At the onset of this administration in May 2015, there were various promises made to rid Nigeria of corruption, the cankerworm that has seeped into the core of this country and is gradually destroying our foundation. Four years after, Nigeria instead, overtook India in the extreme poverty ranking due to pervasive corruption at all levels – local, state and national – of governance. Having observed the disturbing trends, events and occurrences in our dear nation; noting the responses from government, groups and different stakeholders, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)/Transparency International (TI) states with concern that corruption remains pervasive and perhaps a single factor behind the continuous depreciation of the socio-economic capital of Nigeria.
The last four editions of the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) are a testament to a slow or even stagnant progress in the fight against corruption in the last four years with Nigeria scoring 27 out of 100 points in the 2018 CPI, the same score as the 2017 CPI and ranked 144 as opposed to 148 in the 2017 CPI. The score means that there was no change in the perception of the state of corruption in the country; Nigeria has not improved in the international comparison in regard to perception of corruption.
The Government has been falling short to deliver on anti-corruption commitments made to Nigerians and to the international community. We acknowledge achieving important milestones such as the first-ever National Anti-Corruption Strategy in 2017. However, little has been done to put the strategy in motion. The strategy has not been operationalized.
Freedom of Information
- The Act makes public records and information more freely available, provide for public access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy, protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization and establish procedures for the achievement of those purposes and; for related matters”. The Chapter’s advocacy in this case involves:
– Encouragement to all government agencies on compliance with the provisions of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to minimize corruption and secrecy that impair good governance, transparency and accountability.
– Media and public advocacy to expose and curb corruption that eats very deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society;
– Effective utilisation of the Act in evidence-based advocacy by civil society organisations (CSOs) to create well-informed society where citizens constructively demand accountability from their respective governments.
– Massive awareness creation and capacity building among the community on the importance of the in monitoring public service delivery;
– Informing people about governments duty to proactively disclose information; sharing successful case studies on use of FOI Act by ordinary citizens in order to enable people to appreciate its value and importance;
– Organizing workshops, seminars, inter-face such as Town Hall Meeting at federal and state levels with the purpose of increasing awareness and knowledge about FOI Act;
- The intensity and implications of corrupt practices in the country has brought to the fore, importance of adequate protection for whistle-blowers. Though whistleblowing would have gone a long way at exposing all manner of corrupt practices in the nation’s socio-political and economic atmospheres; but the absence of enabling legislation backing whistle-blowing and protecting whistle-blowers restricts sincere effort at exposing corruption. Having observed the importance of whistleblowing to anti-corruption fight, the Chapter has been advocating for:
– Passage of appropriation legislation like Whistleblower Protection Bill, as a tool for sustenance fight against money laundering;
– Vibrant judicial system for judicious interpretation and implementation of the legislation;
– Enabling policy environment for whistle-blowers protection to encourage persistent report or information on misconducts and corrupt practices; and discourage continuous victimisations and unjust treatments against whistle-blowers;
– Strengthen whistleblowing mechanisms by anti-graft institutions within public offices using Anti-corruption and Transparency Monitoring Unit;
- Public procurement is one of the government activities most vulnerable to corruption. In addition to the volume of transactions and the financial interests at stake, corruption risks are exacerbated by the complexity of the process, the close interaction between public officials and businesses, and the multitude of stakeholders.Identified types of corruption in the procurement process include embezzlement, undue influence in the needs assessment, bribery of public officials involved in the award process, or fraud in bid evaluations, invoices or contract obligations.
It has been revealed that more than half of foreign bribery cases occurred to obtain a public procurement contract with almost two-thirds of foreign bribery cases occurring in sectors closely associated with contracts or licensing through public procurement.
The direct costs of corruption include loss of public funds through mis-allocation or higher expenses and lower quality of goods, services and works. Those paying the bribes seek to recover their money by inflating prices, billing for work not performed, failing to meet contract standards, reducing quality of work or using inferior materials, in case of public procurement of works. This results in exaggerated costs and a decrease in quality. In this regard, the Chapter’s advocacy involves:
– Prompt inauguration of the National Procurement Council for effective coordination and oversight public procurement activities.
– Active participation in procurement monitoring, bid opening through its established Procurement Watch Desk;
– Leveraging the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) in assessing procurement information;
– Leveraging various accountability platforms to call on relevant stakeholders to uphold high level integrity in the procurement process through transparency, stakeholder participation, accessibility, e-procurement system and appropriate oversight and control with full implementation of the National Procurement Act to ensure fairness, non-discrimination and compliance in the public procurement process.
- An effective judiciary guarantees fairness in legal processes. It remains a powerful weapon against corruption and laundering activities. The judiciary has a great role to play in the efforts to save the nation from imminent collapse under the weight of unbridled money laundering. Without doubt, judges symbolize the judicial powers of the state; they stand out as the central figures in the judicial system and the administration of justice. The extent of judges frustrating justice for compensations or enticement of various kinds has been reported to sabotage efforts in the fight against corruption. Endemic corruption in judicial system has resulted in loss of public confidence and hopelessness in the system. Consequently, the Chapter has been advocating for:
– Strict adherence to the rules of law by the judicial arm of government to avoid all forms of prejudicial activities;
– For review of the controversial quota system as related to its application to the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court and to a lesser extent the Court of Appeal;
– Appointment of an independent individual or person who is not in the system, such as a retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, a retired President of the Court of Appeal or a respectable and experienced legal practitioner as Chairman of the National Judicial Council.
