To mark the 2021 International Anti-Corruption Day and 16 Days of Activism in Nigeria, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in collaboration the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-corruption Reforms (TUGAR), UN Women, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, several State Commissioners of Women Affairs, women groups gathered in Abuja to discuss the gender dimensions of anti-corruption in Nigeria.
The links between gender equality and anti-corruption have become subject of policy debate in recent years culminating in a commitment by Member States at the 2021 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Corruption. “We will improve our understanding of the linkages between gender and corruption, including the ways in which corruption can affect women and men differently, and we will continue to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, including by mainstreaming it in relevant legislation, policy development, research, projects and programmes, as appropriate and in accordance with the fundamental principles of domestic law.”
In Nigeria several steps have been taken in order to implement this commitment, including the 2020 Gender and Corruption Study conducted by UNODC of the data emanating from the 2019 and the 2016 National Corruption Surveys.
The workshop brought together for the first time the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and several State Commissioners of Women Affairs with representatives of anti-corruption bodies to review the findings from the gender and corruption study and identify possible policy implications.
Key findings of the study include that women are consistently less likely than men to pay bribes when coming into contact with public officials, and that female public officials are less likely to take bribes than their male colleagues. The report also highlights that, “body currency” (or sextortion) is perceived to be common in Nigeria, but related data remains scarce as victims are reluctant to come forward.
Moreover, men were found to be more likely than women to employ bribery or nepotism when seeking public sector employment. Based on these findings, the study concludes that increased gender equality and women empowerment in the public sector is likely to reinforce governance outcomes.
Cecile Tassin Pelzer, EU Head of Cooperation said: “A greater participation of women in public life is essential to the achievement of equality, sustainable development, peace and democracy. Despite this, women are facing obstacles in their political participation. The ongoing reform process presents Nigeria with a unique opportunity to join the league of progressive nations in promoting gender equality”.
Representative of the Vice President of Nigeria, Maryam Uwais said: “Gender inequality interferes with the women’s ability to advance at all levels of politics and decision-making, thereby obstructing their access to political participation.
“Corruption also disrupts efforts to combat different forms of violations. Additionally, corruption further marginalizes already vulnerable women living in poverty, putting basic public services and goods out of their reach, and leaving them lagging in the economic, social, and political development of their country”.
Comfort Lamptey, UN Women Country Representative said: “Gender must be mainstreamed in all efforts to strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption. This starts with having more women in leadership and decision-making positions. With only 3.8% of women’s representation in parliament across the state and national level in Nigeria, robust action needs to be taken to redress the declining state of women’s political representation, especially as Nigeria heads into the 2023 elections”.
Representative of the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Hadiza Zubairu, said: “We have taken the fight against corruption to the grassroot, encouraging all women to stand up for what is right and fight against corruption. We also encourage women at various levels to acquire skills, the knowledge to contribute to the national effort in the fight against corruption”.
Senator Suleiman Abdu Kwari, Chairman Senate Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes (ACFC) said: “Another thorny issue in the quest to be more gender sensitive is the ability for women to gain access to existing complaints mechanisms. For that to happen, we will continue to improve complaints mechanisms to become more gender sensitive.
“I am pleased to inform you that opportunity to do this exists in a private member bill that I am sponsoring titled, The Public Interest Disclosure and Complaints Commission. This bill broadens the scope of the PCC by expanding its existing mandate”.
Representative of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) Chairman, Mrs. Blessing Obidegwu said, “Gender inequality has affected our community, family and country as such the Commission has developed a framework for women and youth engagement strategy. Through this we engage the public and the political class as well as the media to refrain from using derogatory remarks about women in their reporting”.
Cynthia Mbamalu, Director of Programs/Co-Founder, YIAGA said: “The Gender and Corruption report shows that the more women have access to tertiary education, it will make them more self-reliant as well as reduce the tendency for vote-buying”.