How Buhari scored 55% in fight against graft

Five years after, stakeholders and experts have rated the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption agenda at an average of 55 per cent.

The poll is based on interviews with people who are professional anti-corruption practitioners in government, civil society and research institutions.

The president was first elected in 2015 largely on the promise to fight corruption and he has made it a signature policy of his administration.

On a scale of one to 100, the practitioners in the anti-corruption sector scored the president 35 per cent; being the lowest assessment, and 70 per cent as the highest.

Most of the people interviewed agreed that the present administration had taken the fight against corruption with more seriousness and that it had demonstrated the political will to combat it.

Those who spoke include the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye; a former Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dr. Joe Abah; the Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Sadiq Radah; and a political scientist and Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim.

Others were Mathew Page, Associate Fellow, Chatham House; Debo Adeniran, Chairman, Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL); Prof. Etannibi Alemika, a member of PACAC and Professor of Criminology and Sociology at the University of Jos; Auwal Rafsanjani, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); and Remi Aiyede, a Professor of Governance and Public Policy at the University of Ibadan.

While they acknowledged that Nigeria still has a long way to go in stamping out corruption, they pointed out that the Buhari administration in the last five years had made progress.

Auwal Rafsanjani, who is also the representative of Transparency International (TI) in Nigeria, scored Buhari 35 per cent, the lowest score among the speakers.

Rafsanjani commended the administration for adopting and implementing policies like the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the Bank Verification Number (BVN) and other sector-specific ones like Know-Your-Customer policy and the Beneficial Ownership Database in the financial and oil and gas sectors respectively.

However, beyond that, he said there was a lot more to be done in the areas of electoral corruption, the Freedom of Information Act and corruption in the public procurement process; which he claimed accounted for 70 per cent of corruption in Nigeria.

Rafsanjani also called for the strengthening of the anti-corruption agencies and demarcation of their roles to prevent a situation where “the police would not be doing the work of ICPC, ICPC would be doing the work of EFCC and EFCC would not be doing the work of Code of Conduct Bureau.

“The boards of anti-corruption agencies are not functional. The ICPC board is not complete. There is no way you can run an agency as a one-man show. If you don’t have the board that can regulate the conduct of even the chairman himself, you would, instead of curing the problem, create more.”

Prof. Alemika and Mr. Adeniran scored the Buhari administration 70 per cent each because they believe the president has demonstrated the political will to fight corruption that was lacking in previous administrations.

Prof. Radda, who scored the administration’s anti-corruption agenda 65 per cent, emphasised the president’s political leadership in the fight against corruption.

He said, “Now we have political leadership. We have a president and a vice-president and some ministers and some government functionaries who have made the fight against corruption a serious issue. That is progress. In the past, we were not even considering corruption as a problem. It was business as usual. If you were not corrupt, you were seen as an idiot. Now we have changed.”

Prof. Radda, however, added that government was not where it should be with regards to anti-corruption, and that “before the end of this government, we would do more to achieve more progress in the fight against corruption. And we pray that we would get a better government than this one that would build on where we will stop.”

The ICPC Chairman, Prof. Owasanoye, who initially declined to rate the government he is part of, nevertheless scored the administration 60 per cent, saying given where the nation was coming from in terms of the war against corruption and the level of consciousness that had been raised in the mind of the public, the administration had not fared badly.

He said an average Nigerian now understood and appreciated the fact that anyone caught stealing public funds would not go scot-free because, “Certainly there would be action if you are caught. I can say that without fear of contradiction.”

Dr. Joe Abbah on his part scored the administration 50 per cent largely due to the series of administrative reforms like the TSA, IPPIS, BVN, the whistle-blower policy and the new guidelines by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) which stipulate direct payment of allocations due to the local governments.

Dr. Abbah said all the administrative changes had made it “a lot more difficult to steal government money today than it was 10 years ago. I am saying this as a former director general. The kind of things people did and got away with, you cannot even attempt it now. You couldn’t even attempt it when we were in government, although some people don’t care.”

Apart from the administrative reforms, he said the achievements of Buhari’s administration “would not be radically different from previous administrations. I will score previous administrations about the same.”

Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim said, “I will score the administration 55 per cent because I feel there is an improvement, but I don’t think that improvement is sufficiently high to generate a commendation. So I am not giving commendation, I am simply acknowledging that the situation now is better than it was under the Jonathan administration, but it is not where it is supposed to be.”

On his part, Mathew Page, who has researched and written about corruption and anti-corruption in Nigeria for over two decades, rated the administration 49 per cent, because according to him, the Buhari government has not taken the country half way to where it is supposed to be.

Page said: “There is outside influence. Storms are constantly raging. The anti-corruption agencies should resist attempts to rubbish their integrity by Nigerian politicians and individuals within the system.

“I would give it (the administration) 49 per cent because I don’t think the Buhari government has got us half way to where we hope to be. But not to fail to acknowledge the scope of the challenges and the progress that has been made is not fair, but we are not half way to our destination.”

Mr. Debo Adeniran, who scored the administration 70 per cent, however, observed that a “sturdy” foundation has been laid in the fight against corruption.

Mr. Adeniran said, “That is why I cannot score the present administration less than 70 per cent; and the 30 per cent is because a number of its officials that have corruption allegations against them have not been brought to justice, most of them have not declared their assets, many of them have not discharged themselves of the corruption baggage they are carrying about.

“What I expect the administration to do is to compel the officials to declare their assets and make it open to the public so that members of the public would be able to assess it and blow the whistle if certain assets have not been declared.

“Corruption is no longer as rampant as it used to be, and corruption crimes are no longer committed with impunity.”

While Prof. Etannibi Alemika gave the government 70 per cent, he noted that Nigeria still lacked capacity for investigation and prosecution of corruption and hence called for capacity building within the anti-corruption agencies and added that Nigerian citizens needed to be empowered to check corruption at state and local government levels.

Prof. Alemika concluded that, “Presently, Nigerians are not empowered enough to hold their states and local governments accountable.”

Prof. Remi Aiyede on his part, said his assessment of 40 per cent was based on the fact that, “We have not seen the EFCC itself prosecuting its officers. Look at INEC, after the 2015 elections, there were some officers that were prosecuted. I think these are problems that need to be addressed.”

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