Weak institutions fuel corruption in Nigeria, says CISLAC, Transparency International

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By Angela Atabo

Abuja, Jan.25, 2022 The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the National chapter of Transparency International, on Tuesday, said weak institutions were responsibly for fuelling corruption in Nigeria.

CISLAC’s Executive director, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, said this at the official launch of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2021, in Abuja.

Rafsanjani listed the failure to investigate high profile corruption cases and prevent illicit financial flows (IFFs), as well as the absence of asset recovery, as some of the factors increasing corruption in Nigeria.

He added that the lack of protection for whistle-blowers and other key anti-corruption legal frameworks, judiciary challenges, security sector corruption, among others, were some of the key elements fuelling corruption.

“Today, Transparency International (TI) released the 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) exclusively in Nigeria by CISLAC and the National chapter of Transparency International.

“The index reveals that Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points in the 2021 CPI, falling back one point compared to the 2020 CPI.

“In the country comparison for this year, Nigeria ranks 154 out of 180 countries on the CPI aggregates data from eight different sources that provided perceptions by country experts and business people on the level of corruption in the public sector.

“While the index does not show specific incidences of corruption in the country, it indicated the perception of corruption in Nigeria.’’

According to Rafsanjani, the CPI result comes at a point when the Nigeria, as a country, was battling with insecurity, unemployment and damning revelations on public finance management, among others .

He said that the data used for the CPI was not collected by either CISLAC/TI-Nigeria or any of its partners, but by independent and reputable organisations with sound methodologies.

Similarly, he said, it was important to stress that this was not an assessment of Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies making commendable efforts in reducing corruption in Nigeria .

Rafsanjani, therefore, said that there was need to work on the identified key weaknesses stalling the fight against corruption in Nigeria.

Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, Deputy Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), blamed security sector corruption and the damning audit reports, as the major causes of corruption in the country.

He cited such reports as the “Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs)” report for 2019, as a case in point.

Oluwadare said that the report, published by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation in November 2021, had left Nigerians in awe due to the level of financial recklessness, abuse of budgetary processes, and failure of MDAs to follow the due process of appropriation as disturbing.

“ For example, the Auditor General revealed that the sum of N49bn was spent by nine MDAs, without appropriation by the National Assembly. This is in gross violation of section 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended).

Mr Taiwo Adebayo, Assistant Investigation Editor, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), said that failure to investigate high profile corruption cases was hampering the fight against corruption.

Adebayo said that Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies had made commendable progress in their efforts to combat corruption in 2021 with an increase in convictions.

However, he lamented that high profile convictions of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) across political, regional and any other forms of divide, had fallen short of public expectations.

Ms Adaobi Obiabunmuo, Project Coordinator at Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG), said that preventing illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), absence of asset recovery and absence of protection for whistle-blowers were responsible for Nigeria’s poor corruption perception.

“When it comes to asset recovery, Nigerian anti-graft agencies have made progress in recoveries, specifically those that have been finally forfeited.

“Sadly, the repeated failure to enact the Proceeds of Crime Act as a legal framework for the management and utilisation of recovered assets in Nigeria, which is one of the key pillars of this administration’s anti-corruption strategy, is inexplicable.

“ While Nigerians read about these recoveries by the numerous agencies with mandates to recover assets, Nigerians are in the dark as to the status of these recoveries’’, she said.

Mr Tolutope Aguloye, Manager Budgit, cited judiciary challenges, corruption in the COVID-19 response, Twitter ban, shrinking civic space and intimidation of human rights defenders as drivers of corruption.

Aguloye said that there was need for the Nigerian judiciary to speed up its delivery of judgements, adding that the delay in treating high profile cases of corruption had dampened the morale of anti-graft agencies.

Hajiya Hadiza Kangiwa, CISLAC’s Board member, said that having itemised the key weaknesses that resulted in Nigeria’s decline from the 2020 CPI, the government was, therefore, advised to implement some recommendations.

Kangiwa said that the relevant anti-graft agencies should investigate allegations of corruption by Politically Exposed Persons irrespective of political party affiliation.

She added that the National Assembly should speed up deliberations and passage of relevant anti-corruption related laws or amendments to strengthen the anti-corruption efforts, in the interest of Nigerians.

The President should assent to these laws once they were passed, she said, while taking into consideration the best interest of citizens.

Kangiwa said that the group also urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Anti-graft agencies, Ministries of Justice, and Foreign Affairs to work in synergy and engage their international counterparts.

This, she said, was to ensure that global middlemen like lawyers, notaries, accountants who helped facilitate money laundering and tax evasion were blacklisted, deregistered, or held to account under the several national and international laws which Nigeria had acceded to.

She also urged the Nigeria Police Force to urgently investigate the unexplained disappearance of arms and ammunitions, with a view to closing the gaps.

“The Nigerian police should strengthen its existing complaints channels by reinforcing its Complaints Response Unit (CRU) to handle and investigate complaints of misconduct by police officers across the country as provided for in the Police Act 2020.

“The government must ensure democratic and free civic space for engagement with the citizenry and the media.

“The decline in freedom of expression and lack of respect for human rights should be stopped and there was also a need to operationalise the anti-corruption strategy to ensure that anti-corruption efforts were not concentrated at the federal level alone.’’

Kangiwa said that other arms of government needed to be involved in the fight against corruption and not be left to the executive arm alone.