Says perceptions based on reality, no partial report

Tasks govt on self-examination, commitment to anti-corruption fight

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Thursday, in its response to reactions trailing its 2020 Corruption Perception Index that rated Nigeria as a second most corrupt nation in the ECOWAS region, and scoring the worst since 2013, said the attack on Nigeria’s CPI performance is a sign of desperation and lack of policy to address problems.

This was contained in a statement signed by its Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani, following an outcry from the government and Nigerians that greeted the report after it was released last week.

According to Rafsanjani the reactions and feedback on Nigeria’s CPI performance and the concurrent statement published by CISLAC are categorised into two clusters; On the one hand, there was an official dismissal of the results and accusations of CISLAC and partners for not being patriotic in publishing the CPI ranking and commenting on the results.

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On the other hand, there has been unreserved support from the Nigerian public, who experience the daily reality of corruption in schools, hospitals, governmental offices, private business and all other aspects of Nigerian public life. Most Nigerian citizens agreed in stating “we do not need TI to tell us that corruption is everywhere in Nigeria”.

He said: “Every year, the publication of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), computed by Transparency International (TI) based in Germany and published in Nigeria by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), has drawn enormous media attention.

“Unsurprisingly, the Government and the public have been even more agitated this year due to the unfavourable rating with Nigeria scoring the worst since 2013 and the second most corrupt position in the ECOWAS region after Guinea-Bissau.

“Most Nigerian citizens agreed in stating that, “we do not need TI to tell us that corruption is everywhere in Nigeria.

“CISLAC believes it is important to explain why Nigeria’s bad performance in the CPI, and other governance rankings, cannot be taken lightly moving forward. We also want to react to some inaccuracies and outright misinterpretations that have appeared in the Nigerian media since the CPI 2020 was launched.

“Transparency International’s CPI and other similar rankings have earned prominence due to their academic rigour, impartiality and accuracy. Every attack on widely accepted research methodology is rather a sign of desperation and lack of a policy that would make a difference.”

He also maintained that, “First and foremost, on the part of the civil society, we consider to be the highest level of patriotism to constructively discuss the CPI and any other corruption and governance rankings.

“Let us recall that CPI and similar well-recognised, reputable and impartial rankings have direct and indirect impact on economies and the lives of people.

“For example, many multinational companies consider the CPI ranking when deciding where to invest. Governments around the globe include the CPI results in their political-economy analysis when deciding how to engage a particular country in terms of investments, development cooperation or diplomatic ties.

“It is clear that ignoring the CPI, especially if the progress shows a negative trend, is extremely irresponsible and ignores the people’s struggle on the ground. It is unfortunate and politically dangerous to attack the messengers, in this case CISLAC/TI Nigeria and partners, and dismiss the results without reflecting constructively on the drivers behind the unfavourable ranking.

“Secondly, Transparency International, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, CISLAC, CDD, BudgIT, SERAP and other think-tanks and international civil society organisations are not biased, partisan or incompetent.”

The CISLAC boss also pointed that, “Every organisation has the right to conduct any type of survey it chooses provided that the methodology is evidence-based and opened for repeatability by others.

“As in the case of the CPI, the methodology has been consistent, audited by first-class academic institutions and transparent to everyone. Every methodology has its own limitations as to scope, method and other parameters which is why the CPI is not the only survey conducted by TI.

He also added that, “The corruption Barometer which is carried out by CISLAC and Afro-Barometer is another type of survey which measures the detailed public opinion of citizens. By the way, all these surveys point at negative trend in fighting corruption in Nigeria as well as overall quality of governance.

“The first and second national corruption surveys conducted by the government’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and released in 2017 and 2019 both revealed the massive extent of bribery and other types of corruption of Nigerians dealing with the Nigerian Police, the judicial system, and other public institutions. It is true that anti-corruption agencies arrest hundreds of people on corruption-related charges every year but compared to the millions of corrupt transactions taking place, this is an insignificant fraction of offenders. The bottom line is that one has to be extremely unlucky to be caught, prosecuted, and convicted for corruption in Nigeria.

“Available data show that Nigeria loses billions of dollars every year on tax evasion, floating or ignoring procurement guidelines, defence procurement, and others. Most of the international, anti-corruption commitments made by the Government in recent years under the Open Government Partnership, London 2016 Anti-Corruption conference or the SDG 2030 agenda have not been achieved. It is this reality that drives unfavourable perceptions about the Nigerian State regarding the anti-corruption fight.

“We cannot fight corruption with making commitments around the globe and fierce rhetoric at home.”

According to him (Rafsanjani) while the argument about passing important anti-corruption laws or policies attracting foreign direct investment is valid, the Nigerian experience on the ground shows that it is business as usual in the domain of public administration.

“As well-meaning Nigerians, we do not criticise the Government without strong evidence and we certainly do not blame ordinary Nigerians for being corrupt! Often, they have no choice in the conduct of their administrative encounters.

“We have formally and informally extended our hand to everyone who wants to take it. Our expertise, those of our partners’ and international networks stand ready to support any governmental and/or non-governmental initiative that will make a real difference.

“Let’s be very clear. There is no shortcut in driving global governance indicators in a positive direction. The implementation of cosmetic measures simply does not work and make no difference on the ground.

He also pointed that, “Facts speak for themselves. For example, Covid-19 relief materials found in private residences of politicians, politically motivated dismissals and nominations in the public services, an inexplicable increase of financial resources spent on running the government and the National Assembly in the middle of the economic catastrophe experienced by most Nigerians and similar intentional and unintentional public-relations gaffes fuel the widely shared opinion of zero progress or even regress in the fight against corruption.

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“As a way forward, we suggest an analytical approach to problem-solving in specific governance areas. How do we stop tax evasion? How do we ensure transparency in public finance management? How do we comply with procurement guidelines? How do we nominate leaders of public institutions based on merit, not on political, ethnic, or religious affiliation? How do we ensure that civil servants are appointed, appraised, and promoted on merit? How do we dismiss politics from the anti-corruption fight? How do we create systems to prevent abuse of power by public officials? These are practical problems that we should all be discussing. We do not need the CPI for that.

“Nigerians are very clear that the CPI accuracy is not their problem. Corruption in all economic and social aspects of every Nigerian and general dysfunctionality of the government and governance is affecting the lives of citizens negatively.”

He also tasked the government at all levels and Nigerians on self-examination and restrategising to address the issues raised to improve on the fight against corruption from all angles.

“There is no time to waste precious resources on denying the obvious reality. We need to put all our efforts into making tangible progress on anti-corruption.

“Let us assure the Government and the public that when Nigerians start experiencing a positive difference, the CPI and all other indices will move in the right direction. In the meantime, the fight against corruption has to be about real results, not defensive media noise’, he added.

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