“Weaponising Transparency: Defence Procurement Reform As a Counterterrorism Strategy in Nigeria”, Transparency International’s report that claims to have detailed corruption in Nigeria’s defence sector is the kind of catalyst that has seen nations of the world increasingly slide into right wing nationalism. TI’s action, which many individuals and several groups have condemned as high falsehood, has all the trappings of meddlesomeness with intent for mischief.
In the United States, citizens’ desire to ward off international meddlesomeness produced Donald Trump, in the United Kingdom it delivered Brexit, in France is sacked the old political order and across Europe it is being expressed in different outcomes that mirror the peculiarities of the individual nation.
The development is not in itself a damning verdict that globalization is bad. It is however an indictment of many of the organizations that have global reach, organizations that should have by their own charters maintain neutrality but somehow end up as sell-outs – they tout the “international” label that is often prominent in their names while in reality they mutate into tools of occupation. Several such international organizations, often with the additional credential of being non-governmental, have burnt out for the very reason of being found out to be the exact opposite of what they claim to be. In reality, they are heavily beholden to governments of imperial countries and have nothing international in their outlook.
Transparency International shifted from the exalted point of neutrality it once occupied to an odious ranking as one of the international NGOs for hire with the issuance of the Nigerian report. On the surface, nothing appears wrong with the report, or at least it is the kind of manipulation that could gain acceptance if backed with intensive marketing to mislead the public into thinking it is a testament of truth.
The corruption claimed by Transparency International happened, but under a different dispensation that Nigerians themselves today curse in all the languages and dialects of the country. Revelations from the sordid era remain mind boggling as they continue to emerge. There is no evidence that the practice detailed in the report still take place especially since risk mitigating factors have been put in place since the present administration came into office two years ago. The mitigations, interestingly are not just implemented by the federal government on an omnibus basis, are also implemented by government agencies and the military services.
The amount being touted by this organization is astronomical to a point that even in all its rottenness the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration did not spend that much cumulatively on defence and that is even when the amount involved in the Dansukigate arms deal and every other expenditure are factored in.
Transparency International’s methodology, according to its own expert that spoke on a television programme, is flawed. It involves in large part the sourcing of documents from public domain without assurances of authenticity and that further information cannot be revealed. That is not the standard practice anywhere in the world for anyone to rely on his own standards for a research whose conclusions shape decisions on the life of people. In this case, criminalizing a set of selfless patriots who have no business with the period under review and also escalating the humanitarian crisis in the north east
The Nigerian Army, which TI desperately tried to stamp as the poster child for corruption, has established a procurement office since Lt General Tukur Buratai became the Chief of Army Staff. Procurements are now implemented in accordance with the extant procurement laws of the land. Yet, TI conveniently overlooked this fact as it persisted with the myth of a Nigeria that is corrupt beyond redemption. It is an obstinate refusal or egoistic arrogance to accept that a lot can be achieved in two years, which is tragic because that suggests an imperialist colonial mind-set that concludes that Nigeria cannot reform its own space.
It also ignored the on-going anticorruption efforts. While the reputation of the war is glaring for all to see on the national scale, zeroing in on the Army would show that General Buratai’s leadership has done an in-house sanitation in which those found to be corrupt have been turned in to the relevant anti-graft agencies for prosecution. Additionally, persons in the cases being celebrated in the TI report no longer occupy the potions or offices they once held, they have forfeited assets to government, some are in jail and others are on publicly held trials before courts of competent jurisdiction. Perhaps, Transparency International had wanted them to be summarily executed so that Nigeria can be accused of barbaric human rights abuses.
As the Yoruba will say, “ori bibe ko logun ori fifo” (beheading is not the treatment for a headache), but this is something that is lost on Transparency International. Its prescription for the stale cases of corruption it uncovered from the previous administration and former military leadership is that the people of Nigeria’s northeast should suffer for it. TI’s glowing idea is for the country to be blocked from buying weapons because previous governments and previous military hierarchy stole money and ferreted same to the United States, United Kingdom, the Middle East and South Africa – it the not prescribe any sanctions for these willing recipients of the proceeds of corruption by the way.
It is tragic that the brilliant minds at Transparency International did not for once ponder the possible consequences of this wonderful idea of arms embargo for past corrupt acts that are already being addressed. They apparently did not refer back to history to see what the impact of arms blockade has done to the counter-terror war, which by the way spread beyond Nigeria to become a regional problem. If those who should sell arms to Nigeria are deluded enough to set stock in the TI report there is no guarantee that the resulting empowerment for Boko Haram would not be felt more by western countries than Nigeria.
Perhaps Transparency International would have avoided this pitfall if it did not outsource the compilation of its report to people who by virtue of their other engagements and sympathies have axes to grind with the current military leadership. It is a point to ponder going forward as it would be foolhardy to plunge an entire region into crisis because of the narrow minded vendetta of a few NGO workers who think blocking arms sales to their own perceived enemies is an ultimate payback.
The morally expected recourse is for Transparency International to accept these lapses and offer a supplementary report in which it would acknowledge the failure to factor in the progress made in Nigeria’s anti-corruption fight in the last two years. It must also present a realistic review of how it deals with conflict of interest; particular emphasis should be on the emotional variant where its field reporters carry their vendetta into official work. Not to be left out is an audit of its partnership with local organizations in the countries in which it works so that the risk of inheriting existing animosity is minimized.
Ultimately, Transparency International would have to erase the erroneous classification it has stamped Nigeria with and it may just as well make that action the starting point as it deals with its many other lapses and error of judgment. The report is a falsehood that must not be allowed to stand because it would only breed more lies.
Murphy, a security expert contributed this piece from 3, Ambu Street, Calabar.