The recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which rated Imo state as the least corrupt state in Nigeria is quite cheering, considering the fact that more than six former governors, including former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia state, an adjunct to Imo state, have been jailed on charges bordering on corruption.
The rating is contained in the bureau’s latest report titled: “The 2nd Corruption Survey Report in Nigeria,” released at the State House Conference Center in Abuja, penultimate Friday.
Imo was rated the least corrupt state in Nigeria with 17.6 per cent followed by Jigawa and Plateau states. The National Bureau of Statistics conducted the survey with the support of the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime, in collaboration with other partner international agencies.
Highlights of the survey were presented by the Statistician-General of the National Bureau of Statistics, Dr. Yemi Kale, and the Country Representative of the UNODC in Nigeria, Mr. Oliver Stople.
He said that the first corruption survey report on Nigeria was conducted in the last half of 2018, where Imo state was ranked very high in the corruption index. This was during the era of Senator Rochas Okorocha’s administration. According to him, “The NBS described the 2019 report as, “home grown,” disclosing that data was collected from a total of 33,067 persons in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
He said: “The survey was developed as a tool to assess the impact of the measures put in place by states in fighting corruption in the period since after the 2019 elections. It also gives Nigerians the opportunity to assess and evaluate the impact of those measures.
“The report gave a state-by-state record of the corruption index in Nigeria, with Kogi state leading as the most corrupt state (48 per cent), followed by Gombe at 43 per cent. The report also suggested that there is a remarkable decrease in the prevalence of corruption in Imo state in the short time span.
In the survey also, Nigerians identified unemployment, insecurity and corruption as the biggest problems of the country.”
Corruption has over the decades been the bane of Nigeria’s development. In 2012, Nigeria was estimated to have lost over $400 billion to corruption since independence. In 2019 the country ranked 144th in the 180 countries listed in Transparency International’s Corruption Index (with Somalia, at 180th, being the most corrupt, and Denmark the least) after moving up from the 148th position it occupied previously. Corruption Rank in Nigeria averaged 121.48 from 1996 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 152 in 2005 and a record low of 52 in 1997.
This gory picture of corruption in the country had compelled the Buhari administration to list the cankerworm as one of the three pillars on which the government’s change mantra is anchored; the others being insecurity and the revitalisation of the economy. While the government’s anti-corruption crusade could not be said to have been out rightly won, it has however recorded major breakthroughs in the conviction of six former governors who were found to have corruptly enriched themselves while serving their tenure in office.
Lucky Igbenedion, a former governor of Edo state, was the first Nigerian ex-governor to be convicted of looting public funds. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged him with 142 counts of corruption amounting to $24 million (£12m) using front companies. Lucky entered a plea bargain with the commission in 2008 and refunded a fraction of the amount he was said to have embezzled – and went home.
Late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, ex-governor of Bayelsa state, was sentenced to two years in jail in 2007 on charges of corruption and money laundering. Mr James Ibori, former governor of Delta, was sentenced to 13 years in jail by a London judge for stealing $250 million government funds in Nigeria within the period he served as governor of Delta state. He died of cardiac arrest at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital on the October 10, 2015.
James Bala Ngilari, former governor of Adamawa state, was convicted of awarding a contract of N167 million without following due process. He was later acquitted and freed by the Court of Appeal.
Orji Kalu, who served as Abia state governor from May 29, 1999, to May 29, 2007, was sentenced by the Federal High Court in Lagos on December 5, 2019 to 12 years in prison for N7.65 billion fraud. Joshua Dariye, former governor of Plateau state was sentenced by Abuja High Court in 2017 to 14 years imprisonment for criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of N1.6 billion while he was the governor of Plateau state. In 2018, Dariye’s 14-year sentence was reduced to 10 years.
Given this scenario, we commend the Rochas Okorocha government of Imo state to have emerged as the least corrupt state in the country. This is no mean achievement in a clime that is so riddled with corruption that the menace had defied the several remedies devised to end it. We, therefore, urge other state governors to emulate the Imo state government. We commend the NBC initiative, which will, to a large extent, help to curb corruption in the country