The Corruption Perception Index is produced by Transparency International, a global civil society organisation focused on fighting corruption. It ranks countries based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. The index is measured on a scale of 0 to 10 with a score of 0 being “highly corrupt” and 10 being “very clean”.
Nigeria ranked 144 out of 180 countries in the world with a score of 27 and ranked 15 out of 16 in West Africa.
In the last four years, Nigeria has performed badly in the Corruption Perception Index. Sadly, Nigeria’s position remained the same 144 from 2017 despite major efforts to tackle corruption in 2018 (being the AU anti-corruption year).
The panama and paradise papers exposed how prevalent the use of properties was as a means to launder money amongst Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) in Nigeria. These papers revealed how Nigerian PEPs use off shore companies to buy properties or assets abroad. Similarly, an interesting article by Mathew T. Page published in Quartz Africa (November 2017) talks about how Nigerian PEPs buy up properties in expensive London areas. The article also discusses how much Nigeria has lost as a result of these money laundering activities. According to Page’s article, ‘Nigeria has lost an estimated $230 billion or more in illegal financial outflows since 2004: equal to $1,280 for every Nigerian citizen’(Click to view full article).
It is disturbing to see that monies meant for the development of Nigeria and its citizens is being ‘chopped’ and used to improve the lifestyle of the rich. These monies can help provide clean water, electricity and good roads for a large number of poor rural communities in Nigeria. This is why I was excited about the introduction of the Unexplained Wealth Order in the UK which interrogates the wealth of property owners in the UK (See previous blog article). The Nigerian Government also appears to be making some commitments towards tackling illicit property in Nigeria. Recently, the Chairman, Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Property, Okoi Obono-Obla mentioned plans to track and name owners of properties in highbrow Maitama that have been acquired through proceeds of corruption.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are even making stronger efforts to curb this issue of using properties to launder Nigeria’s money. Innovative approaches are being introduced by CSOs to help tackle this problem. The lead civil society campaigner in this area is Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) led by Revered David Ugolor. They recently launched an online reporting platform called “Propati Tracka” that will track the owners of properties in Nigeria’s capital. This will enable citizens to report properties that are owned by politically exposed persons in highbrow districts of Abuja ( Asokoro, Maitama and Wuse). If done well, this could help expose corrupt public officials and recover stolen assets. Better still, this initiative is a collaboration between CSOs and the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Property. The Presidential Panel has pledged to investigate the source of funds of property owners reported on this platform.
ANEEJ has also suggested the need to introduce a Property Verification Number (PVN) to track property owners in Nigeria. This will be similar to the Bank Verification Number (BVN) which is being reported as helping to tackle the use of banks for money laundering activities. The BVN has helped to show the number of accounts owned by an individual. PVN if introduced will be used to identify all properties acquired or purchased by an individual. Other countries could help by having visa bans for Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) that are being investigated for corruption. This could also be extended to their families. When it becomes harder for PEPs to buy properties abroad through corrupt proceeds and for their families to enjoy the properties abroad, it may make it less attractive for PEPs to launder money using properties.
The Property Tracking Initiative is a good step in the right direction. This alone will not tackle corruption. Like a leaking pipe with water flowing through it, if you block one leak but others remain, water will just escape faster through another. Unchecked corrupt persons will find other ways to launder money. These admirable efforts on property should be combined with other reform initiatives that will ensure higher conviction rates for corrupt individuals. Collective action in building our value systems will also be important as well as challenging the social norms that drive corruption and allow it to persist.
Mrs. Amaka, a resident of Gwagwa community, a suburb in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is terrified about using hospitals where she lives. She says a number of people have died in hospitals in her area due to underqualified nurses. Corrupt doctors are causing a lot of harm. According to her, ‘someone will be selling akamu (hot corn cereal) today and tomorrow she has carried syringe because she has paid N50,000 to become a nurse but with no adequate training’. She reports doctors employing their ‘friends’ as nurses and collecting money in exchange for recruiting unqualified nurses. Even basic procedures, like injections, are resulting in patients’ getting abscesses due to negligence. She reports a number of women are dying during childbirth in a particular hospital due to poor medical care.
Another experience was reported by Victoria Bawa, a farmer in one of the FCT suburbs. She complained of being extorted by health care staff during her recent visit to a government hospital in FCT. Victoria was asked to pay more than the official fee to buy drugs for her sick nephew in a government hospital. She was given a receipt of N2000 while she paid N4000 despite pleading that she had no money.
Others have also alleged that some directors kept in charge of managing the government hospitals are running hospitals as if it is their personal business. Issuing false bills or fake receipts and not remitting monies to the government is commonplace in such facilities. This is the state of public health care provision in Nigeria where corruption is thriving, while the poor are extorted for money and losing their lives. It is not surprising that that the Word Health Organization ranks Nigeria 187 out of 191 in the area of access to universal health coverage.
Lack of access to quality healthcare coupled with the prevalence of quack hospitals, doctors, fake drugs and substandard products is destroying the quality of health care provision in Nigeria, and this particularly affects the poor. The absence of transparent mechanisms and proper regulation gives room for corrupt practices.
Tackling corruption in this area will require a holistic approach. This will involve increasing funding to health care facilities, improving the pay conditions for medical personnel as well as building social accountability in local communities. Users of these health care facilities should have platforms where they can make complaints on corruption and poor service delivery. We need to have transparent mechanisms such as citizen service charters in hospitals to make people aware of their rights. Sanctions or punishment should be placed on any medical professional that is caught engaging in corrupt practices. We should not continue to allow corruption to kill more people. We need to act now.