WOMEN TO THE RESCUE IN THE ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESSES-CASE
INRODUCTION AND BACK GROUND
The quest to actualize gender equity and equality has dominated the discourse of
development practitioners for decades. There are general agreements that there
is need to reduce the gap between men and women in access to resources and
participation in societal affairs. It is also agreed that the yawning gap impacts on
other development issues such as human rights, poverty, trafficking in human
beings and the scourge of HIV\AIDS. Similarly, the need to combat corruption
has been no less prominent in the development agenda and has also been linked
to the several issues raised above.
More recently, the interface between Gender and Corruption has become topical
and several studies have been and are being conducted in that sector. The critical
issues in this discourse can be divided into four broad themes as follows:
1. The genderized impact of corruption i.e. whether and how corruption
impacts disproportionately on women
2. The genderized manifestations of corruption i.e. Do some expressions of
corruption have a Woman’s face?
3. The interface between women’s’ participation in governance and
4. The location of women in the accountability processes as an anti-
The Genderized Impact of Corruption
Studies have shown that majority of the Worlds poor are women1. This
susceptibility to poverty has been attributed to limited access to opportunities
and resources. The effect has been to increase the woman’s vulnerability in other
interfacing areas such as access to justice,2 health etc. As a result of her location at
the lowest rung of the societal ladder, the resonance of any distortion in the
system vibrates primarily on her before radiating to other spheres. Also a
definite correlation between poverty and corruption has been identified in
various studies3. In particular, it has been noted that the worse the per- capita
income the more vulnerable groups such as women are affected. It has also been
identified that grand corruption distorts public budget in favor of the non-social
sectors thereby depriving the vulnerable of the much needed budgetary support
1 CF Baden 1999 –Feminization of Poverty.
2 Ekeanyanwu 2001-Impact of Corruption on Access to Justice for Nigerian Women.
3 CF Wolrld Bank ; Valdivieso 
In the discourse on the genderized impact of corruption, there is a less- often-
talked- about expression of corruption which exacerbates the disproportionate
impact of corruption on women. It is necessary to contextualize this concept by
segregating two types of corruption as follows:
a. Engaging in passive corruption to access due rights
b. Engaging in passive corruption to access undue advantage.
In an environment of endemic and pervasive corruption, it is usually problematic
to access rights and entitlements without succumbing to corruption as opposed
to engaging in corruption to gain undue advantage. There have been arguments
that there is less possibility of bribes being demanded from women. There have
also been arguments that women are less likely to offer bribes. The latter has
been rationalized by arguing that perhaps less demand is made of women due to
the perception that they cannot afford the bribes.[Anne Marie Goetz]4. Another
reason is that women have limited access to the channels through which the
demand and supply of bribery flow. The salient factor here is that the woman is
the loser in both scenarios as she becomes incapacitated from accessing rights
which are otherwise unavailable except through paying graft.
The Genderized Manifestations of Corruption.
The question has been raised about certain resonance and manifestations of
corruption which are specifically targeted at women. An example of this is
soliciting and demanding for sexual favors, and sexual harassment. Another
example is trafficking in human beings the victims of which are mostly women
and children. This is what is usually described as the differential in the currency
of corruption. While in the other manifestations money or political power may be
used at the currency, in the present case the currency is the body of the woman.
The Interface between Women’s Participation in Governance and Corruption.
This issue was highlighted by two studies conducted in the area. David Dollar
and the team in the world Bank Development Research Group in their study-
‘Are Women the Fairer Sex” measured the interface between the number of
women in public office and the level of corruption.5 The team came to the
following conclusion ‘There exists a substantial literature in the social sciences
which suggests that women may have higher standards of ethical behavior and
be more concerned with the common good. Consistent with this micro level
evidence, we find that at the country level, higher rates of female participation
in government are associated with lower levels of corruption.”
The second study conducted by a group led by Anand Swamy used micro data
to show that women are less involved in bribery and are less likely to condone
bribe taking. The study came to the conclusion, using cross country data, that
4 Are Women Political Cleaners?
5 Are Women the Fairer Sex-October 1999.
corruption is less severe where women hold a larger share of parliamentary seats
and senior positions in government as well constitute a larger share of the labor
In addition to the above studies, experiments are underway to inject more female
participation in certain accountability sectors as an anti-corruption measure.
Some examples are set out below.
