Nigeria’s corruption challenge
On 29 May, General Muhammadu Buhari will be sworn in as president of Nigeria. He vowed to fight corruption during his campaign, which has remained rampant under his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan.
Nigeria ranks 136 out of 176 countries with a score of just 27 out of 100 on the 2014 Corruption Perception Index; 85 per cent of Nigerians surveyed believe corruption has increased from 2011 to 2013.
Corruption hits hardest at the poor in Nigeria who make up more than 40 per cent of the 179 million people. Global Financial Integrity estimates more than US$157 billion in the past decade has left the country illicitly. Corruption is everywhere: even the health and medical services, considered the least corrupt government institution, are considered very corrupt by 41 per cent of Nigerians.
Transparency International chair Jose Ugaz has offered the support of Transparency International in the new government’s fight against corruption in a letter to the new president and will work with its partner organisation in Nigeria, CISLAC, to monitor the new president’s anti-corruption commitments.
‐ José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International
Here are things President Buhari can do immediately to help Nigerians:
- Account for the missing oil revenues: the government must publish a believable audit of accounts for the US$20 billion hole that the former head of the central bank said was in the accounts.
- Robust implementation of Access to Information Laws
- Prosecute the perpetrators: there should be no deals like the one in the summer of 2014 that dropped charges against the son of late President Sani Abacha, Mohammed Abacha in return for the repatriation of stolen assets to the country.
- Pass and implement strong anti-corruption legislation: the government must strengthen anti-corruption laws and institutions, ensuring that the latter are independent and better resourced.
- Root out corruption in the military: the military's corruption must become a top priority. Nigeria’s military establishment scored a very poor ‘E’ grade on a scale from ‘A’ to ‘F’ in the last Transparency International UK’s Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index, which measures corruption risk in defence establishments around the world.
If the military is not up to the task of tackling terrorist groups like Boko Haram, the country will be faced with continual insecurity and that will exacerbate any fight against corruption.
Transparency International around the world is advocating for a crackdown on illicit financial transactions and the use of shell companies to hide the identity of people trying to launder stolen money. A court in London recently convicted James Ibori, the former governor of Nigeria's Delta State, for money laundering and corruption.
Cases like this should also be tried in Nigeria and those suspected of trying to steal from state coffers brought to justice. Ibori is currently serving time in a UK prison though most of his illicit wealth has not been returned to Nigeria.