In its 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released on January 31, 2023, Transparency International (TI) ranked Nigeria 150 out of 180 countries assessed. This is four steps up from the 2021 index where Nigeria was ranked 154 out of 180 countries. The country’s score, however, remains 24 out of 100 points, the same score in 2021. This is said to be the country’s lowest score since 2012. What this means in essence is that there has not been any significant improvement in the efforts to battle corruption in Nigeria over the years.    

What informed the latest CPI result for Nigeria include, among others, the prevalence of high profile corruption, opaqueness in the subsidy regime, judicial challenges and the pardon of some convicted high profile individuals. Last year, for instance, President Muhammadu Buhari granted pardon to the jailed former governors of Plateau and Taraba States, Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame respectively.

Despite claims to the contrary, Nigerians have continued to witness mind-boggling acts of corruption. Even with the trillions of naira spent on the so-called fuel subsidy in Nigeria, for instance, the product is scarce and expensive. In some parts of the country, the price has climbed from N169 to between N400 and N600 a litre. With this scenario, we wonder who is actually benefitting from the subsidy.

Besides, Nigeria is in the process of going into a general election on February 25, 2023. The primaries of the major political parties were fraught with corruption as the major candidates reportedly spent millions of dollars to buy their mandates. This same scenario will likely play out in the general election, as vote buying remains a major headache of our electoral system.

The level of corruption in the country is also reflected in the volume of illicit financial flows from Nigeria. In the first quarter of 2022, for instance, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) flagged suspicious transactions valued at over N150 trillion. This was an increase compared to suspicious transactions of the first quarter of 2021 valued at N108.5 trillion. The largest chunk of the illicit transactions flowed through our banks. And the major culprits are our politicians who use such stolen funds to buy property in places like United Kingdom, the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates. Last year, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, informed Nigerians that the ICPC intercepted N181 million from 19 government agencies between January and June 2022. The money must have been diverted or stolen by corrupt public officials.

Corruption has persisted in Nigeria because there is no sincere effort to tackle the problem. When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, one of his major promises was to fight corruption. By the time he hands over to another President in May this year, it will have been obvious that the promise has not been fulfilled.   

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Consequently, many of our public institutions like schools and hospitals have remained in a state of disrepair. Money budgeted for their rehabilitation is often mismanaged or embezzled. This state of affairs has also affected foreign investment in the country. Investors prefer environment where there is transparency and rule of law.

Sadly, the Nigerian government has failed to acknowledge the enormity of the challenge before us. This is why certain government functionaries, most times, come up to attack TI each time it releases its report on CPI. In 2021, for instance, Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, dismissed the ranking process, saying Nigeria’s score was not a true reflection of its anti-corruption agenda. The same Mohammed has also dismissed the current ranking, saying Nigeria is not fighting corruption to impress TI or any organisation whatsoever. The Attorney General of the Federation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Presidency and the ICPC have, at various times, criticized the CPI as being appalling and untenable.

The current CPI report should serve as a rude awakening to Nigerians. There is need for a reorientation of our leaders and the entire citizens. Nigeria has a lot of resources. If the country could have a true and transparent leadership with zero tolerance for corruption at all levels of governance, there will be enough money to fix Nigeria. We implore whoever will emerge as the President after the elections to take the issue of fighting corruption more seriously. Our institutions must be strengthened such that whoever is involved in corrupt practices must be dealt with no matter how highly placed.

Our anti-corruption agencies must also be strengthened to do their jobs more effectively. The EFCC and ICPC in particular should up their games in the fight against corruption. The judiciary should be made strong enough to handle corruption cases and also deliver justice at all times.

As the Transparency International Chair, Delia Rubio, put it, “Corruption has made our world a more dangerous place. As governments have collectively failed to make progress against it, they fuel the current rise in violence and conflict – and endanger people everywhere. The only way out is for states to do the hard work, rooting out corruption at all levels to ensure governments work for all people, not just an elite few.”