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Corruption costs: Nigeria’s vital election agenda

Nine in 10 Nigerians surveyed think their political parties are corrupt or extremely corrupt. Despite this, on 28 March they must elect a new president and parliament to tackle the corruption and insecurity that threaten their country’s future. It’s time for the politicians to take the actions to win back the trust of their people.

Nigeria is Africa’s economic powerhouse, but with sinking oil prices set to sap its GDP growth and more than 40 per cent of its 179 million people living in poverty, good leadership – not just rhetoric – is vital.

In a country where one in four say they have paid a bribe to access a key service, campaigning should be focused on solutions, not politicking. Non-stop electoral mudslinging, much of it about the country’s inability to combat corruption, has done little to shore up confidence in a tattered political system.

Defenders of the major presidential candidates, for example, interpret the Corruption Perceptions Index ranking to suit their political arguments on corruption. But Nigerian’s 2014 score is what matters: it came out with 27 in last year’s index, indicating rampant corruption and deep-seated efforts needed to stop it.

Money that should go to alleviate poverty still gets diverted. By some 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.

Nigeria needs real anti-corruption efforts with long-term systemic planning and unequivocal commitments to combat corruption and impunity.

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.

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. If money has been siphoned off, those who did it must face justice. International cooperation could help identify these funds. All tools must be used to track them down.

Young Nigerians take a stand

Ugoh Wilson Emenike – a youth activist, writer and teacher from Ebonyi State – wrote the winning essay in our 20th anniversary youth writing competition. Find out more here.

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. This particularly goes for the anti-corruption agencies that are too often seen as puppets.

Root out corruption in the military

Military 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 in itself will exacerbate any fight for corruption.

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For any press inquiries please contact press@transparency.org

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