However, a strong criticism of the above theories and conclusions emerged in the
work – Political Cleaners-are Women the New anti-Corruption Force?7[Anne
Marie Goetz]. The author questioned the “myth” of the ‘Women’s lesser
propensity to engage in corrupt activity’ and denigrated the age old concept of
the woman’s purity and probity. According to her this perception of the woman
has more to do with her restricted access to corrupt opportunity and less with
inherent probity and integrity. While the work in some sections questioned the
methodology and conclusions of the studies mentioned above, the passion of the
argument against the conclusions of the studies, was reserved for the paradox of
the studies using “the reverse myth that has kept women out of the public realm
Goetz’s argument and conclusion stems from a reluctance to accept essentialist
theories in respect of gender propensities. This is a very common stance among
feminist scholars in their desperate quest to efface the boundaries between men
and women as proof of gender equality. I submit that this stance is counter
productive and does not serve the cause of actualizing gender equity and
Evidence abounds in nature of the intrinsic difference between men and women
which go beyond the anatomy and penetrate the essence, manifesting in
divergent expressions and desires. This in turn leads to a diversity of strengths
which are meant to stand, one beside the other creating a balance and equal
value. The quest for gender equity therefore must seek to highlight this balance
in the diverse strengths and foster appropriate recognition and respect for each
segment. This will naturally lead to a departure from the present lopsidedness
where the woman’s particular strengths are viewed with a patronizing air which
denotes inferiority. In this context therefore, acknowledgement of the woman’s
larger propensity for integrity and probity and appropriating same for
development purposes will become normative and not viewed as denigrating.
Nevertheless the import of this paper is not to get into the arguments for or
against the above studies, but to present the story of women who have made a
mark in the accountability processes and interrogate whether the recorded
6 Gender and Corruption Swamy 
7 Anne –Marie Goetz
successes are as a result of their gender, or an aggregation of several factors in
which their gender cannot be excised.
The Location of Women in the Accountability Processes as an Anti-Corruption
Flowing from the above studies, arguments have been adduced in favor of
locating more women in the accountability processes to boost the anti-corruption
agenda. There have been assertions such as ‘Women bring enriching values to
government” [Valeri Tishkov]. She further espouses ‘They rarely succumb to
authoritarian styles of behavior and prefer not to maintain the sort of expensive
entourage which often accompanies male officials. Finally the presence of
women in the higher echelons of the hierarchical structures exercises and
extremely positive influence on the behavior of their male colleagues by
restraining, disciplining and elevating the latter’s behavior.”
In various parts of the Worlds governments have designed and implemented
interventions which locate women within the accountability structures. Some
examples are as follows:
• In Uganda, majority of treasurers in the new Local Government System
are women. The rational is the hope that they will apply their prudence in
managing domestic accounts to the job. [Akhire 2003]
• In 1998, the then President Fujimoro of Peru announced the
transformation of the 2500 traffic police into an all woman force. The
appointment was rationalized because “the women are more honest and
morally firm than men”
• In June 2003, the Mexican Customs Service announced that the new crack
of anti-corruption officers on land and sea borders would be entirely
The outcome of these interventions have been mixed recording both successes
THE STORY OF WOMEN AND THE ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESSES IN
The focus of this paper will be to present case studies of a number of women
who have played key current roles in the in the accountability processes in
Nigeria’s quest for Economic and Governance Reform. The paper will explore
the activities of these women in their located portfolios, the changes they have
brought into the sector and evaluate and analyze their contribution to the holistic
reform process. The paper will also interrogate such issues as
8 Mexico is gaining on smugglers –The Herald Tribune June 7 2003.
• The prior profile of these women and the competencies they brought to
their given assignments.
• The process of the appointments and specific interests captured in the
• The strategies they deployed in their assignments especially strategies to
engage entrenched interests.
• Peculiarities and Commonalities of their assigned sectors
• Identification of the motivating factors.
The essence of the analyses will be to identify the aggregation of factors
responsible for their recorded successes. The paper shall also within this
aggregation seek to distil any gender related factors and the percentages that can
be justly allotted to such factors in the success stories.
Nigeria is located in West Africa and has an estimated population of one
hundred and thirty million people and more than 250 ethnic groups. Although
reliable statistics are not available, it is estimated that around half of the
population are Muslims and just under half are Christians. Traditional religions
are practiced by a smaller minority.
As the leading oil producer in Africa and the 10th largest global producer,
Nigeria exports some 2.4 million barrels of crude oil per day. Revenue from oil
exports account for approximately 95 percent of foreign exchange earnings and
around one third of GDP.i Despite an abundance of natural resources, the United
Nations (UN) Development Index ranks Nigeria 158 out of 177 countries and it is
estimated that 70 percent of the population live below the UN poverty indicator
of US$1 per day. 9
Since independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria has experienced prolonged
periods of military rule and numerous military coups. Between 1993 and 1998
General Sani Abacha, one of Nigeria’s most brutal dictators, is estimated to have
stolen US $3.6 billon of state funds. An elected civilian government was finally
restored under President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. The 2003 elections saw
Obasanjo win a second term in office and his ruling People’s Democratic Party
(PDP) holds power in the majority of the states of the federation.