- Nigeria’s education sector has hitherto continued to suffer from continuous scourge of severe corruption and incompetence. Corruption in the public education system symbolizes:
– unchecked mismanagement of funds meant for educational projects, resulting in ill-equipped laboratory, library , and classrooms;
– politicization of the education system by corrupt politicians who are elected on university boards, making learning environment unconducive, unproductive;
– the embezzlement of education budgets allocated for the purchase of teaching materials, resulting in declining performance of students;
– institutionalized and systematic bribery, abuse of office, sexual misconducts fuelling examination malpractices, unmerited advantages, and poor performance;
– high level ghost teachers phenomenon with teachers on the payroll but do not teach, giving chance to difficulties in the coverage of work content and ineffective lessons delivery by unqualified personnel who maybe standing in for the absentees;
– fast declining personal effort with little or no regard for merit as success comes through manipulation, favouritism and bribery, thereby shaking the foundations of society; and
– serious preference for financial rewards in admission process into education institutions, where the best but poor students are denied ones.
Giving the insight into the nature of corruption in the Nigeria’s education sector, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) revealed that corruption has weakened the sector, leading to low efficiency, wastage and misappropriation of resources, low quality service delivery. The Commission classified the ills into different levels of occurrence such as policy level, Ministry/state and local government level, schools and administrative levels.
– Corruption in the education sector was a major challenge to achieving the Goal 2 of Millennium Development Goals of comprehensive primary school education for all the world children by 2015.
- Land corruption has prevailed in West Africa because on one hand, citizens have limited access to information, the laws and procedures regulating land ownership are complex and there is insufficient access to justice, while the lack in capacity of local land offices and traditional institutions has hindered good governance practices. Rapid urbanization has also led to unaccountable land management and urban planning in many of our cities and poor oversight by independent bodies has relegated land corruption to a “petty offence.”
We have a duty to ensure that ownership of land is not restricted to the rich and wealthy alone, neither should it be for a particular gender or age group.
Security Sector Reform
- Corruption in the defence and security sector contributes significantly to the human despair and economic stagnation across Nigeria. While the Nigerian defence budget has soared more than 500% in the last 10 years, insecurity and breakdown of the rule of law in some parts of the country continue unabated. The recent revelation by the Inspector General of Police that 1,071 persons were killed,while 685 were kidnapped in the first quarter of 2019, is alarming. This is an average of eight persons being killed and five persons kidnapped daily. Ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that this is unacceptable and no nation should be at ease with these figures. CISLAC regrets the rejection of the Police Reform Bill by the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
- The fact that Governors routinely claim they are not in charge of the security apparatus in their states while they receive huge sums as Security Votes begs for an explanation. CISLAC and other civil society groups have been consistent in proposing immediate solutions – Ban Senseless Security votes, which accounts in total for around 241.2 billion Naira annually, a sum that exceeds 70 percent of the annual budget of the Nigeria Police Force; make defence budgets more accessiblefor public scrutiny; appoint civilian oversight in charge of military procurement and encourage the culture of reporting corruption within the ranks and files of the Nigerian Armed F These are recommendations articulated and received from a wide range of stakeholders working across this thematic issue, raising concerns as to the usefulness and genuineness of the motive of having security votes in place.
- The introduction of beneficial ownership of companies is needed to know the extent of suspected ownership of politicians and civil servants of oil and gas companies, construction businesses and other public contractors. It is obvious that Nigeria cannot be heldhostage through industrial empires and monopolised public and defence structures! Money-laundering crimes and tax evasion need to be stringently investigated and prosecuted by competent agencies and in line with Financial Action Task Force Standards. Frivolous and fraudulent tax wavers to multinational and Nigerian companies, especially in high net revenue sectors such as oil and gas, communication and construction, need to be stopped. They clearly do not benefit Nigerian population.
Reform in the Oil and Gas Sector
- The reforms meant to address corruption in the extractive sector hasfallen short of desired goals in the past four years. The recurrent lapses and loss to the nation in oil and gas revenue as revealed in report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), which indicate the poor attitude toward the implementation of previous report, the failure to pass into law the elusive Petroleum Industry Bill, exemplify this. We urge the president, in the next four years, to ensure the passage of this and related legislations to entrench reforms in the sector. He should also ensure that the disclosure of beneficial owners of licenses in the sector and the publicizing of oil and mining contracts become a reality as envisaged by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Open Government Partnership Commitments National Action Plan.
- If Nigerian democracy and governance is to be preserved, the origins of huge assets of Nigerian real owners need be disclosedand, in case of Politically Exposed Persons, military and non-military personnel, religious leaders and other public figures, diligently explained to Nigerians. Let me recall that out of the 110 Nigerian present in the infamous Panama Papers, precisely zero have been prosecuted. In other countries, governments fell, individuals were held accountable while in Nigeria, they are even admired by blinded constituencies.
The next phase of the President’s anti-corruption programme must be anchored on clear anti-corruption strategy, active support and involvement of citizens groups, the Legislature. The fight must prioritize prevention and sanction to win back public support and increase the cost of corruption for everyone, no matter their office.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Mr. Auwal Musa RAFSANJANI
Executive Director, CISLAC
Chair, Transparency International Nigeria