The President, relying on a purported rating by Transparency International (TI) – a worldwide corruption watchdog – said Nigeria is “the second most improved country in the effort to curb corruption”, after the United States.
The President’s claim has been denied by TI through an e-mail it sent to Premium Times, an online news portal.
“Transparency International does not have a recent rating or report that places Nigeria as the second most improved country in the fight against corruption,” the email said.
Embarrassed by the denial, an immediate marching order was issued for an investigation into the sources of the report by the President.
Close presidential aides who made input to the President’s speech, it was learnt, met to review the sources of the claim, which was reportedly quoted from BusinessDay report on September 12.
Opposition parties yesterday chided the President for the goof.
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) asks the President to apologise to Nigerians for misleading them.
The ANPP said the President’s statement was “manufactured to boost the administration’s ego.”
The Federal Ministry of information blamed BusinessDay for misleading the President.
A memo on its website by Reno Omokri, Dr. Jonathan’s Special Assistant on New Media, reads:
“Our attention has been drawn to reports from some opposition – leaning media houses alleging that Mr. President made some false claims about Nigeria’s standing in this year’s Transparency International anti corruption rating.
“As is the practice worldwide, we accept the premise that whatever is published in the media and goes unchallenged is the truth. On this issue, the media published their synopsis of the most recent Transparency International report and BusinessDay, a well-respected newspaper with a bias for business reporting in a headline on the 12th of September 2012 with the title ‘FG’s anti-corruption initiative impacts Nigeria’s global perception’ said: “The survey on global corruption perceptions for 2011 versus 2001 showed that the third best improvement in the world was in Nigeria, with its score improving by 1.5 points”.
The above quoted comments were relied upon in coming to the conclusion that Mr. President honestly came to in good faith. To this day, Transparency International has not disputed the findings of BusinessDay.
For a section of the opposition to now cast aspersions on the integrity of the President when he relied on notorious facts (anything published in the press and which remains unchallenged is a notorious fact) is proof positive of the now obvious fact that they lack ideas on how to move Nigeria forward and would rather snipe at efforts of the President to move the nation forward for which any patriot would do.
In conclusion, the President acted in good faith and his statement was based on notorious facts and are evidenced by recent breakthroughs in fighting corruption in the oil industry where subsidy fraud suspects are already facing trial as well as in the agricultural sector where decades old corrupt practices in the fertilizer distribution network have been eradicated via the voucher system which cuts off the middle man.”
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati said yesterday. “The President’s message is that this administration is tackling corruption. The revelations from the pension scam and the fuel subsidy scam as well as the sanitation of activities at the ports all came to be because the President sanctioned them. People should focus on the message; namely that a lot of progress has been made and is still being made to tackle corruption in the system. There are lots of people outside there who mislead Nigerians that nothing is being done. These people tackle individuals. What the President did was that he fired hope and promised his rededication to the service of the nation. There are those who are looking for a way to water down the message.”
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the ACN said:
“In the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption, Nigeria scored 2.4 on a scale where 0 means highly corrupt and 10 means very clean. It was ranked 143 out of 183 countries.”
The party expressed shock and sadness that the President of Africa’s most populous nation and the continent’s second largest economy can make such a frivolous claim on an issue of global concern as corruption.
It said i”n addition to apologising to Nigerians for the bogus claim, the President must immediately kick-start an investigation into the source of a claim that has exposed his Administration and the entire country to global ridicule.”
The ACN said the wrong claim by the President, who was apparently trying to showcase the ‘achievements’ of his administration in the fight against corruption, raises doubts about the authenticity of other claims by the President in the anniversary speech.
‘’Among other claims, the President had said that real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 7.1 per cent on average; that his Administration’s Investment Climate Reform Programme has helped to attract over N6.8 trillion local and foreign direct investment commitments, and that Nigeria is ranked first in the top 5 host economies for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa, accounting for over 20 per cent of total FDI flows into the continent.
‘’Now that the President’s claim of positive rating for Nigeria in the anti-corruption fight has been debunked, it is logical for Nigerians to doubt the truth in the other claims, and indeed in the entire speech. This is very sad for the Jonathan Administration, because if the bond of trust between the government and its citizens is broken, the government’s credibility suffers and, without credibility, any government is not worth its name,’’ ACN said.
The party said if the President fails to act quickly to unearth the source of such a spurious claim and ensure it does not recur, he risks a bigger embarrassment from officials who may want to tweak facts and figures to justify their positions.
‘’In the end, the responsibility for any inaccuracy in any speech by the President rests squarely on his shoulders,’’ it said.
The ANPP National Publicity Secretary, Emma Eneukwu said: “The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) believes it is unreasonable for the number one citizen of this great nation to misrepresent statistics as this is a strong message of support to corrupt people and those planning to obfuscate the citizens for their own personal gain. Words and body language are potent enough to aggravate corruption just as corrupt practices would. When a leader embellishes a story, he is inadvertently telling his subjects to turn the truth on its head whenever they find the opportunity.