The government attributed it to what it described as “opaqueness” in doing business in the country.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, spoke when he fielded questions from newsmen after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Mohammed, however, noted that the government has initiated reforms aimed at facilitating easier and more transparent approach to doing business, particularly in the port sector.
The minister argued that the issue of TI’s low corruption perception of the country was not necessarily about stealing of public funds, arguing rather that TI’s assessment of Nigeria has so far not correctly reflected the government’s effort to curb corruption in the country.
Continuing, Mohammed noted inconsistencies in the assessment by TI over the years due to inadequate data, saying that the government was taking necessary measures to communicate relevant data on all sectors.
Mohammed affirmed that by the time the reform put in place begins to manifest results, the country’s corruption perception will improve.
“Yes, I think that I’m aware of that particular rating which was not quite flattering to Nigeria, but our position, which I’ve declared before is that that rating does not truly reflect the great strides that the administration has made in the area of fighting corruption. The government has put in place various reforms in fighting corruption, but some of these reforms will take time to yield the desired results because the matrix used by TI is not just about grafts alone. It includes how transparent or how opaque the services are and you’ll find out that when we scored in the 2018, 2019 transparency reports, we realised that we scored very low in the area of ease of doing business in particular.
“That is why the Federal Government embarked on reforms, especially at the seaports, because that is one area where we scored very low and you’ll see that in recent times, we’ve embarked on numerous reforms at our seaports so that our rating will improve.
“For instance, we realised that following the release of 2019 TI corruption perception index, we initiated reforms to improve on ease of doing business indices. This is because we found that up to 40% of the country’s corruption perception survey indices related to business, process and general public service delivery.
“So, that is why we are concentrating on the ease of doing business, making sure that people can get to the ports, clear the goods in good time and by the time some of these reforms start yielding fruits, I’m sure that perception will improve.
“In addition, we are putting more emphasis on the preventive mechanism of corruption rather than prosecution. We believe that it’s more important to put in place preventive mechanism rather than prosecution and this preventive mechanism that we’ve put in place include the programme launched by the ICPC, which is what they called the National Ethics Policy, which addresses integrity issues in all sectors of the polity and is directly linked to the pillar of national anti-corruption strategy.
“Also, the Code of Conduct Bureau has put in place some preventive measures, especially in the area of energising the code of conduct for public officers.
“The Council for Ease of Doing Business recently launched the Nigerian Ports Process manual which is a kind of manual to help people going to the port to make it easy for them to process goods.
“In addition, we actually also analysed the process that the TI used in the rating that was used recently and we found quite a few discrepancies in the rating process, including some data sources in which Nigeria’s course has remained flat over the past 10 years.
“What we said is that we take this ratings seriously, so we actually went and analysed the ratings and we found that there have been some gaps. It’s either we’ve not flooded enough data or they have not revised all data because we found it strange that the country’s rating in certain areas has remained the same for a period of 10 years and we are taking the media measures so that they can get this data in respect of these sectors because we believe that it’s not possible for you not to improve, for you not to lose points for 10 years. So there’s a bit of discrepancy there.
“There’s also need to understand why these… occur and we’re looking at the robustness of our own methodology. We believe that overall, by the time our various reforms in the areas of ease of doing business and other preventive measures, start taking effect, our rating by TI in the next years would have substantially improved.
“In tackling corruption, you’ll first find out what are the causes of this corruption and you’ll find out that one of the major causes of our low rating by TI is largely because of the opaqueness in the ease of doing business Nigeria. In other words, you go to a port, you want to clear goods in the port, it takes you days.
“This is rated as very bad by TI. So the Federal Government, through its Presidential Council on Ease of Doing Business, has embarked on certain reforms at the ports, at the Corporate Affairs Commission, that will make it easier to do business.”
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