This is part of a feature series on how nations in Africa address corruption, that will publish bimonthly until the end of the May.
Since its 1963 independence, Nigeria has been plagued with corruption. In 2014, it was rated as the thirty-eighth most corrupt country in the world, an improvement from the country’s rank as the world’s most corrupt country in 2000. For over fifty years, the Nigerian government’s attempts to fight corruption have been futile. Running on an anti-corruption platform, President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in May 2015. He has since made great strides in the battle against corruption.
The prominence of corruption began to escalate during the regime of General Babanginda, which began in 1985. Although the general attempted to subdue the growing corruption, his regime enveloped in egregious corruption that continued into the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. President Obasanjo also promised to eradicate corruption. His anti-corruption acts, and the creation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission seemed hopeful, but they were only a front. Corruption continued to thrive as the president and his ministers offered bribes while underfunding the crime commission.
President Buhari’s efforts have exposed deplorable crimes that occurred during the presidency of predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan. President Jonathan has been known for ignoring corruption within the government, denouncing only a few officials for embezzlement, and being accused of embezzlement himself. In fact, the President fired the governor of the Nigerian Central Bank after the governor charged that at least 20 billion dollars was missing from the federation account, revealing his detachment from the issue of corruption.
On the other hand, since President Buhari’s election, he has waged war on corruption to resolve these prevalent problems. Understanding the severity of corruption’s effect, he explicitly stated that “If Nigeria doesn’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” He has exposed several scandals in the government. Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian Nobel laureate, recognizes his efforts, agreeing that “We have not had corruption been exposed on this scale before.” The President has begun using five laws to suppress corruption: The Whistleblower Bill, The Electronic Transaction Bill, The Nigerian International Financial Centre Bill, The Office of the Nigerian Financial Ombudsman, and The Convicts and Criminal Records Bill. These bills are meant to protect whistle-blowers, improve the transparency in government transactions, keep record of criminals, and create agencies to solve financial issues. At the General Assembly of the UN, the President also encouraged foreign countries to help stop corruption. His anti-corruption war has accomplished more in his few months of presidency than in the years of several presidents.
Unlike the attempts of previous presidents of Nigeria, President Buhari’s efforts have brought change because they have not been undermined by overlooked, illegal transactions within the government. President Buhari is winning in his war against corruption, resulting in a developing unprecedented transparency and goodwill of the government. If the President wins this battle, he can transform Nigeria’s weak economy and set an example for other West African nations that struggle with corruption and unstable governments.