World Bank, Nigeria Country Brief, Washington DC, World Bank. Accessed via
The country practices a federal system of government with a three tier structure
as follows: the Federal Government; the State Governments; and the Local
Governments. There is an executive president at the center who is elected
through a universal adult suffrage and similarly elected executive governors in
the thirty-six states of the federation. There are also elected chairpersons and
councilors in the 774 local government areas. The President governs the country
and exercises executive powers in accordance with the Constitution. He is
assisted in the conduct of government affairs by ministers appointed by him,
with the approval of the legislature. The governors and chairpersons exercise
similar powers at the state and Local Government levels respectively.
The federal legislature, called the National Assembly is bi-cameral and comprises
of an upper chamber- the Senate and a lower chamber, the House of
Representatives whose members are elected every four years by universal adult
suffrage. Each of the thirty-six states have State houses of assembly whose
members are also elected by universal adult suffrage. The legislature has the
responsibility of law making in accordance with powers granted by the
constitution. The legislature also has constitutional powers to carry out oversight
functions on the executive arm of government.
The country’s judiciary has a multi- tier structure with the Supreme Court at the
apex and the customary and Islamic courts at the base. The judges of the superior
courts have security of tenure guaranteed by the constitutionii. The country has a
mixed legal system comprising the received English Law and Customary and
Islamic laws. The Customary and Islamic legal systems are mainly restricted to
issues of personal law such as inheritance, marriages and divorce etc. However, since
2000, twelve states in Northern Nigeria have extended the scope of application of the
Sharia Legal system to criminal jurisdiction.
NIGERIA’S CORRUPTION PROFILE
2. The Nigerian Governance and Corruption Survey which was released in 2003
reflects as follows:
• 87.3 % of Nigerian respondents to that survey consider corruption to
be “very serious.”
• 64.3% of respondents have observed acts of corruption by
• The business environment is perceived to constitute growth road
• Small enterprises are more adversely affected by the distortions in
• Problematic access to information was identified as one of the
impediments to growth.
3. Further, the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Company –NDIC annual report for
2002 indicated that fraud is on the increase in Nigeria. According to the report,
• In 2002, 77 out of the 99 banks in operation recorded 796 cases of
fraud involving a total sum of N 11.2 billion.
4. [a] Nigeria’s Stolen wealth: An estimated 220bn Pounds has been stolen by past
Nigerian rulers since independence [ This will amount to 300 years of aid from the
UK to the African Continent and the equivalent of the aid from all the Western
Countries to Africa in the past forty years]
Source: www. Odious debts.org [from figures compiled by EFCC IN 2005]
[b] An estimated 55bn Pounds of stolen Nigerian money and assets in accounts abroad.
5. Doing Business in Nigeria 2006: The 2006 edition of this document which is
published by the World Bank discloses that it takes 43 days and 9 procedures to
start a business in Nigeria; it takes 274 days and 21 procedures to register a
property in Nigeria; 16 procedures and 465 days to deal with licenses; 41days, 11
documents and 39 signatures to export; 53 days, 13 documents and 71 signatures
to import in Nigeria.10
RECENT MEASURES AGAINST CORRUPTION
The main activities in the fight against corruption in Nigeria are contained in the
Economic Reform Program of the Country which took on added intensity with
the re-election of President Obasanjo government in 2003. Some of the
components of the Reform Agenda are as follows:
The Campaign for Debt Relief
10 DOING BUSINESS 2006 –PUBLISHED BY THE WORLD BANK www, doing business.org.
At inception the Obasanjo government had made the fight against corruption the
fulcrum of the administration and shortly after instituted some measures such as
setting up an Independent Commission to combat corruption. However, the fight
against corruption took on an added intensity with the need to justify the quest
for debt relief for the country. With the cynicisms and reluctance within the
global community to grant Nigeria debt relief or reduction in the face of endemic
and pervasive corruption, the government was constrained to institute several
measures to build confidence in the Nigerian Project. The impetus for winning
the war for debt relief commenced with the appointment of a Nigerian in
diaspora –Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as the Minister of Finance. Prior to this
appointment Dr Iweala was the Vice President and Board Secretary at the World
Bank. On assumption of office, she assisted in setting up the Economic Reform
Team which met with the President on weekly basis to brainstorm on key
economic issues in the Country. The team which identified corruption as the
main issue, managed the Economic Reform Agenda which had various
components as follows:
A. Fiscal Responsibility: The team instituted measures to ensure fiscal discipline
and prudent management of the Nations Resources. The culmination of the
Fiscal Responsibility Regimen was the drafting of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill
after wide consultations with stakeholders. The crux of the Bill is to codify the
disciplinary measures and policies instituted by the government to ensure
B.THE BUDGET TRANSPARENCY PROGRAM
Under this program, the Ministry of Finance publishes the monthly allocation of
funds from the Federation Account to the various State and Local Governments
in the country. The publication created a demand for accountability in the
diverse strata of the country. Some Local Governments are already beginning to
engage the State Governments on the issue of withholding of their allocation.
