Lagos, Abuja — The federal government has rejected Nigeria's rating as the fourth most corrupt country in West Africa based on the 2019 corruption perception index compiled by the Transparency International (TI).
In the latest rating, in which Nigeria ranked 146 out of 180 countries, TI, again, scored the President Muhammadu Buhari administration low despite its avowed commitment to fight corruption.
Nigeria scored 26 out of 100 points in the Corruption Perception Index CPI, 2019.
Of the 19 countries in the West African sub-region, Nigeria was ranked the fourth most corrupt country after Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Cameroon.
The ranking earned the Buhari administration mockery from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which said the damning report on Nigeria had further validated its position that corruption had worsened under Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The CPI 2019 released globally by TI yesterday, revealed that Nigeria further slipped down by one point compared to last year's rating.
The newly-released index published in Nigeria exclusively by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), TI Chapter in Nigeria, showed that Nigeria scored 26 out of 100 points, falling back by one point compared to last year.
In global comparison, Nigeria ranks this year 146 out of 180 countries, two places down compared to 2018 results.
"As the lowest-scoring region on the CPI, with an average of 32, Sub-Saharan Africa's performance paints a bleak picture of inaction against corruption. With a score of 66, the Seychelles earns the highest mark in the region, followed by Botswana (61), Cape Verde (58), Rwanda (53) and Mauritius (52). At the bottom of the index are Somalia (9), South Sudan (12), Sudan (16) and Equatorial Guinea (16).
"Significant improvers since 2012, Cote d'Ivoire (35) and Senegal (45), still have much work to do. The political will demonstrated by the leaders of both countries, which saw a number of key legal, policy and institutional reforms implemented in their early days in office, has been on a backslide since 2016," the report stated.
"Our analysis also suggests that reducing big money in politics and promoting inclusive political decision-making are essential to curb corruption.
"From fraud that occurs at the highest levels of government to petty bribery that blocks access to basic public services like healthcare and education, citizens are fed up with corrupt leaders and institutions," the report read in part.
Sub-Saharan Africa region was classified as the lowest-performing region while Western Europe was the highest-scoring region.
TI's Chair, Ms. Delia Ferreira Rubio, asked the government to urgently address what she described as the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on political systems.
The Executive Director of CISLAC/TI Country Representative, Mr. Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said the CPI aggregated data from different sources that provided perceptions by business community and country experts of the level of corruption in the public sector.
He noted that while the index does not reveal real incidences of corruption, it is a reliable indication of the perception of the Nigeria public and the international community about the state of corruption in the country.
He added that the index is 100 per cent impartial, objective and globally well respected.
According to him, despite the proclaimed war on corruption, Nigeria is perceived by Nigerians and the international community as still corrupt, adding that the negative result from this war provokes tough questions.
He said: "Out of 180 countries surveyed, Nigeria scored better than only 28. In the last four-and-a-half years, Nigeria has failed to score higher than 28 per cent.
"Nigeria scored 28 out of 100 in 2016 and 2017 but fell in 2018 to 27 and fell further to 26 in 2019."
Rafsanjani stated that although the federal government had claimed to be winning the war against corruption it was doubtful if such a statement was backed by evidence.
He, however, said government must make sure that its recommendations were followed, noting that civil society and well-meaning Nigerians can suggest, but the government has to lead the fight.
But in a swift response, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), said there was no evidence to back the TI report.
Speaking thursday on LunchTime Politics, a programme on Channels TV, Malami added that TI's report was far from the reality.
"In terms of the fight against corruption, we have been doing more; we have done more and we will continue to do more out of inherent conviction and desire on our part to fight against corruption devoid of any extraneous considerations relating to the rating by Transparency International.
"Our resolve to fight corruption is inherent and indeed devoid of any extraneous considerations. We will continue to do more and we will double efforts," he added.
According to him, there is nothing that has not been done as a nation in the fight against corruption.
"In terms of legislation, we have done more; in terms of enforcement we have done more; in terms of recovery of looted assets, we have done more; and in terms of political goodwill, we have demonstrated extraordinary political goodwill," Malami said.
Malami added that the empirical evidence does not support Transparency International's report.
He challenged TI to provide indices and statistics from which the organisation adjudged that Nigeria is not doing enough in its fight against corruption, adding that for a conclusion to be legitimate, there has to be specific facts and figures to establish a position.
EFCC: TI's Rating Baseless, Illogical
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), also condemned the CPI rating, describing it as appalling.
It said TI used bogus and ambiguous criteria to arrive at what it described as a jaundiced and illogical rating.
Spokesman of the agency, Mr. Tony Orilade, said in a statement yesterday that the rating did not reflect the evident strides and achievements so far accomplished by the anti-graft agency in the fight against corruption, particularly under Buhari.
It stated: "The claim and inference by TI that Nigeria ranks the fourth most corrupt country in West Africa is totally unacceptable, as it is evidently not supported by any empirical data, especially when placed side-by-side with the remarkable achievements of the Commission in the past years.
"Moreover, it is quite ironic that the report by TI posits that the index does not show real incidences of corruption, yet it claims that the report is a reliable indication of the perception of the Nigerian public and the international community about the state of corruption in the country.
"Suffice to state that in 2019 - the year under review by TI- was particularly a remarkable one for the EFCC as the Commission secured unprecedented record of 1,268 convictions, including that of a former state governor and a serving senator, who was convicted for defrauding his state to the tune of N7.65billion. It was a landmark in the fight against corruption never achieved across the West African region, indeed, Africa at large. This is among several high profile cases, which were successfully prosecuted during the year with many of them currently serving various jail terms."
"All these achievements are not hidden. It is unfortunate that the body has never acknowledged the achievements of the EFCC. It is obvious that the body has its own hidden agenda," EFCC added.
The agency insisted that it would not be "distracted by a body that has been consistent in its biased rating of Nigeria, and will continue in its mandate of fighting corruption."
PDP Mocks Presidency over Corruption Rating
Meanwhile, the PDP said the damning 2019 corruption index report on Nigeria by TI further validated its position that corruption had worsened under Buhari and APC.
In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the main opposition party described as a national embarrassment that under an administration by the same leader, who wears the medal as "African Union (AU) Anti-Corruption Champion," and whose government boasts zero tolerance for corruption, the nation now ranks as fourth most corrupt country in West African and one of the leading most corrupt countries of the world.
The TI report, PDP said, showed that the country dropping to a malodorous 26, from the already disapproving 27 points it maintained since 2017, had further exposed the Buhari administration and the APC as merely posturing as saints and hounding innocent Nigerians with fake anti- corruption war, while engaging in an unprecedented looting of national resources.
"It indeed speaks volume that the Buhari administration and the APC that came into power in 2015 on an anti-corruption mantra, has ended up becoming the most corrupt in the history of our dear nation.
"The fact that the APC and its government, with their numerous megaphones, have remained silent over the report is also very revealing," the party added.