Global perception of the anti-corruption battle in Nigeria got a modicum of approval, yesterday, after the global anti-corruption body, Transparency International, TI, moved the country four places up in its yearly ranking of public sector transparency.
Nigeria's 139 ranking was up from the 143rd position the country was ranked last year, according to the TI ranking released early yesterday.
This came as the Federal Government, yesterday, dismissed the rating by TI, saying it was a product of "synopsis of negative media reports."
The relatively better ranking nonetheless, reactions within the country was not cheery as it was the opinion of many that corruption remained deeply rooted in the nation's body polity.
In the release made available on its website, TI put Nigeria in a joint 139 position with Azerbaijan, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan among the 178 nation's surveyed. Nigeria was effectively ranked as the 35th most corrupt country in the world. In the rankings last year, Nigeria got a total score of 2.4 out of a total of 10.
The ranking based on public sector corruption, among other indices, followed a total score of 27 out of 100 in the Corruption Perception Index, CPI. The CPI is the degree to which corruption is perceived to permeate among public officials and politicians in a country by the business community and country experts.
The scale is based on a rating of 100 for very clean to 0 for very corrupt.
For the first time since the beginning of the rankings in 2005, three countries, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, were joint first in the rankings having obtained an average score of 90 out of 100.
Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia, like last year, were tied at the bottom of the rankings which essentially were reflective of the perception of the business community on the transparency and cleanness of public officials and politicians.
The ranking sent mixed signals among the political class and the civil rights community with some lauding the improvement while some faulted the position.
The first African nation on the TI index is Botswana which is 30th on the global ranking. Nigeria's 139th position and total score of 27 is reflective of the country's score of 32 out of 100 in the African Development Bank's Governance rating.
Remarkably, two thirds of the 176 countries ranked in the 2012 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean), showing that public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable.
"Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making. Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people," Ms Huguette Labelle, the Canadian Chairperson of Transparency International said yesterday.
"After a year of focus on corruption, we expect governments to take a tougher stance against the abuse of power. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 results demonstrate that societies continue to pay the high cost of corruption," Labelle said.
FG dismisses rating
Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, who reacted to the rating, said the agency did not take cognisance of the achievements recorded by this administration in its fight against corruption.
According to him, "the TI report and a recent Gallup Poll that also showed that Nigeria was among corrupt nations globally were products of perceptions of both the people and the media practitioners which fail to appreciate that the incumbent administration was taking steps to deal with corruption by employing systematic and institutional approaches that are gradual in yielding results."
Citing the instance of the prosecution of alleged fraudsters implicated in the fuel subsidy scam, investigation into the pension fund scandal, the geometric auditing of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and curbing of graft in the supply of fertiliser and seeds to farmers, the minister said these were concrete efforts that should be commended.