THE Transparency International (TI) on Wednesday, in its latest report ranked Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt country in the world. Nigeria's 139 ranking was up from the 143rd position she was ranked last year, an indication that the country is recording some mileage in the crusade against graft.
Faced with an avalanche of unresolved graft cases involving former leaders at all levels and deteriorating socio-economic welfare of the citizenry, which are traceable to official corruption, Nigerians received the latest rating with mixed views.
While some agreed with the agency and said Nigeria was making inroads in the anti-corruption crusade, others disagreed and wondered why the most populous black nation was not ranked as the most corrupt.
The National Bureau of Statistics said last February that 112.519 million of Nigeria's 163 million population live in relative poverty conditions. Apart from the relative poverty index the United Nation's assessment reveals that 61.2 per cent of Nigerians are living on a dollar a day.
In terms of Absolute Poverty, which is defined as the minimal requirements necessary to afford minimal standards of food, clothing, healthcare and shelter, 54.7 per cent of Nigerians were living in poverty in 2004 but this increased to 60.9 per cent (or 99,284,512 Nigerians) in 2010.
The disclosure by TI is remarkably sobering for a country that regards itself as the giant of Africa. The latest TI ranking showed that Nigeria has the second highest corruption rate in West Africa with the country only better than Guinea Bissau and just a handful of other African countries in the continent.
Though there was some little improvement, both the government, the ruling party, the PDP and opposition parties and civil society seem to be almost agreed in dismissing the TI ranking. While the government has faulted the global anti-corruption watch dog for not appreciating the good works of the present administration, critics flayed TI for finding an improvement in the ethical conduct of the government and public officials.
Prof Itse Sagay was assertive in declaring that Nigeria should have been put as the most corrupt country in the world while human rights crusader, Bamidele Aturu said he was now about losing confidence in TI for seeing an improvement in the corruption rating of the country.
Presidential spokesman Dr. Rueben Abati was, however, dismissive of the TI ranking saying it did not consider what he described as the administration's strides in transparency and war against graft.
Among others who reacted were Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; former National Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Alhaji Usman Bugaje; Rights activists, Bamidele Aturu; Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, Senator Ahmed Lawan, Senator Roland Owie, Reps Abiodun Faleke and Fort Dike.
Nigeria can't make progress with this rating - Bugaje
Former National Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Alhaji Usman Bugaje declared that the country is not winning the anit-graft war.
He said: "Honestly, Nigeria's corruption is getting worse by the day and I have never seen this kind of corruption in other parts of the world. My worry is that I believe Nigeria cannot make any progress, transformation or change under the present circumstances of corruption this country has found itself."
I disagree, Nigeria is deteriorating - Aturu
Aturu agreed with Bugaje saying: "My problem with Transparency International is that I am beginning to have problems with their research and findings. It is clear to everybody that corruption is getting worse. Everyday and everywhere you go, you find that corruption is killing Nigeria, not gradually now, but speedily. So, if we don't do anything about corruption, the country is finished. I want to vehemently disagree that there has been an improvement in our rating."
Speaking further, he stated that "there are no public schools today because of corruption; the roads are not passable because of corruption. PHCN and all our public institutions have collapsed because of corruption. The court system treats corrupt people as if they are kings with all sorts of adjournments. So, how can anybody say that we are doing better in terms of corruption? If the findings are showing that we are doing better in terms of corruption, then, I reject it, but if other countries are doing worse, then, I think that is reasonable."
Legislators also expressed mixed reactions to the development yesterday. Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, a member of the Senate Committee on Drug, Narcotics and Financial Crime, took a swipe at the western world depiction of Nigeria as corrupt saying that they provided the platform for such. He nevertheless submitted that the country was improving in the battle against graft.
"For countries of the Western World where Transparency International is based to harbour loot from Nigeria, it shows that they too are corrupt."
Senator Kunlere however called for adequate funding for the nation's anti-corruption agencies if they must seriously fight corruption in the country, adding that those they try to expose are richer than organisations like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and when they go after them with the lean resources, the result is often not palatable.
Also speaking with Vanguard, Chairman Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Ahmed Lawan, said that the verdict of Transparency International was an indication that corruption was rife in Nigeria. However, he was quite pessimistic on how the agency arrived at the statistics before the rating.
Senator Lawan who called for adequate funding of the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, said that with lack of funds for the office, it would be difficult to audit the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs as that is the statutory responsibility of the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
He called on the Federal Government to deal decisively with corruption in a holistic manner rather than selective handling of the situation.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption, Abiodun Faleke and Rep. Fort Dike, (Ihiala, Anambra State), in separate reactions also bemoaned the effect of corruption on the polity.
Describing the rating as a sad moment for Nigeria, Faleke said: "It is a clear thing which clearly indicates that the Nigerian Government is not ready to fight corruption yet."
Dike on his part said: "Corruption has permeated everywhere in our society. It has become so pervasive and comprehensive. It has even affected how our resources are used and even the performance of governments at different levels. It has also affected the value of our money. You cannot say the legislature, judiciary or executive arm of government is maximally efficient and this is attributable to corruption."
"As a legislator, when a budget estimate is presented to you and you see that the price of a personal computer is put at N350, 000, you immediately know that corruption is responsible. It has even affected the kind of goods and services we provide in this country. It has affected electricity and water supply too. Even our standard of education has fallen due to corruption. It pains my heart so much that we have found ourselves in this kind of situation.
"When you consider the security challenges we are facing today, you would also realise that corruption is a contributory factor. This applies to both armed robbery and kidnapping. One of the major reasons these things happen is due to corruption because the security operatives won't do their work properly due to the influence of this cankerworm."
Jonathan is doing well, lets support him - Sen. Roland Owie
What is all the noise about Nigeria being the 35th most corrupt nation by TI? Corruption in Nigeria didn't start in President Jonathan's government. Corruption has been in Nigeria and other parts of the world from time. I say, with all sense of responsibility, that corruption got to its height in Nigeria during Obasanjo's tenure between 1999 and 2007.
That was the period when Ghana Must Go Bags were used in installing leaderships of the National Assembly and in the impeachment of State governors who were not in the good book of the President. Haba! It was in that regime that 16.5billion dollars went into power sector and yet no power was provided and yet those crying about corruption in Nigeria today shut their ears and closed their mouths.
Has Petrol subsidy frauds not been in Nigeria all along? Which civilian government has had the courage to confront the subsidy monster apart from President Jonathan? The revenue received by IBB in eight years was just what Obasanjo received in one year.
Today IBB monuments can be seen in all corners of Nigeria and nothing can be ascribed to OBJ apart from the Library at Ota. I urge well meaning Nigerians to give support to Jonathan's government to deliver the dividends of democracy.
There's room for improvement-- Afenifere
On its part Afenifere, said there is room for improvement. Speaking with Vanguard, National leader of the Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti said, "that is their opinion, I don't think I want to say anything more than that. With what we see around here, we are really corrupt, we can still improve on that."