Systemic corruption is a major obstacle to stability and economic development in Nigeria. Estimates show that in the 60 years since independence, corruption has cost the Nigerian economy more than $550 billion. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria recovered at least $750 million in local and foreign currency linked to corruption and fraud in 2021. The country’s endemic corruption also contributes to its overall weak rule of law as measured by the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, which ranked Nigeria 120 out of 140 countries surveyed on absence of corruption in 2022. Corrupt practices in the justice system often lead to slow and ineffective dispensation of justice.
To address the gaps in Nigeria’s fight against corruption, Transparency Information Technology Initiative (TransparencIT) launched the Trial Monitoring of Corruption Cases project in 2016. The project’s objective is to foster courtroom openness and galvanize citizen participation in judicial processes to promote accountability and advance the rule of law. It does this by tracking and evaluating corruption cases in Nigerian courts to drive compliance with the law and push cases towards a speedy conclusion. Based on these analyses, TransparencIT submits recommendations to the National Judicial Council to address violations by judicial officers and challenges delaying trials. Since its inception, the project has contributed to reducing the average duration of a corruption case from eight years to three to four years. It also led the chief justice of Nigeria to direct all heads of courts to designate special anti-corruption courts to exclusively try corruption and other financial crimes cases. Abbas Inuwa, the founder, and executive director of TransparencIT, believes that this measure has reduced the time span of corruption cases in the country. Within the first six months, the special courts reported an increase in the conclusion of corruption cases.
In their efforts to promote open government and accountability, TransparencIT also launched Nigeria’s first central online and open source Corruption Cases Database which has tracked over 4,500 cases and provides live updates of more than 2,000 cases for use by policymakers and researchers. The database has also become a resource for individuals to conduct due diligence and collect information on prospective business associates who might be charged with corruption or fraud. According to Inuwa, this has helped prevent numerous cases of cybercrime and fraud in Nigeria.
TransparencIT’s achievement in fighting corruption in Nigeria was recognized at the 2022 World Justice Challenge where it won the award in the Anti-Corruption and Open Government category. The World Justice Challenge is a global competition to identify, recognize and promote effective and innovative initiatives to protect and advance the rule of law.
In a recent webinar hosted by the World Justice Project, Inuwa and his team discussed how their efforts have advanced during the past year and the ongoing challenges to fighting corruption and monitoring other criminal cases in Nigeria. This webinar was part of a series which featured the five winning projects from the 2022 competition and highlighted their progress on advancing the rule of law during the past year.
During the webinar, Inuwa shared that the project has made great strides since winning the 2022 Challenge.
“We have added six more states, eight additional courts, 12 additional trackers, 1,000-plus cases on the online database, [and] published three monitoring reports through our work since last year,” he said.
The project now covers 27 out of 36 states and 60 designated anti-corruption courts in Nigeria. Due to its success in advancing transparency and accountability, this initiative was also chosen as a module in the Open Justice course at New York University’s GovLab.
Inuwa acknowledged that winning last year’s Challenge has played a key role in expanding TransparencIT’s initiatives on monitoring other criminal cases in Nigeria.
“We have been able to initiate a human rights project to monitor the arrest, detention and criminal trial of journalists and bloggers in Nigeria during and after the 2023 elections,” he told webinar attendees. “This has been a result of winning the World Justice Challenge which has given us more visibility and connected us to donors and partners like the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights, which is supporting this project.”
They have also partnered with 23 civil society and media organizations to engage and sensitize law enforcement agencies on the protection of fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and opinion. Going forward, the organization intends to expand the scope of the project to monitor other facets of civic space and document human rights abuse trials in Nigeria.
Watch the full webinar now: