Corruption

THE CONTEXT

Corruption is a major obstacle to Nigeria’s development and prosperity. In recent years, there have been major revelations about the diversion of public funds for political campaigns and patronage, including the ‘Dasukigate’ scandal, (which involved the diversion of $2.1 billion)[i] the Malabu Oil deal[ii] and an audit that showed billions of naira missing at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation,[iii] amongst others.

Corruption undermines economic growth, creates inefficiencies, weakens the legitimacy of public institutions and undermines citizens’ trust in government. Corruption has a disproportionate impact on the poor and marginalised, especially young people, women and children. By siphoning off resources meant for the development of infrastructure and the delivery of services in the education, health, security and other sectors, it puts our collective future in jeopardy. Furthermore, corruption exacerbates insecurity by creating an environment where organised crime, armed struggle and terrorism can take root.

Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, a number of laws, institutions and initiatives have been introduced to promote public accountability and fight corruption. Key anti-corruption policies include the creation of specialised anti-corruption agencies to investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals, such as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) established in September 2000 and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), set up in April 2003.[iv] Reforms also include the signing and adoption of several anti-corruption laws and international treaties, including the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), and the passing of Nigeria’s Freedom of Information law in 2011.

However, the impact of these policies has been at best limited. More needs to be done to ensure that anti-corruption measures are enacted and, most importantly, implemented.

THE CHALLENGES

High-profile anti-corruption efforts generate popular acclaim but face resistance from those with vested interests in the status quo. Despite efforts to accelerate the fight against corruption, particularly in public institutions, the absence of synergy and any common approach across the three arms of government (executive, legislative and judiciary) remains the biggest challenge to fighting corruption. Government transparency and the implementation of preventive measures both remain inadequate.

Citizen and civil society monitoring of public procurement and budget processes is growing, but is insufficient to prevent the diversion of public resources. While Nigeria has an access to information law, the level of response to public enquiry, especially for public resource management, is still very low, which undermines public accountability.

THE SOLUTIONS

Nigeria has just launched a national anti-corruption strategy and is currently developing an implementation plan to accelerate the fight against corruption. Some key anti-corruption commitments have been made in the country’s first Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, including the introduction of open contracting in public procurement, the disclosure of beneficial ownership and the transparent management of recovered stolen assets.[v] Opening up the government’s public procurement contract processes to scrutiny will allow the public to provide feedback on government spending for public goods. Disclosure of beneficial ownership involves publishing the identities of owners of companies to allow the public to identify and monitor their activities, especially with regards to government projects and the payment of taxes. Through disclosure of beneficial ownership, companies that are being used to divert public resources can easily be linked to their owners.

Nigeria has made progress on these commitments over the past few years. For example, the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO: seehttp://nocopo.bpp.gov.ng/ conceived by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in line with Section 5(r) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, was co-created with civil society organisations (CSOs).[vi] The portal exists to open up public procurement through increased disclosure of procurement information to all stakeholders, including citizens. Other progress made includes the ongoing consideration of the Companies and Allied Matters Act to include public disclosure of beneficial ownership and the parliamentary review of the Proceeds of Crime Bill.

ONE is calling on election candidates to subscribe to specific principles of transparency that prevent grand corruption and enhance government accountability. Therefore, next year’s incoming government will need to prioritise the following:

  1. Commit to Transparency: The incoming government will need to ramp up the implementation of existing commitments and ensure the passage of key bills aimed at combating corruption. These include the Proceeds of Crime Bill, public access to information on the beneficial ownership of companies in the new Companies and Allied Matters Act, and the operationalisation of the NOCOPO open contracting portal to link it with all budgetary headings and to include all government procurement entities.
  2. Open Up Budgets: Prioritise the further opening up of budgetary processes to allow citizens access to budget implementation reports, to provide an effective platform for citizen feedback and to ensure timely responses to such feedback.
  3. Strengthen Anti-Corruption Institutions: The incoming government should appoint credible and determined leadership that commands legitimacy with anti-graft agencies. These agencies should be empowered and granted absolute autonomy in handling corruption cases, without political interference. Also, anti-corruption laws and regulations should be written in simpler language and made accessible to citizens in local languages. 

What Can Citizens Do?

Fighting corruption isn’t just the government’s responsibility. The job of fighting corruption belongs to citizens too. Here are some ways that you can get involved:

  • Tracka is a community of active citizens tracking the implementation of government projects to ensure service delivery. It enables citizens to collaborate, track and give feedback on public projects in their own communities. Find out more: Website:ng/ Twitter: @TrackaNG.
  • Budeshi is a dedicated web platform that seeks to link budget and procurement data to various public services using the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). It is accessible to the public to interact with and also allows citizens to make their own comparisons based on the procurement and budget data on the platform. Find out more: Website: budeshi.ng/ Twitter:@ppmonitorNG.
  • Udeme is a platform designed to educate citizens on parts of the budget earmarked for capital development projects in their communities. Find out more: Website:ng/ Twitter:@UdemeNG.
  • Follow The Money is a social accountability movement whose mission is to strengthen local communities by creating platforms for dialogue, enabling informed debate and building the capacities of citizens to hold their governments accountable. Find out more: Website:org/ Twitter: @4lowthemoney.

 

 

[i] Daily Post (2015). ‘Buhari orders arrest of Dasuki, others over arms procurement fraud’. 17 November 2015. http://dailypost.ng/2015/11/17/breaking-buhari-orders-arrest-of-dasuki-others-over-arms-procurement-fraud/ (last accessed 23 August 2018)

[ii] Vanguard (2017). ‘$1.3bn Malabu scandal: Shell admits paying Etete for oil bloc’. 12 April 2017. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/04/1-3bn-malabu-scandal-shell-admits-paying-etete-for-oil-bloc/ (last accessed 23 August 2018)

[iii] This Day (2018). ‘NEITI: NNPC Yet to Explain Missing Billions’. 13 March 2018.  https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2018/03/13/neiti-nnpc-yet-to-explain-missing-billions/ (last accessed 23 August 2018)

[iv] D.U. Enweremadu (2010). ‘Anti-Corruption Policies in Nigeria under Obasanjo and Yar’Adua’. Discussion Paper No. 1, November 2010, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, p.6. http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/nigeria/07813.pdf

[v] BudgIT (2017). ‘Review of Nigeria’s Open Government Partnership Commitment’. PowerPoint presentation. http://www.aneej.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Review-of-Nigerias-OGP-Commitment.pdf (last accessed August 2018)

[vi] See: http://www.nocopo.bpp.gov.ng