Nigeria was ranked 35th in a recent global corruption index released by TI on Wednesday.
Reacting to the rating as well as a recent Gallup Poll report that also put Nigeria at the top of corrupt countries, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, said both reports were products of interactions with Nigerians as well as synopses of negative media reports.
Mr. Maku made the claim while responding to questions yesterday from State House reporters at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Jonathan. He insisted that the corruption ratings do not reflect the reality of things in the country.
The minister noted that most of the rating institutions rely on Nigerians’ perceptions of the country as well as media accounts.
He accused the rating agencies of failing to recognize the efforts of the Jonathan administration to combat corruption. He claimed that the government’s systematic and institutional approaches are gradually yielding results.
Mr. Maku cited what he described as the administration’s efforts to arrest fraud in the fuel subsidy management by prosecuting suspects. He also stated that the administration had initiated audits of ministries, departments and agencies in order to curb graft in the supply of fertilizers and seeds to farmers.
The Information Minister accused Nigerians of hysterically mobilizing to oppose President Jonathan’s policy to curtail patronage in the oil and gas sector through deregulation. Then he asserted that the administration had continued to take decisive measures against defaulters in the fuel subsidy scam.
According to Mr. Maku, the Transparency International rating “is because of the bad reports we get from journalists like you.” He added: “There are so many issues involved in dealing with corruption. When you are systematic and deliberate, the reform goes deeper.”
The minister stated that, “The president does not sit in court to imprison people. There are institutions set up to do that.” He advised journalists to follow up on institutional proceedings to get to the root of issues and to unearth omissions and commissions to enable the government to track and act on such.
Reacting to the minister’s claims, an Abuja-based anti-corruption activist said the Jonathan administration had paid mere lip service to the fight against corruption. “The president continues to retain the most corrupt ministers on his cabinet – including Orubebe, Bello Adoke, and Diezani Alison-Madueke,” said the source. She also described as a joke the so-called prosecution of fuel subsidy fraudsters as well as those who committed other acts of corruption.
“The Jonathan administration, like its predecessors, is cynically using the courts to shield big-time criminals from receiving just punishment. The administration knows that the judicial system is corrupt and inept, but has not come up with suggestions for any change.” She reminded Nigerians that “corruption cases are filed, pleas are taken, and the defendants, prosecutors and judges then collude to adjourn the case indefinitely. That’s a systematic pattern of corruption.” The activist added: “Left to the administration, the prosecution of big-time suspects in fuel subsidy scams, Halliburton and the police pension fund fraud will drag for eternity, or until Nigerians forget about these cases.”
She advised Mr. Maku “to check his facts before insulting the sensibility of Nigerians with claims that corruption exists only in the imagination of the media. That’s poppy cock.”