Nigeria’s ranking on corruption index undermines Buhari’s legacy 

By Eniola Akinkuotu

Posted on Wednesday, 1 February 2023 18:09
Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during the presentation of 2023 appropriation budget to the National Assembly in Abuja, October 7, 2022. Nigeria Presidency office/Handout via REUTERS

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 with corruption as the very cornerstone of his campaign. However, with four months left in his tenure, Nigeria has failed to rise on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. What does this say about his legacy? 

The jury is out. In the latest 2022 corruption perception index released by Transparency International, Nigeria retains its score of 24 out of 100 and is ranked 150 out of 180 countries assessed. Africa’s largest economy is ranked 150 alongside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Lebanon, and Guatemala. 

Among all the countries in West Africa, Nigeria is considered the second most corrupt after Guinea Bissau.  

Ranked at number 23 with a score of 70%, Seychelles is number one among African nations. Botswana and Cape Verde are tied at 60% and ranked at 35. Sao Tome maintains its score of 45% while Benin, Ghana, Senegal and South Africa are tied at 72 with a score of 43 out of 100. 

TI says its latest index shows a dire situation in Sub-Saharan Africa. It adds that most countries have failed to make progress against corruption, with levels stagnating and 90% of countries in the region scoring below 50. 

This government has recovered over a billion dollars not to talk of the ones recovered from foreign jurisdictions….

“Yet corruption isn’t the only obstacle facing the region – it’s also one of the least peaceful regions in the world according to the Global Peace Index. This isn’t a coincidence: corruption and conflict exacerbate each other in a vicious cycle, so countries in conflict become more corrupt and corruption then fuels conflict,” it says. 

Buhari’s legacy 

The Africa Report notes that since Buhari took office in 2015, Nigeria has not seen any marginal improvement in TI’s ranking. While Africa’s largest nation has risen and dropped in ranking, it has maintained a score of between 24% and 28% in the last eight years. 

In the 2015 corruption perception index, Nigeria scored 27%. It maintained a score of 27% in the 2019 index while in the 2020 index, it scored 26%. It scored 25% and 24% in the corruption perception index of 2020 and 2021 respectively. 

On the President’s watch, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies have recorded an unprecedented number of convictions. At least a billion dollars in cash and property have been recovered from politically exposed persons. However, critics argue that most of the convictions have been small-time Internet fraudsters while politically exposed persons have continued to evade justice. 

Last year, Buhari controversially pardoned two ex-governors – Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame – who had been convicted by the Supreme Court for stealing N2.7bn ($5.8m). The previous year, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was removed under controversial circumstances while cases of corruption against some highly placed individuals close to the administration were stopped. 

Earlier in his tenure, he had introduced a whistleblower policy that promised a reward of up to 5% on recoveries. At the initial stage of the policy, recoveries running into millions of dollars were made. However, the failure of the government to institutionalise it has so far frustrated the policy. A bill to legalise it has remained in parliament for years. 

Yet corruption isn’t the only obstacle facing the region – it’s also one of the least peaceful regions in the world according to the Global Peace Index….

Also, there remains a weakness among the country’s critical institutions. A report by the Office of the Auditor General says government agencies appropriated money without legal approval. Over 50 agencies and ministries were fingered in corruption but no action has been taken so far. 

BudgIT, a civic-tech outfit, uncovered 460 duplicated projects valued at N378.9bn ($822.8m) which were allegedly inserted into the 2022 budget by parliament. The country’s parliament has on several occasions been accused of budget padding. But errant lawmakers and complicit civil servants have never been made to face justice. 

Electoral corruption  

With the highly anticipated 2023 Presidential election approaching, Nigeria has also witnessed a spike in corruption. Multiple reports stated that at the primaries of major political parties, delegates were bribed to elect candidates with some getting as high as $20,000 each. 

Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies stormed the venues of such primaries but there has been no prosecution. Electoral officials already foresee a high rate of vote buying at the polls which come up in less than four weeks. 

A delegate, Tanko Rossi Sabo, was seen sharing N7m ($15,202) with members of his community out of the money he got at the Presidential primary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) last May. 

Even now, the President has approved the redesign of the naira in order to reduce the currency in circulation and reduce incidents of vote buying in the election. It remains to be seen whether this will do the trick. 

The verdict 

But the Buhari administration disagrees. In an interview with The Africa Report, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, says the administration has done exceedingly well compared to previous administrations. 

Sagay describes Transparency International as a “colonial organisation trying to run Nigeria down so that we will have a low esteem of ourselves as a country knowing that Nigeria is the hope of the black race.” 

The law professor, who is President Buhari’s chief advisor on corruption, adds that corruption is a hydra-headed problem in Nigeria and that each time the government tackles one problem, another one surfaces and this is because “Nigerians are inherently corrupt”. 

He adds that on Buhari’s watch, the rate of conviction has gone up by more than 10 times while the recovery of properties and cash has increased. Sagay maintains that posterity will be kind to Buhari. 

“This government has recovered over a billion dollars not to talk of the ones recovered from foreign jurisdictions. This government has taken the trouble to show how the monies have been used. Some of the funds have gone into social and welfare programmes,” Sagay says. 

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