President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja reacted to the latest ranking of Nigeria as one of the worst corrupt nations by Transparency International (TI), saying he regretted TI’s perceived failure to recognise his administration’s anti-graft drive.
In a statement, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the government was still wondering the criteria used by the anti-corruption watchdog to arrive at the judgment.
The statement which added that while the government welcomes constructive criticisms from the anti-corruption watchdog, TI yet has a responsibility to reflect on the larger picture of concrete and verifiable achievements of the administration since it came into office in May 2015.
It also said TI’s report that corruption is worse under Buhari’s administration would be incredible to anyone who knew where Nigeria was coming from.
It described the report as very misleading and unfair conclusions in its assessment of the federal government’s efforts in anti-corruption crusade.
Describing political will as the first major component of fighting corruption in any country, the statement said Buhari had made a huge difference by demonstrating not only such political will but also what it described as the extraordinary courage to go after high profile looters, including former military service chiefs and judges.
The statement then proceeded to highlight the anti-corruption output of the government:
“It was once unthinkable to touch or prosecute the ‘big men’ for corruption in Nigeria but President Buhari has ended impunity for corruption.
“Today, the Buhari administration has made accountability the bedrock of governance and corruption is no longer fashionable because it attracts consequences.
“Blocking leakages for corruption through the rigid enforcement of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) had made life tougher for corrupt officials. He (Buhari) regretted that these efforts were not acknowledged by the corruption watchdog.
“Figures published by the EFCC, the anti-corruption agency, reveal that N738.9 billion was recovered in just two years of the Buhari administration and this impressive and unprecedented record is worthy of mention and acknowledgement by anybody genuinely looking at the larger picture of the country’s progress in the war against corruption.
“During the seventh session of the Conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Vienna, Austria, the Chairman of the Agency, Ibrahim Magu, noted that the figure represents $2.9 billion dollars.
“Besides these impressive recoveries of looted funds, the EFCC has recorded more than 140 successful prosecutions.
“The federal government has also signed international agreements to recover the proceeds of corruption and to block the laundering of stolen assets abroad by public officials.
“Anybody who knows where Nigeria was coming from would not believe that corruption is worse under the Buhari administration.
“We wonder where they got their facts from. At a time, they are alleging increase in the incidence of corruption under this government, the whole of Africa is applauding by choosing President Buhari as the continental Champion to lead the fight against it. Nothing can be more eloquent than this.
“In the end, this whole episode may turn out to be just a political distraction, given the strong views some of TI’s patrons have expressed against the Buhari administration.
“This notwithstanding, facts are facts, and those facts won’t cease to be facts even if you don’t care to pay attention to them,” the statement said.
Transparency International reported on Wednesday that corruption was getting worse in Nigeria under Buhari’s watch. While Nigeria scored 27/100 and was ranked 136th in 2016, the latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by TI, scored Nigeria 28/100, and ranked the country 148 out of 180 countries surveyed. This is 12 places below 136 which Nigeria was ranked in 2016.