Sustainable Development Goals and the Integration of Anti-Corruption Goal in Nigeria By Abbas Inuwa Jnr
This year world leaders including President Buhari committed to 17 Global Goals at the 70th United Nations General Assembly to be achieved in the year 2030 marking the official end of Millennium Development Goals and the beginning of the Sustainable Development Goals. Generally, the goals are set to end poverty, fight inequality and fix climate change. Of the 17 global goals, goal 16 is meant to achieve “peace, justice and strong institutions” by promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. That is the goal that seeks to address both national and transnational corruption. Nigeria has been consistently rated as one of the most corrupt country in the world; in Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2014 Nigeria scored 27 on a scale of 100 and ranked 136th highly corrupt country out of the 175 countries surveyed.
The latest global corruption barometer further uncovered the pervasiveness of corruption in the country; the survey reported that 72% of Nigerians believed that corruption has increased in the country a lot, a sobering fact that manifested in the recent trials and arrests of past public officials entangled in abuse of office to enrich themselves. The barograph also revealed that 78% of Nigerians agreed corruption is a serious problem in the public sector affecting service delivery and rule of law. Accordingly, these criminal acts of corruption are to a large extent perpetrated by few individuals in the position of power holding back national growth and development. The most disturbing part of the report is the citizens’ perception towards government in the fight against corruption, it appears that government is not doing enough or is more engaged in rhetoric rather than action. The report further exposed Nigerian political parties, Nigeria Police and the Parliament as the three most corruption institutions in the country, this is evident in the just concluded 2015 general elections. Nigeria is also rated low for transparency and open data in the 2015 Open Budget Survey, scoring 24 for providing ‘insufficient’ budget information to the citizens. There are so many reports and surveys by world reputable organizations like the World Bank, UN, etc on how Nigeria is faring in the areas of rule of law, accountability and press freedom which are a source of concern to the country. Therefore, adopting global goal 16 is integral to achieving other goals in the country; the President has repeatedly affirmed that “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”.
The components of the goal aims to significantly reduce all forms of violence and death rates, promote rule of law, reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets, combat all forms of organised crimes, substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms, develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels, ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
Nigeria has implemented different conventional and unconventional anti-corruption wars, but the menace still spread effortlessly to all sectors. The most recent legislations to combat corruption are ‘The Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000’ and ‘The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004’. The two legislations established the agencies that today fight corruption in the country. However, despite these legislations and policies from both national and international conventions Nigeria is still lagging behind in its effort to fight corruption. Therefore, unless strong actions and commitment are balanced with the statements of 16th goal of the Sustainable Development Goals a repeat of the past would not be avoided. Thus, the government must wholly accept its commitment to this goal by developing a roadmap to achieve the goal, a yardstick to measure performance and strong partnership to combat transborder crimes.
Although public officials freely mud stomp in their swamp reigning on public funds unimpeded by ethical concerns and enforcers because the monies can be easily laundered or they can flee arrest, the global goal 17 which seeks to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development has substantially addressed these challenges; the arrest of a former Nigerian minister in London is a classical example of mutual partnership to combat crimes. Of course, “no country develops in isolation”. Therefore, Nigeria must strengthen its concerted efforts in anti-corruption war by integrating the 16th goal of the global goals with practically achievable actions and coordinated partnerships with international governments and organizations. This will help to strengthen international policing, curb illicit financial flows and money laundering, recovery of stolen funds and significantly reduce spatial dimensions of corruption.
More so, the government should thoroughly review and consolidate legislative frameworks of anti-corruption bodies; provide protection for whistle blowers and witnesses; prohibit corrupt individuals from holding public office; encourage the reduction of rents by means of economic liberalisation, deregulation, tax simplification, de-monopolisation and macroeconomic stability; reduce discretion through administrative and civil service reforms including remuneration, meritocratic recruitment and decentralisation; embark on legal and political reforms like electronic voting to curb political corruption especially election rigging and case management in the judiciary to reduce delay and thwarting of justice; increase transparency and accountability by strengthening audit institutions and by encouraging public oversight through freedom of information, openness and vibrant civil society.
In addition, the political leadership should urgently and impartially prosecute perpetrators of corruption to gain public confidence and trust, root out corruption in the public service including security agencies – like the police and military, join Open Government Partnership and implement open data system for transparency, audit government agencies to account for missing revenues and build public ownership of the content and process of the anti-corruption war through citizen engagement.
If Nigeria can effectively and meticulously implement these components of goal 16th of the global goals other components of the goal can also be achieved and to a large extent the Sustainable Development Goals because corruption has been the cause for poverty, poor healthcare, unemployment, injustice, inequality, infrastructural decay, insecurity, poor education and lack of potable water.
Abbas Inuwa Jnr writes from Kaduna; read more of his write-ups on