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Buhari’s 5 years in office:a scorecard on the fight against corruption

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Maureen Okpe

Five years into President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure as Nigeria’s democratic president, the performance of the ‘giant of Africa’ continues to leave a lot to be desired.

When Buhari was sworn in in 2015, Nigeria’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score had been 27 (out of a possible 100) in 2014, and when the 2015 report was released, Nigeria dropped a point to 26, still retaining its 136th position from the previous year.

This was reflected in the 2016 ranking, Buhari’s first full year, when it was announced that Nigeria had improved by 2 points, scoring 28 but yet again retaining the 136th position.

He couldn’t keep it up the next year as Nigeria dropped a point to 27, finally dropping to 148th position, a development that wasn’t well received by the government, especially as it came just a month after Buhari was announced as the African Union’s first ever anti-corruption champion. It simply was bad optics for the great anti-corruption crusader.

This didn’t get better in the 2018 ranking as, even though Nigeria moved to 144th position, it maintained its 27 points.

The 2019 ranking saw Nigeria drop to 146th position with 26 points, the same number of points Buhari’s administration started with in 2015, a moonwalk in circles, essentially.

Buhari is the kind of president you hand a crowbar and point in the direction of corruption so he can beat it to joyless death, anyone that knows Buhari knows words of affirmation is his love language you only need to know him for one minute before he tells you how much he hates corruption and how committed he is to cleaning up the country come rain or shine.

Corruption is not exactly the easiest thing to measure, so every time critics have pointed out that President has not done the great job he promised, it’s always quite easy for him to wave it off and point at something that has a vague sense of legitimacy to prove that things have, in fact, improved under him.

Though the CPI review for 2020 is yet to be disclosed, the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) in a detailed report has analysed the President’s score card on corruption and the prevailing activities.

The pro-democracy think tank CDD, in the report has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of condoning corruption within his administration and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The organisation, in its five-year assessment report of the anti-corruption programme of the current administration, made available through Zoom meeting, in Abuja Friday, said the president, had personally campaigned for many notorious kleptocrats nominated by his party.

The report disclose the President to have consistently turned a blind eye to wrongdoings by some of his own appointees and resisted independent oversight of Nigeria’s most scandal-ridden agencies.

Stating also the president’s cabinet to include several individuals flawed by accusations of corruption, thereby making mockery of the so-called anti-corruption slogan of his administration.

The Executive Director,CDD Idayat Hassan, during the virtual meeting explained that the report was a culmination of data-driven analysis on the milestones and flaws of the president’s anti-corruption drive, providing a mixed bag of performance in some areas and underperformance in others.

Hassan stated,“The five year assessment situates anti-corruption as a signature issue around which President Buhari has built a personal political brand, making it the major plank on which he won the historic election of 2015.”

“In the area of achievements, the assessment makes the point about how the Buhari administration has worked to elevate the fight against corruption by placing as its top national policy priority. It further notes the empowerment of anti-corruption agencies, and the Buhari administration’s effort to free them up to pursue far-reaching investigations into political and bureaucratic corruption.

“In the context of empowerment of those agencies in the frontlines of the fight against corruption, the assessment reckons that appointing capable practitioners to lead the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has been key in reinvigorating them,”she said.

Speaking further the Director said, “The assessment equally notes that the President pushed through a few key financial management reforms, which have been critical in preventing opportunities for corruption to thrive.

“One of such reforms is the mandatory use of the Treasury Single Account, which has ended the lax and opaque system wherein government monies sat in disparate accounts, which made proper oversight impossible.

“On the other hand, the assessment went on to document the gaps and shortcomings in the implementation of the administration’s anti-corruption programme. It talks about the opportunities missed by the President to institutionalise the so-called the fight against corruption by capitalising on the ‘Buhari Effect…”

“Consequently, the assessment knocks the President for his tendency to condone corruption within his own administration and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party. In this regard, President Buhari gets the flak over accusations that he consistently turned a blind eye to malfeasance by some of his own appointees and resisted independent oversight of Nigeria’s most scandal-ridden agencies.

“On top of this, the report notes the untenable situation wherein the Buhari cabinet includes several individuals tainted by accusations of corruption. It went on to document that in the five years under review, the APC nominated, while the President personally campaigned for many notorious kleptocrats.”

According to Hassan,the assessment revealed that the President has failed to curb corruption in the defence and security sector, adding that the government failed to also achieve the required reforms in the petroleum sector.

“The assessment asserts that expenditures in the defence and security sector continue to escape public and legislative scrutiny, and mostly occur under emergency procurement processes that lack basic anti-corruption safeguards. The government was similarly called out over the continued practice of awarding crude oil lifting contracts to middlemen firms, including those implicated in the 2010 fuel subsidy fraud scandal.

“Widely seen as one of the most corrupt and mismanaged national oil companies in the world, the NNPC continues to conceal illicit financial outflows from public or legislative scrutiny, inflate internal administrative budgets and withhold oil revenues from the national treasury.”

CDD therefore calls for a ban on the use of security votes, and involvement of technocrats, jurists, and civil society experts as members of the governing boards of the anti-corruption agencies.

Although the report however, hailed the president for pushing out reforms that had led to repositioning of anti-graft agencies, which increased the corruption convictions and asset seizures by anti-graft institutions, alot needsto be done to pull the country from the dungeons of corrupt practises that has sunk deep in the governing system of the nation.

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