Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday took an optimistic look at the poor rating of Nigeria on the recently-released Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index 2017.
He said in Abuja that the rating was not a setback for Nigeria, but an encouragement for the country to work harder and plug loopholes.
The Transparency International’s report released on February 21, scored Nigeria 27 per cent and ranked it 148th out of the 180 countries assessed.
The organisation said Nigeria’s latest result was worse than that of 2016 wherein the country was ranked 136th with a score of 28 per cent.
In the 2017 rankings, Nigeria shares the 148th spot with Comoros and Guinea.
But the Vice-President said Nigeria’s rating dropped because the country had a low score in “just one out of the nine internationally-recognised indexes” used by the organisation.
He said while the index scored Nigeria low on the Economist Intelligence Unit Country Risk Service, with a decline from 37 points to 20 points, the country either remained stable or improved on its scores for all the other eight indexes used in the CPI ranking.
Osinbajo said this at a one-day ‘Dialogue of Organs of Government on Reform of Justice Sector and Campaign Against Corruption’ which was held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Tuesday.
The Vice-President was represented by the Deputy Chief of Staff, State House, Mr. Ade Ipaye, at the event, which was jointly organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption and the Federal Ministry of Justice.
Speaking at the event, various representatives of the three arms of government pledged to collaborate with one another in the fight against corruption.
The speakers included, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara; the Chief of Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen; the Attorney General of the Federation and the
Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), and PACAC Chairman, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN).
Speaking for the three arms of government on Tuesday, Osinbajo said the government was not discouraged by the TI’s report.
He insisted that “real progress” was being made in the nation’s fight against corruption, noting that perception, which the TI’s report was all about, could sometimes lag behind reality.
He however added that sometimes too, perception could be stronger than reality, hence the need “to keep up the fight, until the full effect of our efforts can be clearly seen and perceived.”
“In that regard, the ranking of Nigeria by the 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index released on February 21, 2018 should not in any way be seen as a setback, but rather as an opportunity to continue building on the many successes that have already been recorded by this government in all key sectors,” he said.
Although, he expressed his reservations about the reports of some international organisations about Nigeria, he said there was the need for the country to remain tolerant to criticisms and address the issues raised in the reports.
Based on that, Osinbajo said, “Government is therefore not discouraged by the recent CPI report. By government, I speak for the three arms. We are encouraged to work harder, to close ranks and bring development to our people.
“We recognise that democracy strongly relies on the tripod of the executive, legislature and the judiciary. The primary focus of the government and democracy is the people, and not power struggles among those of us in power.”
To corroborate his reservations about some reports critical of government, he highlighted some developments in Nigeria under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He also said that despite up to 60 per cent drop in revenue, the government had, “by stopping grand corruption, made the highest capital spending in the history of Nigeria, in the sum of N1.3tn in 2017.”
Osinbajo said for the first time, the government was taking on “game-changing infrastructure projects,” including building the Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail line.
He added that government was “daily increasing power supply” adding, “once we conclude some strategic transmission projects, we would see a truly appreciable improvement in domestic and industrial power supply.”
According to him, as of September 2017, the administration had given a total support, comprising excess crude account loan and budget support facility amounting to about N876. 3bn.
“If we add the Paris club refunds, we will have disbursed N1.91tn to states, outside of their regular monthly allocations,” he said.
He also recalled that Amnesty International, a global organisation concerned with the protection of human rights, had recently failed to substantiate its allegations of rights violations against the Nigerian security forces.
He said, “Just last year, an Amnesty International Report was released, which suggested a range of abuses by Nigeria’s security forces on the civilian populace. Government set up a high-powered enquiry headed by a distinguished Justice of the Court of Appeal.
“The panel actually invited Amnesty International to substantiate its claims so that remedial measures could be taken, but the organisation was not forthcoming on providing proof for many of its allegations against the armed forces.
“As a country, we must therefore not be afraid or intolerant of criticism, rather we must take a constructive and collaborative approach to addressing the structural issues, especially knowledge gaps, thrown up by these reports and indexes.”
Saraki, who was represented by Senator David Umar, while lamenting the scourge of corruption, said, “there is no gainsaying the negative impact of corruption on our economy, government, health, youths, social welfare, employment, education, businesses and so on.”
He expressed concerns about the TI’s report, which he said, deemed Nigeria “to have performed poorer than our 136th position in the 2016 rankings to 148th in 2017.”
Also pledging the support of the judiciary to the fight against corruption, the CJN, who was represented by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, said for the fight to be successful “we have to fight the culture of impunity.”