NGOS and CBOS are also better equipped to monitor budgets. Increased
vibrancy is already being recorded in budget monitoring by NGOS and CBOS
even though access to the expenditure profile of government remains a
C. THE DEBT MANAGEMENT OFFICE: This office was set up at the instance
of and with the help of Dr Okonjo-Iweala to manage and oversee issues relating
to the country’s debt. Prior to this time, there was no credible data base on the
Country’s debt and no blueprint for managing it. The Debt Management Office –
DMO rectified this issue and set the tone for quest for debt relief.
11 The Fiscal responsibility Bill is still pending before the National Assembly.
Two highly significant initiatives were also introduced by the Obasanjo
government and came under the management of the Economic Reform Team.
These are the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit [BMPIU] or the
Due Process Office; and the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative-the
EITI. These two initiatives were driven and managed by another member of the
Economic Reform Team –Dr Oby Ezekwesili.
D.The BMPIU (Due Process Office) This initiative was introduced by Obasanjo
Government in 2001 to ensure Transparency and Accountability in
E. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. This initiative was
launched in Nigeria on the 19th of February 2004 to promote Transparency in the
extractive industry sector, especially the oil and gas sector which is the main
revenue earner for Nigeria. The initiative, was aimed at ensuring that companies
operating in the oil and gas and other areas within the extractive sector in
Nigeria publish what they pay to the Government as royalty, taxes etc, and the
Government in turn publishes what they receive from each company.
F. THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION-EFCC
This Commission was set up in May 2003, to address the issue of the Advance
Fee fraud (419), money laudering, and other financial crimes, which has become
a source of national embarrassment. The Commission has been proactive in
prosecuting cases of advance fee fraud and other financial crimes.
G.The NEEDS and SEEDS documents
The National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy-NEEDS the state
counterpart –the State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy-SEEDS
were designed to ensure poverty alleviation and service delivery to the public.
These were initiated and driven by the Economic Reform Team.
An aggregation of these and other initiatives formed the platform for the
confidence building within the system which was a necessity for negotiating for
debt relief. Despite the fact that Nigeria was not qualified under the Highly
Indebted Poor Country-HIPC initiative, other windows and concessions were
granted and Nigeria won a debt reduction of $18billion. Under Dr Okonjo
Iweala’s watch, the Country,s Foreign Reserve rose to $34 billion.
H. National Agency for Food and Drug Administration-NAFDAC
Another initiative of the government which won both National and Global
acolade was the reenergising of the National Agency for Food and Drug
Administration-NAFDAC. This agency was created in 1993 as an agency within
the Ministry of Health. However the activities of the Agency came to the
limelight after the appoitment of a pharmacologist, Professor Dora Akunyili as
the Director Genreal of the agency in 2001.
THE DRIVERS OF CHANGE
1. NGOZI OKNJO –IWEALA.[Former Minister of Finance, Former Mnister of
Dr Okonjo-Iweala was the Nigerian Minister of Finance from July 2003 to 21st
The former World Bank Vice President was persuaded to come home and head
the Ministry of Finance after President Obasanjo was elected fro his second term
in office in 2003. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and also has a
Phd from MIT. She joined the World Bank and rose to be a Vice-President and
Board Secretary. She assumed office as the Minister of Finance and facilitated the
formation of the Economic Reform Team and the Economic Reform Agenda
which was aimed at instituting a regimen for transparency and prudent
economic management. The Economic Reform Team also formed the platform
for negotiating for debt reduction for Nigeria’s staggering foreign debt which
stood at --------------------------. The first step she took was to consolidate the
various departments and agencies whose works are connected with the Reform
Agenda under the Ministry of Finance, where she can have oversight. Some of
the major achievements of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Reform Team
are as follows:
Instituting a Budget Transparency Regimen by engaging in wide
consultations with stakeholders at both the formulation and
implementation of the budgets.
Ensuring public access to budgetary allocations to States and Local
Governments in newspapers by publishing the allocations in
Establishing an audit data of the Country’s debt profile by facilitating
the creation of the Debt Management Office-DMO.
Commencing the process of establishing a Fiscal Responsibility
Regimen and drafting a Fiscal Responsibility Bill and presenting to the
Negotiating debt reduction of $18 billion for Nigeria.
Building up the Country’s Foreign Reserve to $35 billion.
Achieving the repatriation of some of the Country’s looted assets
viii. Superintending the Economic Reform Team and its diverse programs
such as :