Last week, the first comprehensive report assessing the level of Nigeria’s implementation of its commitments made at the 2016 London Anticorruption Summit and 2017 Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) was launched by a broad range of stakeholders in Abuja. The evaluation is important due to the significance of both events – and the commitments made – within the broader framework of the anticorruption agenda of the country in recent times.
Even though addressing corruption has been a challenge taken on by successive governments, especially since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, the issue has taken on added significance since the election of the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015. Buhari made history by beating an incumbent leader for the first time in Nigeria’s history, largely on the mantra of fighting corruption; a message that appealed to both citizens and the international community. The London Anticorruption Corruption Summit in 2016 provided the president the opportunity to demonstrate this commitment to a global audience by making candid commitments to address corruption. There was added attention to the country when the chief host, Prime Minister David Cameron referred to Nigeria and Afghanistan as “fantastically corrupt” on the eve of the Summit.
Against the somewhat hilarious outcry of most in reaction to the statement of the Prime Minister, the Nigerian President owned up to the fact of corruption in his country and went on to make notable commitments to address corruption. Transparency International’s post-summit evaluation showed that 72 per cent of Nigeria’s commitments at the summit were ambitious or somewhat ambitious and the country was in the top 5 countries making the most new commitments at the Summit.
A priority area in the anticorruption agenda of the country, identified at the Summit and other activities of the government nationally and on the global stage is asset recovery. The government therefore followed up on its determined showing in London by actively participating in the 2017 Global Forum on Asset Recovery which held in Washington, D.C. Here, Nigeria committed to adhere to the 10 Principles agreed upon by participating countries for transparent, accountable and successful asset recovery.
Considering that no formal mechanism for the implementation of the commitments was adopted at both events, it is crucial that civil society take up the challenge of ensuring that countries are held accountable for the commitments made. It is in line with this that the Africa Network on Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) worked with relevant stakeholders to provide the first assessment of Nigeria’s implementation of its commitments at the London summit and adherence to the principles of GFAR.
What the Assessment Revealed
The assessment of the London Anticorruption Summit commitments reveal that Nigeria has taken considerable steps in implementing its 31 commitments. A detailed breakdown shows that the implementation of 65 per cent of commitments is ongoing, with 10 per cent completed and no action taken yet on 16 per cent of commitments. On adherence to the ten GFAR Principles, Nigeria’s performance was considered “average” on 4 commitments, “good” on 3 and also “fair” on the other 3. There was neither a poor nor excellent assessment on any of the principles.
The overarching theme of the assessment is that Nigeria is at the midpoint of implementing its commitments. The government has demonstrated considerable dedication for implementation by taking certain decisive steps, such as signing onto the Open Government Partnership in 2016 and improving the framework for asset recovery and management. However, timely completion of action on most commitments is required, especially considering countries such as the United Kingdom have already completed 56.3 per cent of its commitments within the same time frame.
There is however reason to be optimistic as ongoing legislative and institutional reforms have the potential of realizing most of the commitments.
Significance of the Assessment Process.
The most important outcome of the assessment is arguably the process of the assessment. Rather than being a conventional third-party civil society evaluation, the methodology applied involved a collective assessment by civil society and the relevant state agencies and stakeholders with the responsibility of taking action in implementing the reforms. The initial report was then put through a further validation process before its publication.
The advantage of this process is the broad consensus that exists among all relevant stakeholders on where Nigeria stands in the implementation of the commitments. This has eliminated the usual controversy that often arise in the aftermath of such evaluations and has established a clear consensus on what needs to be done going forward. The significance of this was manifest in the joint launching of the report by ANEEJ – which took the lead in carrying out the assignment – and a broad range of state institutions, such as the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Asset Recovery and Management Unit, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the Open Government Partnership secretariat and the National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office, amongst others.
Going forward, the report made three broad recommendations to expedite the implementation of the commitments and improve the overall anticorruption regime in Nigeria:
- Civil society needs to play a more proactive role in ensuring that the government is held accountable for the commitments made. This should go beyond mere advocacy to meaningful engagement to enhance the capacity of relevant state institutions to fully implement the commitments.
- There should be a prioritisation of initiatives and actions towards establishing laws and institutions that would have a broader effect on the accomplishment of other commitments.
- A coordinating function or agency should be established to harmonise anticorruption efforts in Nigeria. The experience of governance reforms in Nigeria illustrates the challenges and cost of poor coordination. The introduction of this function is therefore necessary to track the wide-ranging nature of these commitments and other governance reforms taking place simultaneously in the country.
These recommendations were made in addition to the recommendations for the implementation of specific commitments in the report.
The full report can be found here.
Ayibakuro is ANEEJ director of policy & research