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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Nigeria: Corruption Rating - FG Blames Private Sector

Daniel Idonor

Abuja — STILL recovering from the shock of Nigeria's downward spiral in the ranking of Transparency International, TI, the Federal Government yesterday blamed the low rating on the Organised Private Sector, OPS.

The government maintained that while the menace of corruption is fast fading out in the public sector, the virus is eating deep into the fabric of the OPS.

The blame apportioning notwithstanding, government has expressed discomfort over the retrogression.

Nigeria had dropped in the latest ranking of Transparency International, released Tuesday, from 121st position in 2008 to 130, this year.

Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili, while reacting in Abuja yesterday, said it is a sad development.

Akunyili stated that it is discomforting to list the nation among the world's most corrupt countries despite government's efforts to sanitise different sectors of the economy.

The Minister who noted that the Federal Government does not dispute the ranking however revealed that the government is ignorant of the perimeters used in the assessment.

According to her, the government is set to make amends in all areas that had led to the sudden slump.

Also, the government stated that contrary to opinion being expressed in some quarters that there are sacred cows in the fight against corruption, especially corruption cases involving some former governors, nobody would be spared, no matter how close the person may be to the President.

According to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, "nobody is going to be spared. The Ibori's case trials have commenced both here and in London and now his fate is in the courts. If you commit an offence that is corruption-related, we charge you to court. Once the banking sector corruption cases are over, we will look at other sectors that are capable of undermining the Nigerian drive to move out of the list of most corrupt nations".

He however explained "there is no way I can shut my door against anybody. If an armed robber today is charged to court, and he complains that his trial is unfair, would I say he cannot come to my office to lodge his complaint? He would lodge his complaint, I will go through his complaint, if the complaint lacks merit, I will dismiss it. The most important thing is that no Nigerian judge has ever accused me of interference.

The judiciary is doing their job and we abide by them.

Citing the recent Central Bank audit of banks, Aondoakaa stated that Nigeria's rating would have improved greatly if measures taken to curb the evil in the public sector were replicated in the private sector.

"The corruption is in the banking sector. I have already been given a clear report of the problems in the private sector. And mind you, Nigeria has never had it so good. The first year we came in we brought it down to 147. We took it to 121 and then this corruption that manifested in private sector, the NDIC has confirmed that it happened from January, 2009", he said.

He disclosed that before now, it was "only under the present regime that the country has recorded this great fit. The closest was when Nigeria was on number three in the bottom of the table. So we brought it down in the first year to 147, we moved it down to 121 and now we have a crisis in the banking sector which the people correctly recorded that there is crisis in the banking sector. People looted money in the banking sector which is a public knowledge. I gave a report and I think the rating must be based on the report I gave.

"Certainly that influenced the rating, which also Transparency International captured in their report. We were at Dubai and Nigeria was heavily praised for the reforms that we have carried out. The anti-corruption body did not complain about Nigeria, rather at the conclusion of the seminar in Dubai, we were co-opted to act in the drafting of the reform of peer review", he said.

According to him "with what happened in the banking sector, you must commend the EFCC and the governor of the central bank for taking the bull by the horn. First, from the recovery we made, that shows clearly that people were really stealing money because we couldn't have made such a quick recovery of over N170 billion in two months. That means that people were stealing this money and hiding it.

We are also targeting the assets of these people. We will get them both here and outside the country where they have gone. We will recover the money. The people will find this very unattractive".

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