSA) eliminated continuous leakages in most MDAs.
“But, despite these, TI still went ahead to rank Nigeria very low, lower than even Ghana that was recently adjudged as the second most corrupt country in Africa by an international body, based on what it said is the perception of business community and country experts of the level of corruption in the public sector.
“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.”
TI, the pro-Buhari noted, said it knew Nigerians would receive its report with skepticism when it brought up issues that have little or nothing to do with the fight against corruption.
It said: “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.”
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